Town council candidates talk issues in Coupeville

With two weeks before the Nov. 3 general election, candidates for the only competitive race in Coupeville made their case to the voters.

Tom Tack and Sue Cunningham are vying for the seat on the Coupeville Town Council being vacated by Jim Phay, who decided against running for a second term.

The two candidates were grilled by residents Thursday night at a League of Women Voters’ forum about a plethora of issues facing Coupeville, including protections to keep large chain stores from opening in town and transparency in local government.

One resident asked both candidates if the town code has enough protection to prevent chain stores from opening up in Coupeville.

Tack, who is a former Navy commodore and currently a manager for a defense contractor, said he would has to study the code first to better understand the protections. He said he isn’t concerned that a big-box store would appear in town.

“I don’t lie awake at night worrying about a big-box store coming into Coupeville,” Tack said, adding the business leaders he’s talked to said they’re having trouble getting a big-box store in Oak Harbor because the town is too small.

Tack pointed out that there are already franchises in Coupeville, including Edward Jones and the Pizza Factory. He added it would be nearly impossible to come up with a code preventing such businesses from opening in town.

Cunningham, who owns the Blue Goose Inn and is a project manager for American Airlines, said that it’s time to have this discussion about chain stores.

“I don’t think our code is strong enough,” Cunningham said. “I’d hate to see a Starbucks across the street from Miriam’s.”

Coupeville resident Doug McFadyen, who sits on the Coupeville Planning Commission, wanted to know the candidates thoughts about the new design regulations that will affect Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.

As a member of the county’s Historical Review Committee, he said he’s been to six workshops and several public hearings about the subject. He said property owners affected by the new regulations will benefit because design regulations will be better defined.

Cunningham said she is concerned about how members to the new committee, which will take over the duties of the HRC and the town’s Design Review Board, will be appointed. She would like to see the Town Council review potential applicants. Cunningham, who owns several historic homes in town, would like to see more incentives to encourage owners to maintain their historic structures. Tack also owns a historic home on Main Street.

Current councilman Bob Clay questioned Cunningham’s commitment to serving on the council, noting that her home and business are currently for sale.

Cunningham said she opened the Blue Goose Inn as a business venture with her mom, who has since passed away. She added that she is committed to living in Coupeville and added that, given the condition of the economy, her home and business probably won’t sell anytime soon.

Coupeville resident Gary Piazzon asked Tack about his removal of a tree in his yard. Tack said he removed the maple tree because the roots were growing underneath a neighbor’s house.

“I thought it was neighborly,” Tack said, adding that guidelines should be developed to include the distance from a building’s foundation.

Fellow resident Jerome Rosen asked the candidates thoughts on government openness.

Cunningham said she is running to encourage more openness and noted the council has only rejected one proposal in recent memory, which was a motion by council member Ann Dannhauer to increase the time people are allowed to speak.

Tack, on the other hand, said the council does a pretty good job discussing issues.

The 50 or so people attending the forum in the Coupeville Recreation Hall heard Langley resident Mary K. Sandford and Bremerton resident Bob Struble, representing the Knights of Columbus Council 1379, debated the pros and cons of Referendum 71.

Ballots for the upcoming general election were mailed to voters last week. Ballots have to be post marked by Nov. 3 in order to be counted.

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