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Reasonable rules will protect islands’ way of life | Guest Column
By Howard “Howie” Rosenfeld
One of the things that made me want to live here is the feeling that everyone thinks these islands are special and need to be protected. Is this still the case?
The well-organized opposition to the critical areas ordinance (CAO) and the shoreline master program (SMP) makes me wonder.
The purpose of the CAO, which was supposed to be done by 2006, is to make sure we protect functions and values of our critical areas and preserve them for future generations of both people and nature. CAO and SMP protections focus on the importance of forage fish habitat, which connects to salmon habitat, which connects to our orca. All this contributes to the natural beauty of these islands, which supports our visitor economy and enhances our lives in immeasurable ways.
To help property owners, I’ve worked to enhance property rights protections including allowing the rebuilding of legally nonconforming houses even if 100 percent destroyed and, with extensions, no time limit to rebuild. I got passed no increase in setbacks and buffers if you improve your critical areas, and I’ve lobbied for other property owner incentives, like tax breaks for critical areas.
The County Council will finish the CAO update this year and the SMP, being done simultaneously, on time next year.
Opinions on these programs depend on your perspective. Many of the opponents to the CAO have direct financial interests in fewer regulations. Some say we have no problem.
My perspective is from seeing many beautiful places I’ve lived get developed and spoiled. I’ve seen our islands change as the population more than doubled in my 32 years here. We need sensible protections and the CAO will do that.
On other issues, I supported the wireless ordinance, which passed on June 26. On solid waste, I spoke out many times since ’07 that we needed new management and a different rate structure or we would run into trouble.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until we ran into trouble that these were changed. I’ve been the lone voice to keep county operated self-haul on San Juan Island. However, most of my time has been devoted to ferry issues, establishing a really good working relationship between our Ferry Advisory Committee and Washington State Ferries.
I’m running for re-election to continue with these efforts and to use my six years experience on the council to see county government through the challenges we face with possible charter amendments, staff changes and tight budgets. Keeping our county strong economically while protecting our environment continues to be my priority.
As a business owner, I understand how all this affects and hopefully strengthens our community.
— Editor's note: Howie Rosenfeld is a candidate for the District 3 position, Friday Harbor, on the San Juan County Council.