Hunting down ‘just the facts’ on trail of CAO

Marc A. Forlenza - Contributed photo
Marc A. Forlenza
— image credit: Contributed photo

By Marc A. Forlenza

Crucial for an informed decision is knowing the facts.

Not Wikifacts, or half-baked facts, but good old fashioned facts as in Dragnet’s “Just the facts ma’am.” With this in mind, I read David Dehlendorf’s recent letter to the editor regarding the Critical Area Ordinance,(“Don’t be fooled by CAO smokescreen”, Dec. 14, pg. 6) where he recounts contacting, “Islanders Bank, Key Bank. Wells Fargo, Swanberg Judkins Insurance, Chicago Title, and the county’s assessor’s office.

In all cases,” he said he was told, “that whether a property is legally conforming or non-conforming is not even considered in the decision to approve or deny an application for financing or insurance, nor in the process of writing the title on the property, or in assessing its value.” David’s letter made me think he had just dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s regarding some of the criticisms regarding the proposed CAO.

Or had he? So, I had an idea: I would consult the same list of entities that Mr. Dehlendorf queried and see if what he reported would pass Sergeant Joe Friday’s muster. Here’s what I discovered:

Islanders Bank: Their official position is, “We are waiting and are certainly concerned about the outcome [of the CAO] because it could have real ramifications as far as lending money in the islands.” The bank stated Mr. Dehlendorf did not ask for their official position.

Key Bank: “Since we do very little lending for vacant land we only considered Mr. Dehlendorf’s question from a construction or refinancing point of view. It is definitely possible CAO regulations on conformity could impact loans for purchasing raw land.”

Wells Fargo: Deferred comment to their corporate legal department, which could not be reached in time for this article’s deadline.

Swanberg-Judkins: Tim Judkins stated, “Mr. Dehlendorf may be technically correct that non-conformity status does not prevent us from writing a policy, it just might prevent us from paying a claim. Insurance companies could not fully indemnify their customers if non-conforming designations prevented a homeowner from rebuilding their home. Even if there are grandfathered structures there are bound to be problems. The CAO requirements would have to be extremely clear in defining what could be rebuilt.” Mr. Judkins said Mr. Dehlendorf did not talk to him for his Journal letter.

Islanders Insurance: A spokesperson said that indeed there was “potential for non-conformity to become an issue.”

Chicago Title: The firm explained a title company does not grant building permits, so whether a property is conforming or non-conforming has no bearing on their function. Its only purpose is to relay to the customer what‘s on file with local authorities concerning a particular property. A licensed broker confirmed a buyer would be within their rights to cancel an offer if a title search stated a property was non-conforming.

County Assessor Charles Zalmanek: Mr. Zalmanek explained assessed values are based on sales prices. He continued, “There is a basket of considerations that go into determining a sales price. The economy, the weather, government regulations, etc. A property’s designation as conforming or non-conforming would definitely be one of the issues for a seller to consider when determining a sales price.” Mr. Zalmanek said Mr. Dehlendorf did not talk to him for his letter to the Journal.

The reader can draw their own conclusions regarding the above, as for me, I’ll stick with,” Just the facts ma’am.” — Marc A. Forlenza, part owner and manager of The Technology Center, is a real estate investor and resident of San Juan Island for the past eight years.

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