Today we met a land use planner and consultant who worked for Island County for many years before becoming a contract town planner for the Town of Coupeville (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and also working independently through his company. Nice guy, lots of good info.

We laid out our general thoughts and ideas, and explored some thought paths to see where they would go. Some highlights:

  • Water supply: He told us that the Town of Coupeville has recently created a well that is far outside of the town limits past our property, and the town already has a plan for water hook-ups to properties in our area that are outside of the incorporated township ($9,000 per hook-up, then monthly usage fees). The water is apparently fine but not great tasting straight out of the tap, and people frequently use water softener systems for it. However, the well water from our neighbors next door showed that well water would need even more advanced systems plus has a high iron content before treatment. He will be investigating costs for us. We were initially leaning toward a well (based on our neighbor’s inputs) but now are leaning toward a town water hook-up. By hooking up to the water main we should have dependable water without ongoing maintenance or well quality concerns. Also, if we ever provide a guest rental space on the property then well monitoring requirements go up but town hook-up water supplies are assumed to be fine and have no further requirements. If we install a gray water reuse system or rain water catchment system hooked into non-potable taps, then we would need to include a backflow prevention valve.
  • Treehouse: We asked about how a professionally designed treehouse would be permitted, and he said it could definitely happen.  For instance, if there was a house onsite, the treehouse would get counted as just a separate bedroom to the main home (all bedrooms do not have to be in the same structure, though the septic system has to be designed based on total number of bedrooms). He said 10 years ago or so someone actually tried to get a permit for living in a well done treehouse on the island, and it apparently got through the permitting process. That’s more than we would do since that treehouse included kitchen and bathroom facilities.
  • Open Timber: We can reduce taxes by setting aside a minimum of 10 acres in Open Timber classification. This means that the timber portion of the property would not be developable for other uses except “timber production”, although the trees do not actually have to be cut for a long period of time. A Timber Management Plan is required to be completed and on file with the county for this classification. The timber area can be changed back to rural residential or other such zoning in the future, but the prior savings of back taxes would have to be retroactively paid to cover a number of years of any savings which occurred  + additional penalties (in other words, it’s intended for long term properties in timber classification, not short term holdings that are just looking for a temporary way to save taxes prior to actually developing the property).

He was enthused to hear about our plans for preserving forest in the area.  He said that the county has been trying to encourage protection of trees in forest corridors. He also liked the nature of our somewhat unusual concepts and proposals, and he looked forward to working together.

  • March 2008