Port to hold public meeting on Clinton market study

Calming and managing ferry traffic, developing a community drain field for new mix-use developments, luring new business, and creating a “rural center” with infrastructure like roundabouts and spruced up streets are among a host of proposals in the Port of South Whidbey’s Clinton market study.

Completed earlier this year by La Conner-based Beckwith Consulting Group, the study was commissioned by the port for the Clinton business district. The aim was to examine existing area conditions, identify public desires, and then come up with solutions for economic revitalization.

“The Port’s goal for this study was to complete an assessment of Clinton’s economic market and climate, to project Clinton’s future business development potential, to analyze the market sectors and shares, and describe business types most appropriate for Clinton,” said Angi Mozer, executive director for the port.

The study was in the works for more than year and was completed in March. The results will be the focus of a public meeting next week scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 28, at the Clinton Community Hall.

Visit the port’s website at http://portofsouthwhidbey.com to read the study.

Beckwith’s findings and primary “action plan” was preceded by public outreach. It was accomplished by surveys and workshops with a host of stakeholders, from business and property owners to Clinton residents and public agencies. Naturally each group identified its own top priorities for Clinton, but a “composite” of all responses summarized in the study listed the following:

• Improve bicycle lanes and shoulders

• Improve pedestrian sidewalks and cross walks

• Improve building appearances

• Improve street amenities

• Improve selection of goods and service

• Improve selection of accommodations

• Improve selection of restaurants

• Recruit tourist oriented activities

• Implement a business recruitment program

The study also looked at market demographics, concluding that Island County’s population will increase “particularly in older, empty nester age groups as a result of the overall aging of the population and the county’s unique attraction for older age groups.”

“Clinton’s future socioeconomic characteristics will depend on the unique attractions the community retains and/or develops in the future,” the study said.

A cornerstone of revitalizing the business district in Clinton is the need for a central place of focus that connects stores and activities. The study’s primary suggestions include calming and organizing ferry traffic so “local traffic can merge onto business district intersections,” completing a basic road grid that provides access across and between both sides of the highway — that includes a concept for an entirely new road — defining new infill development opportunities for potential mixed-use retail and housing projects, and encouraging development by providing sewer service with a community septic drain field.

Means of accomplishing some of that include roundabouts, street grids and “complete streets” — a planning concept that fosters non-motorized traffic with things like wider sidewalks, bike paths, beautification with landscaping, etc.

Finally, the study identifies a seven-point action plan. It ranges from implementing a complete streets concept and working with the state on electronic queuing for ferry traffic (road signs and smart phone apps that provide key information such as departure times and likelihoods of getting on the next ferry) to recruiting new businesses and developing a sub-area plan.

Port Commissioner Curt Gordon called the study a comprehensive exercise in identifying what can be done now, and what could be done in the future with some improvements. He said it’s now particularly clear to him that things like infrastructure are a prerequisite for economic revitalization.

“Things like business recruitment don’t come first,” Gordon said.

He noted that the study includes some “pie-in-the-sky” proposals, such as building as a new road loosely estimated at $5 million, but that they are part of the process of envisioning new possibilities. He encouraged the public to attend next week’s meeting and put in its two cents.

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