Two vie for Coupeville council seat

Two neighbors will be battling for an opening on the Coupeville Town Council.

Sue Cunningham and Tom Tack, who live in historic homes two doors apart on North Main Street, are competing to fill the spot being vacated by Jim Phay.

Both candidates are involved in the community, but have slightly different views of major issues currently facing the town.

The current election is Cunningham’s second foray into local politics. She tried to unseat current council member Bob Clay two years ago. Since then, the Blue Goose Inn owner joined the Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce and became the organization’s president.

Tack retired from the Navy last year where he was the wing commander of the EA-6B Prowler wing at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. He is also a member of the Navy League, the Whidbey General Hospital Foundation Board and the Historical Review Committee. The November election is Tack’s first jump into community politics.

Both Cunningham and Tack have concerns about the revised design regulations currently being considered by both the town and the county. The new regulations would basically provide one uniform set of design regulations for homes and other buildings within the boundaries of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve; it would combine Coupeville’s Design Review Board and the county’s Historical Review Committee into one entity.

Cunningham said she thinks the proposed ordinance will improve consistency and there won’t be overlapping regulations. She said she was frustrated with the inconsistencies she encountered when she was obtaining the permits needed to open her inn.

However, she is concerned about responsibilities Coupeville Town Planner Larry Kwarsick will have because of the new rules.

“A lot of the decision making is funneled through him,” Cunningham said.

As a member of the county’s review committee, Tack helped form the draft regulations during a series of workshops. He said there are two basic issues people are still concerned about with draft regulations. The first concern is farm clustering, while the second is the proposed color palette property owners would select from if they wanted to paint their home.

He said the public process has loosened up the regulations.

“It’s not as restrictive as I think a lot of people think it is,” Tack said.

Tack said that he didn’t like the idea of telling homeowners the color to paint their property. He added that the proposed changes could resolve most of his concerns.

“I think the language of the draft has been loosened up enough to where I can live with it,” Tack said.

Guidelines affecting Ebey’s Landing aren’t the only issues that sparked controversy in recent months.

Many local residents were up in arms earlier in the summer after learning the Libbey House, which is located on North Main Street next to the liquor store, could be demolished. The permit allowing its demolition is currently going through a lengthy environmental review that could take years to complete.

Cunningham, who has been inside the house, thinks it can be saved.

“I’d like to see it restored where it is,” Cunninham said.

Tack, who has also been inside the house, agrees.

“I don’t think there is a historic home that can’t be saved,” Tack said.

Tack and Cunningham each own historic houses. Tack owns the Blower house while Cunningham operates her bed and breakfast out of the Kineth and Gillespie houses.

Cunningham said that she decided to run again because she wanted to be involved in proactively addressing issues.

“I think it’s really important to protect the small business community,” Cunningham said. She said that a discussion has to take place to see if the zoning is tight enough to prevent large chain stores from entering Coupeville.

Tack questioned how the decision would be made determining which franchises would open in Coupeville.

“It’s very difficult to pick which franchises win and which franchises lose,” Tack said.

Throughout his 30-year career in the Navy, Tack said he’s had a life full of service and wanted to continue serving after he retired. After watching council proceedings on TV, he decided to throw his hat into the ring.

Even though he thinks the town is well managed, he would like to delve into some minor issues that could improve quality of life.

One example he gave happened several months ago when Councilmember Ann Dannhauer wanted to discuss installing bike racks through town. However, the council didn’t discuss it in great detail.

“The was a real low-key issue that I though was dismissed a little too quickly,” Tack said.

There is a second seat up for election on the Coupeville Town Council. Council member Dianne Binder is running unopposed this year.

Ballots for the Nov. 3 general election will be mailed to voters approximately three weeks prior to election day.

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