San Juan County’s Comprehensive Plan Demystified

The Comp Plan in a Nutshell: San Juan County has adopted a “Comprehensive Plan” intended to guide growth in our community by incorporating a community vision into goals and policies. These goals and policies are then supposed to be implemented through the adoption of local codes and other local government actions and programs. An important aspect of the plan is the legal requirement for the county to protect critical environmental areas, and to conserve natural resource lands, such as farms and forests.

What is the Comprehensive Plan Update process?

The Washington State Growth Management Act requires San Juan County to periodically update its plan. The update that is currently being considered was actually required by state law to be completed in 2016. The next update will be due in 2025. The review process includes the preparation of plan drafts by county staff and the county’s Planning Commission, followed by consideration and a final decision on the update by the County Council. The Planning Commission completed its process for the current update in September. The County Council has now been briefed on the Plan Elements by staff. The Council is set to hold a public hearing on the Comprehensive Plan Update on November 29, 2022.

What is being updated?

The San Juan County Comprehensive Plan is intended to provide an outline of parameters for how the community will grow. The Comprehensive Plan is divided into elements which then include the different categories of goals and policies. Elements to be updated include:

  • Vision and Introduction
  • Governance
  • Land Use & Rural (Agriculture & Forests)
  • Housing
  • Water Resources 
  • Transportation
  • Capital Facilities
  • Utilities
  • Historic and Architectural Preservation
  • Economic Development

In addition, the County is considering multiple amendments to the regulatory maps that are attached to the Comprehensive Plan. These maps control designations of forest, farm, and mineral resource lands. The designations relate to code provisions that regulate the maximum density of development and types of land uses allowed in different areas.

Where to get information and drafts being considered

What are the main concerns and comments of Friends of the San Juans?

Friends has submitted many comment letters and verbal comments to both the Planning Commission and County Council. Our most recent comments submitted to the County Council can be viewed at the following links:

How to comment

  • A calendar of upcoming County Council meeting dates can be found here.
  • You can sign up to comment here (and you will need to enter the meeting date for which you hope to comment.)
  • Comments to the County Council may be made in writing at any time, and/or at their public hearing to be held on November 29, 2022.
  • Written comments should be submitted to: [email protected].
  • The County Council requires anyone who wants to appear before them to register prior to the meeting or hearing date. Register here: Public Comment Signup | San Juan County, WA.
  • Comments at the hearing can be made in person in the Council meeting room, or via phone (the number is included on the Council agenda, which can be accessed from the Council’s Live Stream page). If you plan to comment by phone, you should call in before the hearing begins, and monitor the audio via your phone. The hearing should also be streamed on internet video; however, the video typically lags behind, so you need to listen on your phone to know when your name is called.

Not sure where to start? We’re here to help!

Friends aims to be a conduit for the community to understand environmental issues impacted by San Juan County’s Comprehensive Plan, and to provide resources on how to make public comments and take action to protect what you love. Here are some options to help keep you informed and up to date:

More info about accessing the County Council meetings

Each year I make a generous gift to the Friends of the San Juans because it’s the one organization where I can actually follow the money from my checkbook to observable measurable outcomes. Will you join me in making a gift to support one of the most beautiful, precious, fragile monuments to nature on earth?

George Lawson

members, Lopez Island