Letters to the Editor

CAO: ‘Big Brother’ takes charge | Letters

George Orwell likely wrote 1984 without knowing of the San Juan Islands, but his world of “Big Brother” is coming closer with the latest County Council plan for amending the existing critical areas ordinance.

Like many people, I didn’t pay attention because this effort was described as environmental preservation. I later learned that we already have a CAO in effect and that these amendments would fundamentally alter the relationship of property owner and government with respect to whether we are “innocent until proven guilty” and who has the “burden of proof”.

For example, critical areas’ section “D” would amend the existing language permitting an exemption, “If the application of this section would result in the denial of all reasonable use of a property”, and instead requires that it would “deprive the land owner of all economic or beneficial use of a property…” and the owner has the “burden of proof”.

Should you want to maintain a garden or plant a tree, you may need to provide the government with a detailed “planting plan”, a mitigation plan (written by a “professional”), a cost estimate for implementing and monitoring it, and a financial guarantee to pay not only the original implementation and monitoring, but up to an additional 115 percent of that cost.

So, if you can afford an army of lawyers and “professional scientists” you may be able to build anything you want, but the rest of us will be hard put just to take care of our existing property.

I initially assumed that efforts to amend the CAO would follow the direction of amendments to the Constitution of the United States, which were designed to guarantee that the rights of citizens to vote, to free speech, and to other personal freedoms would be applied equally to all citizens.

The proposed CAO amendments, however, move in the opposite direction, taking away the rights of citizens and putting “Big Brother” in charge.

I recommend that the council make only the minimal changes necessary to become compliant with state legislation and let the original CAO do its job.

Phil Johnson, San Juan Island



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