Coupeville stalls action on new plan

In a crowded room in the county annex building, dozens of Coupeville residents had the chance to comment on the town’s proposed Shoreline Master Plan during a public hearing Tuesday evening.

And they will have more chances to comment on the proposed plan. The Coupeville Town Council took no action. Instead, they decided to delay action until a public workshop takes place to provide a forum to educate residents and allow them a chance to comment further on the plan that officials have spent more than two years developing. Despite the delay, the town council went forward with the scheduled public hearing and residents were eager to comment.

At issue is language in the plan that provides guidelines for over-the-water construction of new buildings on historic Front Street. There are currently four lots on the north side of Front Street that could be developed. Many residents don’t want additional buildings constructed over the water because it would affect the shoreline and alter the historic character of the town.

“I really can’t figure out why we would petition the state for even less protection than it already allows,” said Carol Orazem during the public hearing. The shoreline plan ultimately needs state approval.

In a report written by Town Planner Larry Kwarsick, he outlined several options the council could act on. The staff recommendation would protect the existing structures and allow construction of new buildings over the water as long as they are in similar size and appearance to neighboring structures.

Another option, which seemed to be favored by many speakers at the meeting, would simply protect current buildings that are over the water. The report states this option would have a severe impact on a lot owner’s economic interest.

Coupeville resident Ken Pickard said the economic issue is a scare tactic and if the town is found to be “taking” property through the regulations, then the town would be forced to purchase the property.

Coupeville resident Millie Fonda owns one of the lots in question and said she needs to use her property.

“I cannot afford to maintain an open space for the enjoyment of the public,” Fonda said, adding there are spaces on the shoreline in downtown that people enjoy.

Lisa Tichy was concerned about how new construction would affect the shoreline.

“Anytime you have over-water issues, you are affecting the shoreline,” Tichy said. “If we don’t keep that shoreline vital, then we don’t have a vital town.”

She added she was concerned that new construction would lead to the further commercialization of Coupeville.

An angry Buell Niedlinger called for Larry Kwarsick’s job.

“I think we need a new planner,” Niedlinger said. After the public hearing, he tossed a cookie at Councilman Marshall Bronson. Niedlinger was escorted out of the building by Town Marshal Lenny Marlborough.

The town council didn’t take any action during the meeting, but rather decided to hold off on making any decisions concerning the shoreline plan. A date for the public workshop hasn’t been set yet.

While there are lots that could accommodate a new building, town officials are looking at negotiating with a property owner to purchase the lot next to the Windjammer Gallery.

Mayor Nancy Conard said the town tried to acquire the property in 2001 but the owner refused the town’s offer. However, things changed when several people came forward saying they are willing to provide money to help purchase the property.

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