King County’s Department of Local Services will hold a town hall with Vashon-Maury Island residents from 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 23.
The meeting is set to take place at Vashon High School, 9600 SW 204th Street, for about three hours and is billed as a “Town Hall Open House” in which islanders will have a chance to converse with representatives from county departments, divisions and services; hear presentations from them and form into “breakout groups” for discussion.
Brent Champaco, public information officer for Local Services, said holding town halls is part of the department’s outreach to its constituents in unincorporated parts of King County.
“At least from what we heard them say, residents often needed to connect more with their government, and they felt they were out in the unincorporated areas where they may not necessarily have been served the way they should have been,” Champaco said. “We host things like the CSA (Community Services Area) open house to have them meet with the leaders and heads of the various departments and divisions that serve the unincorporated areas. … We’re serving as sort of this one-stop-shop, and with the CSA town hall model, we’re bringing this one-stop-shop model to one place.”
Bong Sto. Domingo, the department’s community liaison who represents the island, believes both he and island residents will learn something from the meeting.
“Typically, on the town halls, what you get are the issues that come up that we know of and issues we don’t know of,” he said. “We want people to know who are the King County folks that come out to the island. That’s our goal, to make sure they understand … who the players are.”
The open house will last approximately one hour before the department’s director, John Taylor, makes opening remarks. He will be followed by Metropolitan King County Councilman Joe McDermott, who will then turn the floor over for presentations from numerous county officials, including Julie Wise, director of elections; John Wilson, county assessor; and Major Jesse Anderson of the King County Sheriff’s Office.
Islanders can also expect to hear from Jim Chan, division director of permitting and Rick Brater, division director of road services.
One major issue looming on the agenda is housing. Staff from permitting and the Department of Community and Health Services will speak about a plan supported with the County Council to offer affordable housing on the island. The plan involves building housing with smaller living spaces and shared amenities to test alternative development standards before they become permanent. The regulation changes would come in the form of an ordinance to the council, which has the final say in approving it. The ordinance must be approved before the project can go forward. Vashon Household’s proposed Island Center Homes Project at Vashon Highway and SW 188th Street is part of this effort.
King County Local Services is broken up into three divisions: roads, permitting and a Community Service Area program. Previously, these services were under the King County government umbrella.
The purpose of the department, launched earlier this year, is to have under one roof an office that provides services to places in the county that are not run by a local government, including Vashon-Maury Island.
In a 2018 news release, County Executive Dow Constantine said that if unincorporated King County were a city, it would rank the second most populated in the state.
Local Services was created last year after receiving approval from the King County Metropolitan Council. Constantine originally proposed the department after meeting with numerous unincorporated county residents, associations and councils.
McDermott, who represents the island on the county council, remarked in the same news release how such a department would help unincorporated residents.
“From White Center to Vashon Island to the foothills of the Cascades, our unincorporated areas have unique and equally important needs,” McDermott said. “Our residents there deserve flexible and proactive service from their local government, making the creation of this department an exciting step forward for the County.”