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Vashon’s revised town plan takes shape, is nearly complete
Islanders Monday night agreed to include in Vashon’s town plan a provision that would encourage King County to make the Island’s urban center a bit more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.
At a meeting of the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council, those present — about 30 Islanders — overwhelmingly agreed to a new addition to the plan, originally crafted in 1996, calling for a handful of measures that would make it easier for Islanders “trying to live without cars,” as community member Kyle Cruver put it.
But the language, crafted after months of meetings by the Town Plan Committee and a community-wide forum earlier this summer, got softened in the course of the meeting. Language, for instance, saying new businesses “shall” install bicycle racks was changed to encouraging them to do so after Debi Richards, the head of Vashon’s Chamber of Commerce, said a mandate “could be onerous to new businesses.”
The section was one of three that got approved Monday night and which will shortly be forwarded to King County staff for inclusion in an update of the county’s comprehensive plan. A fourth and final section calling on Vashon town to live within the constraints of a limited water resource was tabled and will likely be discussed at VMICC’s September meeting.
Julia Larson, coordinator of the county’s rural economic strategies program, said that the language Islanders approve for its updated town plan, even if it makes it into the county council’s comprehensive plan, is not binding. At the same time, she said, it will have an impact and will influence policy and decision-making.
“Everything from the (VMICC) board is a recommendation to the county, and the county takes those recommendations very seriously,” she told the group.
VMICC’s general membership also agreed to language updating the design section of the town plan, which addresses how development should unfold within the rural town’s boundaries — which extend from Cove Road south to Cemetery Road.
Those gathered, for instance, agreed to a provision that calls for a two-thirds vote at a VMICC meeting before a zoning change can be made next to a historical building. They also agreed to language calling on developers erecting new structures next to properties that have a historic landmark designation to “consider impacts (of the new construction) to the landmark’s style and character.”
Some questioned the meaning of the language regarding design and development, noting that VMICC is not a government and can’t legislate or regulate. But Natalie Sheard, owner of Café Luna and one of the stalwarts on the Town Plan Committee, said she felt it was important for Vashon to make a clear statement, even if that statement doesn’t carry the force of law.
“We’d like our message to get to developers,” she told the group.