Holes in campaign of misinformation | As I See It

By David Dehlendorf

Special to the Journal

The recent exchange of letters by Sam Buck and Howie Rosenfeld in local media, including the Journal, continues the tradition of misinformation perpetrated by the Common Sense Alliance (CSA) and its supporters over the last several years.

Their intention is to mislead the public when discussing our county’s update of its existing critical areas ordinance regulations (CAO) as required by state law. Specifically:

1) It is not true, as claimed by Buck, that one needs permission (i.e. a county land-use permit) to place a garden on his/her property.

In fact, according to the Community Development & Planning Department, one does not need a permit, although one does need to meet certain self-verified conditions if you choose to put a garden or orchard within a critical areas buffer. There are no such conditions, and still no permit, if the garden or orchard will not be within a buffer.

2) It is not true, as Mr. Buck implies, that the pending critical areas ordinance update process was responsible for the weak real estate market in San Juan County over the last several years. In fact, the cause was the collapse of U.S. financial markets and its consequent severe negative impact on the national and local economy and real estate market. In other words, our CAO update did not cause the collapse of the U.S. economy, as self-important as we may feel.

3) It is not true, as stated by Buck, that the CSA has “raised a very small amount of money relative to the Friends of the San Juans bankroll” to challenge the CAO update.

In fact, the CSA has raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses to oppose the CAO, primarily on a high-priced Seattle attorney ($300 per hour?). In contrast, Friends has not spent one cent on outside legal counsel, instead using its one local in-house attorney whose salary is a fraction of a Seattle attorney. (Buy local!) Moreover, the CSA’s official legal expenses do not include pro bono legal support from the Pacific Legal Foundation, a right wing property rights group whose HQ is in California.

4) Buck states that none of the CSA board members “had anything personal to gain” by serving on its board and opposing the CAO.

As the CSA board membership includes the co-owner of the largest real estate firm in our county, a second realtor, the largest contractor on San Juan Island, and the executive director of the San Juan Builders Association, this claim stretches the limits of credibility.

Over the last several years there have been all kinds of wild statements by the CSA and its supporters claiming, among other things, that because of the CAO update process, some property owners would not be able to build on their properties, that their dreams were being taken away from them, that they would not be able to obtain mortgage financing of a non-conforming property, etc.

What’s illuminating is that none of these claims, unless I missed a specific article or letter to the editor, was personally made by a property owner, or prospective owner, who was allegedly so affected. In other words, not one of these claims has been proven true by direct personal testimony.

So the public should continue to consider these claims to be nothing more than rural legends until self-identified property owners start coming forward to certify the validity of these claims.

— Editor’s note: Read Sam Buck’s commentary on the Common Sense Alliance in the May 7 edition of the Journal, pg. 7.


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