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The light at the end of the tunnel | Guest Column
By Marc Forlenza
On May 16, 2012, I filed to run for the County Council seat from District No. 3, currently occupied by Howie Rosenfeld. Most of my friends congratulated me, but immediately followed up with why?
Many have asked why would I want to assume such a thankless task. There are several reasons I have chosen to run, but I would like to discuss just one: I believe this county cannot afford to manage its financial future and corresponding quality of life without thoroughly vetting new regulations, ordinances and referendums.
Government decisions very often suffer from the blowback of unintended consequences. Take for example the ongoing discussions regarding the critical areas ordinance (CAO).
I’ve heard convincing arguments on both sides, but the one question I haven’t heard asked is, “Can we as a community afford an overly restrictive CAO?”
The County Council itself will admit that no economic impact study has been done to find out how this piece of legislation will affect our fragile island economy. Whether the consequences of the CAO are good or bad, there will be a cost associated with applying this ordinance. Added layers of bureaucracy will inevitably add to the cost of owning or modifying your present or future home.
Even now, there are not so distant rumblings of a torrent of potential litigation by disgruntled property owners. Does the county have the funds available for what could be numerous and expensive legal proceedings?
Former five-term San Juan County assessor Paul Dossett has warned the results of the CAO could shift the assessed taxes from non-conforming shoreline dwellers to conforming tax parcels. Potential buyers may decide to invest elsewhere.
How will those employed in local trades be affected? Wouldn’t it be nice to know with a bit more certainty what the likely outcome would be?
An island environmental group admitted to me that they had not talked to local banks about their concerns of the CAO’s potential impact. Furthermore, they had not asked Charles Zalmanek, the current county assessor, about his concerns.
So, if no one is asking the question, “Can we afford all the new regulations in the CAO?”, then is the community being served? Do the citizens of San Juan County have access to the ‘Best Available Answers’?
Maybe the CAO will convert the county into an environmental Eden where everyone would want to live. I don’t know, but I sure wish I felt better about what the light is at the end of the tunnel.
— Editor's note: Marc Forlenza is a candidate for the District 3 position, Friday Harbor, on the San Juan County Council.