Council's Vision Statement
The Growth Management Act, Vision 2020 and related policies have ushered in a wide range of new planning options, challenges and opportunities. Like other jurisdictions throughout the region, Mercer Island is about to embark on a comprehensive review of its policies and their relationship to state and regional planning mandates. Participating in this process will provide the opportunity to identify and reaffirm the community's long held values. It will also offer a forum for policies to be updated and assimilated to function as a whole.
A Vision Statement is an essential ingredient in successful comprehensive community policy planning. Essentially, the statement should reaffirm time-tested policies or values that are generally held as positive "community trademarks" and identify others deemed relevant. Moreover, a Vision Statement should be a reflection of community aspirations. Through periodic review and refinement, it should help to set parameters for future community activities.
The following Vision Statement is essentially the compilation of several long standing policies embodied in several existing planning documents including the Land Use Plan, CBD Plan, and Park and Open Space Plan. Reexamining these policies implies a reexamination of the City's overall policy base.
This Vision Statement should satisfy (at least) the following three purposes: 1) City Boards, Commissions and staff will use the Council's explicit guidance in determining the priority and degree of evaluation of existing elements in the City's Growth Management Act Policy & Planning Work Plan. 2) City employees will be guided in the provision of quality municipal services. 3) Most importantly, the Council, its advisory bodies and the community-as-a-whole will proceed with a common understanding of the quality of life values or themes that will shape our community for years to come.
"Islands can seem rather special, but then so can islanders...most people who remove themselves to islands regard themselves as having entered paradise.... Classically, a person goes to an island in much the same spirit as a person heads into exile--seeking simplicity, glorying in a world that is still incomplete and therefore full of possibilities." - Paul Theroux
Mercer Island is not an island unto itself. The community is part of a regional complex that affords housing, human services, jobs, transportation, cultural and recreational opportunities. As a partner in the ever changing world of environment, economics and politics, Mercer Island has and will continue to be an active player in regional issues. However, within this framework, Mercer Island's long held value of maintaining and enhancing local control for all of its significant policy issues is essential. Likewise, active community participation and leadership are fundamental for protecting and enhancing the values and characteristics that have shaped the quality of life and livability of Mercer Island.
In relative terms, Mercer Island is a young community. Its passion to shape its own future as well as participate as a regional partner has been guided by the City's adherence to a collection of intrinsic values. While values are not necessarily meant to remain static, they do provide the basic foundation for a host of community actions. Some values are more significant than others. However, once made explicit, this body of values generally reflects the "heart and soul" of the community. The values listed below are among the community's most important and therefore deserve special attention.
Mercer Island is principally a single-family residential community.
Quality Municipal Services
Mercer Islanders need and expect safety, efficiency and continuously improving municipal services.
Education is the Key
The community and its public and private institutions are committed to providing excellence in education.
Livability is Paramount
The community's values are reflected by safety and freedom from fear, physical and environmental attributes, and the cultural and recreational opportunities of our Island. This translates to a feeling that Mercer Island is "the nicest of places for everyone to live."
Cherish the Environment
Island residents see themselves as "stewards" of the island environment. In considering community decisions, protection and enhancement of trees, open spaces, clean water and air, neighborhood quiet and environmentally sensitive lands will be given high priority.
How the Values are Manifested
Values often are characterized by specific actions or combinations of actions. Over time these actions become local community trademarks that have a profound influence in shaping a wide range of private and public decisions. Specific actions that will continue to exemplify Mercer Island's values include:
The community clearly links its interests in regional matters through involvement in transportation, education, human services, domestic water, air traffic noise, marine patrol, public health and safety, and pollution abatement. Participation will continue through individual citizens, interest groups and elected officials.
Mercer Island is committed to representing its citizens through its elected and appointed officials. A longtime producer of resourceful and professional leaders, Mercer Islanders will continue to exert strong and active leadership in local and regional affairs.
Active participation by the Island's citizens in civic events and issues is essential to representative self-government. As one of its "trademarks," the community continues to place a high value on the opportunity to participate at all levels of decision-making.
The City is committed to implementing policies aimed at preserving and enhancing the Island's physical characteristics. Regulatory tools such as the Zoning Code, Subdivision Ordinance, Steep Slopes Ordinance, Watercourse Ordinance, Shoreline Management Ordinance, tree preservation policies and urban design standards continue to serve as the underpinning for protection of environmental values.
Open space (trees and green spaces) preservation continue to be a primary activity for attaining the community's quality-of-life vision. The search for effective new tools and standards to protect and enhance the environment will be an ongoing focus of City leaders.
Central Business District
The Central Business District will continue to be located within its current boundaries and will be bordered by residential uses. Businesses should continue to develop at a scale compatible with other community values and should provide a range of retail, office and residential opportunities. The community-scaled business district will primarily cater to the needs and desires of Island residents and employees. Ongoing attention to urban design principles, pedestrian needs, traffic considerations and green spaces is essential.
Providing a wide range of education, cultural and municipal services for the community's varied population will continue to be emphasized. Balanced and flexible programs will be necessary to meet the community's evolving needs in education, recreation and cultural enjoyment. The community will continue to expect a broad range of quality basic services, including public safety, human services, physical development and utilities. At the same time, community leaders recognize that delivery of these services will take place in an arena of limited resources and heightened competition for tax revenues.
Residential Land Use
Mercer Island is principally a low density, single-family residential community. The community will continue to seek ways to enhance its image as Puget Sound's "most livable residential community." Supporting these efforts, City leaders will maintain the integrity of existing approved land use policies.
The community, through its ongoing consideration of public and private projects, will continue to seek ways of enhancing the Island's quality of life through open space preservation, pedestrian trails and well-designed and functional public and semi-public facilities.
As a single-family residential community with a high percentage of developed land, it is not necessarily appropriate that the community provide all types of lands uses. Certain activities will be viewed as incompatible with prevalent land uses and environmental values. Examples include various recreational uses, cemeteries, zoos, airports, land fills and correctional facilities.
The single-family character of the community will continue to generate the need for a variety of housing. A mix of residential housing opportunities in and around the Central Business District and other existing multi-family areas will be an important element in maintaining the diversity of the Island's population.
To understand and preserve the quality and diversity of the Island's housing stock, periodic reviews of housing policies will be undertaken. With that end in mind, methods will be sought to encourage diversity and reinvestment in existing neighborhoods and homes.
The geography, employment and lifestyle characteristics of Mercer Island demands good permanent access to and from Interstate 90. This will require continued participation in regional transportation matters.
Local land use policies will be coordinated with transportation plans in order to provide safe, functional surfaces for vehicles, bikes and pedestrians while avoiding local "gridlock." Local transportation planning will continue to emphasize a semi-rural setting for various arterial and collector streets. Pedestrian walks linking activities will continue to be a high community priority.
As with virtually all facets of the community fabric, population changes will occur. Mercer Islanders can expect to see their citizenry grow to an estimated (PSRC) 25,000 persons by 2020.
Within that population base, the Island will see changes in age profiles, along with their respective needs and expectations for municipal services. The provision of human services and facilities must be updated with changes in the community's racial, age, income and lifestyle make-up. This diversification will continue to be encouraged. The standard for providing excellent services for the Island's youth will be applied to all public services and across all ages.