Letters to the Editor

New rules — your property | Letters

The building industry across the nation is struggling. The same is true in San Juan County.

The draft planning policies now being discussed by our local officials will make a difficult situation even worse for our local working families.

Unless there is a change in policy direction, San Juan County will be asserting new management and use restrictions on more than 90 percent of the existing property parcels in the county.

While this sounds implausible, that is the outcome if the planning department’s new draft Critical Areas Ordinance and new shoreline restrictions are adopted by the council.

By adding enhanced use restrictions and prohibitions around wetlands, streams, seasonal water courses and areas designated as wildlife habitat, steep slopes or flood areas, most private property in the county will be subject to an elevated level of “Critical Area” review or restriction. The designation for many existing homes will be changed and regulated as a non-conforming use.

Compliance can be expensive.

As a property owner in San Juan County, you will be welcoming a new managing partner for your property;  your local county government staff. Decisions about uses and activities in any of the new critical area overlays and buffers will require government oversight, permission and conditions... for a fee.

Violations of the new regulations will be subject to legal action by the county under the new draft enforcement ordinance now before the planning commission. If passed, community development and planning staff will be given enhanced police powers, including sanctions with “tickets” issued and fines attached.

If you are okay with the local planning department as a partner, and okay with being told portions of your land will be off limits to you and your family, just sit back and relax.

If, however, you have serious reservations about being treated as a tenant on portions of your property, with the county as a landlord, you may want to attend the upcoming community meetings on the issue. It is not too late to defend your property rights and those of your neighbors.

Background information is available from the following web sites: commonsensealliance.net, or capr-sanjuan.org, or www.co.san-juan.wa.us/cao/documents.aspx.  You can take action by contacting CSA or CAPR, by contacting your elected council member and by attending the upcoming community meetings being held by county  officials.

John Evans

Orcas Island

— Editor’s note: A former county commissioner, John Evans is executive director of the San Juan Builders Association



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