Clinton Community Council presents Gateway draft plan for feedback

— Created September 23, 2020 by Kathy Reed

By Alec Brown

The Island County Planning and Community Development Department and the Clinton Community Council (CCC) have held their first two meetings via Zoom to discuss and receive feedback on a proposed Gateway Draft Plan.

The CCC was formed to be the voice of Clinton’s community in the absence of a mayor. Doug Hofius, the council’s chairman, has been working for eight years on various issues in the Clinton area—and he and the council are now working on updating the economic element of the Island County Comprehensive Plan (ICCP).

The first of two meetings, which were held the past two Tuesdays, saw around 28 participants. Island County Long Range Planner, Meredith Penny, presented the plan, along with associates Jonathan Lange, Island County planning manager, and Grant Johnson, associate land use planner.

Penny began the presentation by stating the Island County Comprehensive Plan (ICCP) is normally updated every eight years—but now, it is being updated every 10. She defines it as the “centerpiece of local planning at the county…over a 20-year time frame.” The ICCP is required by state law under the Growth Management Act. The Gateway Draft Plan’s ultimate goal is to become an amendment to the Economic Development Element of the ICCP in 2020.

After working with consultants to survey property and analyze opportunities for economic growth in Clinton, they are now editing the Gateway Draft Plan to prioritize the most important things to work on and improve Clinton’s first impression as visitors arrive on Whidbey Island.

Commissioner Helen Price Johnson offered a quick clarification to attendees on what the “Gateway” part of the plan means before the presentation began, stating “The seven gateways mentioned include the two state bridges (SR20 and SR 532), the two state ferry runs (Clinton and Coupeville) and the three small airports.”

The Gateway Plan’s five main priorities are walkability for pedestrians, traffic calming, beautification, zoning, and infrastructure. The CCC plans on working with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to accomplish the first two priorities. This includes installing sidewalks, crosswalks, and refuge islands along highways to provide bike and pedestrian connectivity to Clinton. Another part of these priorities involves reducing speed limits along SR 525, and potentially reducing the number of northbound lanes from the Clinton ferry dock to mile marker 9.25.

But it’s not just safety the plan prioritizes. The beautification, zoning and infrastructure initiatives call for sidewalk and median planter strips, provide regular cleaning and maintenance to Dan Porter Park, evaluate current zoning and provide a wastewater treatment system to support expanding retail. These changes, in theory, will make Clinton a much more desirable location for new businesses and growth.

Several participants at the meeting had questions, including whether wastewater issues would limit more dense housing options.

According to Penny, that is correct. Housing density can increase through zoning, but each parcel still has to be able to provide for its wastewater treatment without a sewer system, so it is a limiting factor.

Price Johnson was asked how the plan will be funded.

“To be eligible to apply for many government grants, a project or concept must be mentioned in a jurisdiction’s comprehensive plan,” she said. “Not having the Clinton area specifically mentioned in the ICCP has restricted the options for funding. Adding the Clinton Gateway Draft Plan to the ICCP will open up options for funding through infrastructure, environmental, planning and economic development grant sources.

“I am very excited to see this moving forward right now,” she continued. “Clinton is the southern gateway of Island County. It has commercial areas and intensely developed residential areas and yet is unincorporated. This means that up until now, there was no opportunity to provide localized visioning and planning for the future of this area. The county’s comprehensive plan must fill that gap. This month the CCC is putting forward their suggestions and providing residents and business owners an opportunity to comment on their proposed goals.”

Next year, zoning in the Clinton area will be evaluated to see which changes would be appropriate. Commissioner Price Johnson reinforced that no changes will be coming immediately, as this is a long term plan.

Price Johnson ended by emphasizing how islanders can engage with the plan.

“There are multiple times and places to let your voice be heard,” she said. “After the CCC outreach, there will be a public hearing on the draft plan with the Island County Planning Commission, and then their recommendation will come to the Board of County Commissioners for final approval. This will also take place at a public meeting. Anyone interested in the Clinton Gateway Plan can sign up to receive updates from Island County. I also encourage folks who wish to contribute to shaping the future of Clinton to stay engaged with the Clinton Community Council.

The plan will be edited with community feedback from both meetings, and then presented to the CCC Monday. The plan will then be presented to the Planning Commission and Board, where they will be provided with more comments.

More information on the draft plan is available online at