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Public Works News

Posted on: February 16, 2023

County Answers FAQs About Proposed Public Works Relocation on Lopez Island

News Flash_Public Works

SAN JUAN COUNTY, WA. February 16, 2023 – San Juan County is in the process of exploring the possibility of relocating its Public Works facilities on Lopez Island to the MacKaye Harbor area. This multi-year process has included feasibility studies, presentations and discussions during County Council and Planning Commission meetings, public hearings, multiple instances of community outreach, opportunities for public input, and more.    

Why does the County need to relocate its Public Works facilities on Lopez Island? 

Public Work’s need for additional space, more functional offices, and the growing Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District, have all prompted the County to explore relocation options.  

Public Works operations on Lopez Island are currently co-located with the Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District’s (LSWDD) facilities along Fisherman Bay Road. Both the County and LSWDD acknowledge that operational congestion makes it difficult to safely and efficiently serve the community. A letter from the LSWDD to the County expressed support of relocating Public Works operations so the LSWDD has the option to expand, improve operational efficiencies, increase general safety, and provide additional flexibility to meet the future needs of the community.  The County is supportive of the LSWDD’s needs to grow safely and thoughtfully to adequately serve the Lopez Island community. 

Why is the County considering moving to the MacKaye Harbor area? 

The County evaluated multiple sites and identified MacKaye Harbor as the best option. The County has owned and operated a Public Works yard and marine facility at MacKaye Harbor since 1952. The property has been used for mining and storing gravel over the years, as well as staging construction equipment and materials. The MacKaye Harbor site was selected for the following reasons:  

  • Historical Use: This property has been used to support Public Works operations for over 70 years. At the end of Norman Road, the Public Works Department also maintains the public marine facility including the boat ramp and dock.  
  • Parcel Size: The property is over 20 acres, which is sufficient for Public Works operations while also preserving a land-use buffer to surrounding properties. Thousands of yards of material are currently stored on this property, supporting essential services including summer paving programs and winter weather programs. 
  • Efficiency: Consolidating operations is important to the efficiency of San Juan County. Offices, equipment, and materials can all be located at the MacKaye Harbor site, rather than spread across multiple locations. 

On September 27, 2022, after a presentation of multiple location options to move the shop, the County Council directed Public Works to develop a plan that would provide additional details, costs, and timing for relocating the existing operations facility to the Norman Road/MacKaye Harbor site. 

The move aims to support the growing needs of the LSWDD as well as provide for the needs of County employees by providing clean, safe, and functional offices. 

Will this move impact the community’s access to the dock or picnic area at MacKaye Harbor?   

No, access or use of the public marine facility will not be impacted by this move. Public access is important to the County and the community will be able to continue to enjoy the use of MacKaye Harbor for recreational purposes. 

What is the new property the County purchased? How will it be used?   

During the February 7, 2023 County Council meeting, the Council authorized the purchase of a property adjacent to the existing County-owned Public Works yard at MacKaye Harbor. The one-acre parcel of land includes a 1,200 square-foot house that may be used as County employee office space.  

The new property, located at 25 Calle Aguila, was listed for sale in June 2022. After several price reductions, the County offered to purchase it for the listed price of $499,000 in December.  

Council approved this acquisition, recognizing an economical opportunity to support County operations, including providing for the needs of employees by providing clean, safe, and functional offices.   

Why doesn’t the County lease or purchase another property?  

The Public Works Department provides essential services to the community, ensuring that our island transportation systems are open and safe for public travel. To support the sustainability and reliability of County services, it is necessary for the County to own the property it occupies. There are no other suitable properties for sale on Lopez Island. 

Is there enough water on the property to support Public Works operations?  

The new, one-acre property comes with an existing well that provides water for the house. This house will be used for employee offices and the single bathroom will be made available to those working out of the building.  

For the larger 20-acre property, options including rainwater catchment and desalination will be considered to provide a more sustainable and reliable source of water. 

What changes are proposed for the property? 

A preliminary, conceptual site plan was presented to the Council on February 7, 2023. Development of this plan will require further discussion and engagement with the community. Find the plan by clicking here.    

Is the property zoned to allow for Public Works to move here? 

In 2022 the County worked to change the land use designation from ‘Rural Residential’ to ‘Rural Industrial’ on the two parcels of land currently owned by Public Works. This effort was necessary to correctly reflect the historical and current use of the property. 

The land use redesignation process included public notices, mailings, and public hearings (before both the Planning Commission and County Council), and is the same process followed by any petitioner - public or private.  

The land use designation was approved by the County Council on November 29, 2022 and the County’s official maps will be updated later this year to reflect the ‘Rural Industrial’ designation. 

The one-acre property on 25 Calle Aguila is currently designated ‘Rural Farm Forest.’ The Public Works department will be recommending that this property receive the same ‘Rural Industrial’ designation applied to other Public Works properties to clearly reflect is proposed use.  

Has the County obtained the necessary permits for this project? 

Real estate transactions, including ones by the County, do not require building or land use permits. If a building or land use project is developed, the County will apply for any required permits, which may involve undertaking environmental and cultural resource studies. 

How can I find more information about this topic? 

The County will continue to communicate with the public as plans develop.  In the meantime, please direct further questions to the Public Works Department, colinh@sanjuanco.com or (360) 370-0514. 

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