Letters to the Editor

100-foot setbacks are not a solution

Dear San Juan County Council members,

Just by considering the 100-foot setback on shoreline properties, you have given dramatic weight to that idea and created fear and uncertainty for those considering the purchase of a waterfront lot or older waterfront home. As direct result, you have effectively stopped the sale of at least $3.4 million worth of transactions for two island homeowners that I know of, so I can only guess what the cumulative effect has been.

Based on 1.53 percent excise tax, that loss cost the county $52,000 in taxes, the Land Bank lost $34,000 and both of those purchases would have involved a remodel/expansion of an existing home equal to at least another $2 million plus. So on top of those losses, you have also lost the substantial indirect taxes that would have accumulated through the many contractors and vendors that would have benefited. Additionally, many of their dollars would then be redistributed again (and taxed) into the community for other goods and services.

The impact of a 100-foot setback for most properties will effectively reduce the value by 40-60 percent, or more, which will therefore shift the tax burden onto the interior properties, many of which will also suffer dramatic loss of value as result of the proposed rules.

What is someone suppose to do with a wooded waterfront lot that restricts a homesite in such a way that you would barely even see the water? How much do you think that will reduce the price? What about a five-acre parcel that can only use one little corner with no clearing for light?

Did anyone that voted to promote this idea even think about the financial impact? Absolutely not! How do I know? Because you are all smart people and if you had, you would have voted differently, or you are much more of an extremist than I thought.

You are responsible for the total welfare of this county. You are being spoon-fed by people who's only solution to solving a problem is letting wonderful, established waterfront just wash into the sea rather than make any effort toward bulkhead-design factors that would be neutral or even improve the affected habitat. What happened to common sense?

If you randomly pick 10 or 20 waterfront homes that have been built in the last five years, you will find that they are very environmentally compliant because current regulations are more than adequate. By far, most property owners are willing to consider serious environmental concerns when they are aware of the issue. As I understand it, you are required to consider if we have a problem that needs to be fixed based on the best available science.

The real problems that we are facing have to do with the toxification of our marine waters through the tons of synthetic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and hormones being dumped into these waters by every municipality within the entire Northwest watershed, including Friday Harbor and Canada.

All municipal sewage treatment plants are primarily designed to treat pathogens so most of the other toxins just dump into our seas. Relatively speaking, what percentage of those toxins is contributed from conforming newer residential construction? I think zero. What do you think? Has anyone even checked? No, because that would be disruptive to the unstated goals.  

Neither our waterfront homes, nor our upland homes are the problem, as all new construction must use the very highly-advanced septic systems that are now required and stormwater runoff plans are also required.

How do you think our local whales have become one of the most toxic mammals on earth? What will it take for you/us to wake up and deal with this? If you want to make a difference that could essentially become a pilot program for the state and the rest of the planet, take steps to move us toward reduction of the toxins that are actually killing our precious marine environment. Create, and monitor the results of, a sustained advertising campaign to educate people. Most people really care. If you don't, who will?

Shallow attempts to “make a difference” at the needless expense of our private property rights dissipates very valuable political capital that could otherwise be used to help us move forward towards changes that would actually offer hope for our children's future. 

Please take immediate action to clearly demonstrate that you have tabled any consideration of changing our current shoreline management regulations until 2012. Doing so will create immediate financial relief for all concerned on that count anyway.

In no uncertain terms, the planning staff needs to re-directed to become an ally to the people of San Juan County, instead of good intentioned, but over zealous, state agencies or philosophical positions. You/we need to know the options; minimum vs. maximum changes relative to the impact of, loss of value and the quiet use and enjoyment of one’s property. How can you make responsible decisions without choices. You are supposed to lead them, not the other way around. You are elected to make judgment calls.

Those who have never owned property do not have a sense of what most people have had to accomplish to do so. A couple of hundred million dollars could be on the line, as well as the viability of San Juan County as a trusted place to invest in, as well as, our economic future. Since the property owners are the foundation of our whole system of collecting taxes, I think they are owed some serious consideration and respect.    



Sam Buck (the younger one)
Friday Harbor

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