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Study helps South Whidbey port commissioners plan for future

Port Commissioners Chris Jerome, Curt Gordon and Dennis Gregoire discuss an analysis of economic trends during a special meeting Aug. 27. - Celeste Erickson / The Record
Port Commissioners Chris Jerome, Curt Gordon and Dennis Gregoire discuss an analysis of economic trends during a special meeting Aug. 27.
— image credit: Celeste Erickson / The Record

South Whidbey Port Commissioners got an in-depth look at their district demographics this week.

The board recently commissioned a study by Bothell-based BST Associates that examined population trends, income levels, employment, transportation patterns and park requirements of South Whidbey.

The purpose was to give the board a better idea of how they should proceed in developing long-range planning documents, specifically the comprehensive scheme.

Commissioner Chris Jerome said the results seemed to make sense and supported the board’s existing conclusions.

“As far as diversifying, that’s certainly where I thought we were going with our strategic plan and I think it’s helpful that (the study) identified specific sectors. There are no big surprises here,” Jerome said.

The presentation listed future opportunities for the port including diversifying activities to support economic development in water-dependent manufacturing, water-dependent commercial, commuters and other services.

Commissioner Dennis Gregoire said he would like more discussion about the population increase during the summer months and what opportunities that provides for the district.

The South Whidbey Fire/EMS District estimates their service population increases from 12,000 during off-peak times to 30,000 during the summer months.

That’s largely due to seasonal residents, tourism and ferry travelers.

Gregoire said he also wants boat ramps to be more user-friendly. Some haven’t been improved in 20 years and Mother Nature has made some difficult or impossible to use, he said.

“All I’m saying is that the port’s current assets, the boat ramps, support tourism,” Gregoire said. “But the port’s boat ramps certainly are not functioning at the level they should be functioning.”

The report also found port district residents seem to choose South Whidbey for its amenities, such as parks and boating facilities. Driving forces behind the area’s economy include commuters, retirees, businesses and second homeowners, according to the report.

“I don’t think anyone is arguing maintaining and improving marine access should come out of the strategic plan or the comprehensive plan,” Jerome said. “The question is what else should be in there.”

He added that the port is already committed and engaged in Langley Harbor and at Possession Beach.

The port is managing about as many marine access sites as the organization can handle, he said.

“I don’t think we need to do more than that,” Jerome said.

Commissioner Curt Gordon, who is also president of the board, said the report was specific but he wanted additional data concerning income.

How residents make their money and whether or not they have multiple sources of income is information that should be considered for the port’s comprehensive scheme, he said.

Officials with BST Associates and Seattle-based Makers Architecture and Design LLP will provide an in-person presentation of the report and provide further recommendations to the commissioners at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5 at the Port of South Whidbey office, 1804 Scott Rd., Freeland.

A public comment period is not provided.

 

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