Letters to the Editor

New restrictive regulations require economic study

San Juan County recently completed a series of “workshops” concerning proposed revisions to the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO). From the beginning of the update process, Common Sense Alliance has highlighted several of the issues the County Council must address before crafting new regulations.

Please identify the problem. We request the county examine the economic impacts of non-conforming designations, changes in reasonable use and increased buffers. Common Sense Alliance believes more restrictive regulations, will reduce property values, and substantially reduce the flow of the economic life-blood of our Island economy.

Consider the information from the San Juan County Assessor's office:

Currently, owners of over 1,000 existing undeveloped waterfront parcels with an assessed value of $472 million have the ability to build behind a 50- or 100-foot setback from the top of the bank and enjoy the benefit of having a shoreline home.

Under new regulations, there is the potential that a new setback (or buffer) of 150 feet to 200 feet is in the offing. Along with requirements of a buffer, the new setback area would be dedicated as a natural "no touch" zone, with little access but a narrow path to the shoreline and trimming of the native vegetation, limited.

Potential of reduced property values can be devastating. For example, a well-forested undeveloped parcel, sited under new regulations, may prevent the owner from viewing the water from his new home. This vital consideration may have been the basis of a purchase decision. Considering the minimal effect properly permitted shoreline homes have on the marine environment, CSA feels that the restrictions under consideration by the County Council are extreme and totally unnecessary.

San Juan County officials cannot ignore the potentially disastrous effects upon nearly half a billion dollars of private property value and our fragile island economy. Ironically, the lost value of undeveloped shoreline parcels will be shifted to the remaining island property owners in the form of higher property taxes.

Incidentally, Mr. Kaill, the “precautionary principle” should be applied to economics as well as the environment. Balance is a good thing.

Dave Cable
Common Sense Alliance
San Juan Island

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