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San Juan recycling center threatens to close

By Steve Wehrly/Journal reporter

About 50 fans of Consignment Treasures turned out for a town hall meeting Sept. 19 at the Mullis Center to show their appreciation of Frank Penwell’s charitable giving.

They also had some suggestions for Penwell about tactics and strategies to keep Consignment Treasures open in the face of changes to county development rules which, in Penwell’s view, threaten to shutdown the non-profit recycling processing center.

“I’ll close Consignment Treasures if my property becomes non-conforming,” said Penwell. Referring to his claim that the new critical areas ordinance opens up his recycling center on Roche Harbor Road to criminal charges, he said, “I don’t want my employees to face criminal charges.”

Former San Juan County land-use planner Francine Shaw, a Penwell advisor, gave a quick synopsis of the history of Consignment Treasures.

“The land has been used for commercial purposes since 1978 and Frank has obtained all the permits he needs for processing recycled materials, but he’s not supposed to be a recycling drop-off point” Shaw said. She added that he even has state approval to be an e-recycler - the only one on San Juan Island.

When County Council candidate Bob Jarman asked for a show of hands of people who had been a patron of Consignment Treasures, virtually everyone raised their hands. Even Lovel Pratt and Howie Rosenfeld, who Penwell identifies as his chief County Council antagonists, raised their hands.

Nobody in the room, it seemed, wants to see Consignment Treasures closed — except perhaps neighboring resident Mark Larsen, who said, “The place is an eyesore. I wish it would go away.”

Larsen stood up and made that statement seconds after Penwell declared, “There’s never been a complaint from people in the neighborhood.”

Another neighbor, Katherine Dawson, spoke up. “I have no problem with Consignment Treasures,” she said, adding, “it’s amazingly clean.”

The most political moment of the evening occurred earlier, when Bob Levinson declared, “Part of the problem is that he (Penwell) is opposing the CAO.”

Other speakers supported Levinson, as numerous heads turned toward council members, and CAO supporters, Pratt and Rosenfeld, sitting separately (and silently) in the audience.

Possible Solutions

The most useful moment was Shaw’s summary of possible solutions - and problems with each. She said designation of Consignment Treasure as an Essential Public Facility under the present development code might work. But she pointed out such a designation is expensive and time-consuming - perhaps costing several thousand dollars and taking several years to accomplish.

Treating Consignment Treasures the way that the development code treats resorts is another possibility raised by Shaw, who works on land-use planning issues for Friday Harbor attorney Stephanie Johnson O’Day. Such treatment would involve amending the county Comprehensive Plan Land Use Maps. That too, might be a long drawn-out process that would attract opposition because “it sounds like spot zoning, she said.

Another possible solution might be revisiting an ordinance passed by the council Aug. 28, which amended land-use regulations in Chapter 18.30 of the unified development code. An amendment that would have permitted recycling centers on land designated as rural farm forest was considered by the council, but rejected as violating land-use goals and policies in the Comprehensive Plan.

The council, county planning staff, the prosecuting attorney and various interest groups, including Consignment Treasures, are now preparing possible amendments to the ordinance. These solutions will be considered at the Oct. 9 council meeting, as part of a “motion to reconsider” the ordinance by Councilman Rosenfeld and approved unanimously by the council Sept. 11.

 

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