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Bill would change GMA for sake of Ebey's Landing

Coupeville officials have a dilemma: How do they meet the requirements of the Growth Management Act and follow the goals of the Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve?

They may get some help from the state to resolve their dilemma. A bill introduced in the Legislature Thursday adds an amendment to the Growth Management Act that benefits the town of Coupeville.

That amendment would allow the town to restrict zoning densities within city limits as long as it’s to protect the the physical, cultural or historic integrity of the reserve.

“It allows them the flexibility to meet the unique position the town is in,” said Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, who sponsored the bill.

Coupeville Town Planner Larry Kwarsick said the town needs some relief from state regulations.

“They are in conflict with the reserve’s goal to protect the landscape,” Kwarsick said.

One of the goals of the GMA is to divert growth toward cities and towns where services already exist, which encourages development inside towns. This makes it difficult for Coupeville to retain open spaces within its boundaries.

Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard said the town needs special consideration because it’s the only town in the state surrounded by a historical reserve.

In fact, Coupeville is part of the reserve.

For some officials on Central Whidbey the legislation is a welcome sight.

“I think it’s totally justified,” said Rob Harbour, manager for Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. “Special places like this deserve special treatment with the Growth Management Act.”

The town of Coupeville and Ebey’s Landing Trust Board has been talking for about two years and then both approached Haugen for the legislation last year.

The bill would limit growth within the town’s Urban Growth Area. Also, the town would be exempt from providing growth projections for the next 20 years.

Kwarsick said he would like to see the legislation approved within the next several months.

Haugen said she hasn’t received any opposition to the bill but has to push hard to get the bill passed before the session ends in March.

Kwarsick said it would be nice to have the legislation in place before officials begin reviewing Coupeville’s Comprehensive Plan. That is a process the town is required to do and has to be completed by December 2005.

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