Character plan review reaches the home stretch

By Meg Olson

With the Point Roberts Character Plan Review Committee ready to submit a draft of the revised character plan to the county for technical review, the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) is looking at next steps in the process and discussing how to get public input.

“There are no big changes at this point,” said Annelle Norman, who chairs the review committee. The plan, first adopted in 1994 and revised in 1999, has been under review for a year.

“Most of the changes we have made are to take out the wiggle room and make ‘should’ into ‘shall’,” Norman said. “We have made it read more contemporarily and taken the focus off the fishing village theme.” The original character plan was focused on a nautical/heritage theme.

Some PRCAC members asked that the review committee prepare an “executive summary,” a document outlining the changes, while Norman and PRCAC chair Joel Lantz felt making both the original and the revised versions available online would be sufficient for the public to review changes. Norman said she would take the request back to the committee, but with the document completely reorganized a detailed tracking of changes would be onerous, as it wasn’t undertaken from the beginning.

“We will either do it or tell you why we aren’t,” she said.

Another request from PRCAC members was changes to rules about lighting signs. The current plan prohibits all internally lit signs, though LED lighting has become an industry standard. PRCAC, acting as the character plan committee, has recommended approval of a sign with white LEDs for the Valero gas station.

“There are no proposed changes to the lighting language,” Norman said. “None of us has a degree in lighting and LEDs have changed everything.” Factors such as intensity and size can drastically alter the impact of an LED sign, she said.

PRCAC member Steve Wolff said it was imperative that the document has language addressing LEDs so the community has a consistent, low-impact standard that meets industry needs. “This is our biggest deal right now and we can’t shirk it,” he said.

Wolff, who worked with Valero owner Fred Pakzad to come up with an LED sign design the committee found acceptable, offered to draw up technical specifications that would allow white LED lights for gas stations. Committee members voted unanimously for him to proceed.

Lantz suggested that at its August meeting the committee be prepared to review any existing information on procedures for reviewing the revised plan. “If there is a process we follow it. If there isn’t we need to develop and formalize it,” he said.

While Lantz suggested public input could come during the regular open session at the end of the regular PRCAC monthly meetings, Norman urged the committee to consider a public forum specific to the revised plan. “I think it would be a big mistake not to let people show up and weigh in,” she said.

While there has been sparse interest from the public during the year of review, mostly from those who have had recent interactions with county code enforcement, Norman said she didn’t think the input so far is a barometer for its importance in the community.

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