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Coupeville, county will plan together in joint jurisdiction

An interlocal agreement establishing a Joint Planning Area between the city of Coupeville and Island County government is on its way to becoming reality.

At a town meeting on Nov. 13, Coupeville council members listened to positive testimony on the benefits of the Joint Planning Area (JPA) from Commissioner Mike Shelton and town planner Larry Cort before unanimously approving the interlocal agreement, which is mandated under the county’s Growth Management Act.

Cort said that, because the agreement is so beneficial to both parties, such legal requirements are beside the point. He called the JPA “smart planning practices” that will preserve the bucolic and historic appeal of Coupeville.

One of the primary actions of the agreement, Cort explained, is to establish a process whereby the town of Coupeville is notified and allowed to comment on any county plans to develop nearby lands.

The JPA applies to three sub-areas around Coupeville: The unincorporated lands surrounding Coupeville’s primary watershed; the highway entrances, called “gateways,” around Highway 20; and the agricultural area immediately surrounding the city that is contained within Eby’s Landing federal reserve.

“It would be hard to sort of wiggle out anything negative about it,” said Cort of the plan. “It’s two jurisdictions being good neighbors. It’s a tremendous opportunity.”

Island County Planning Director Phil Bakke said the county’s agreement with Coupeville is unique. Unlike more “traditional” JPAs such as that between the county and Oak Harbor, with its significant Urban Growth Area, the Coupeville agreement aims to facilitate the ongoing preservation of Eby’s Landing reserve as well as protect the overall scenic beauty of lands surrounding Coupeville proper.

The agreement also includes a farm protection ordinance, which according to Bakke “takes away the ability of people living next to farms to file nuisance complaints” about such things as smell or arguably unsightly machinery. This will further protect the current status of Coupeville as a quiet, rural town while also being “a huge benefit for our farmers,” Bakke added.

Cort said that he was also pleased with the farm ordinance because it maintains the quality of life and the gorgeous vistas that many people cite as their impetus for moving to Coupeville in the first place.

“The reason they’re still able to enjoy that view is the same reason they’re going to be stuck behind a tractor some day,” said Cort.

Bakke said the agreement is also unique in that it has been hammered out in a spirit of cooperation and mutual benefit, which has not always been the case with other counties dealing with GMA requirements in the state.

“Most counties have a lot of problems,” Bakke said. “Our elected officials get along very well. there’s a good relationship between elected officials.”

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