Letters to the Editor

Critical Areas Ordinance: 50-foot setback is adequate

An open letter to the San Juan County Council:

I understand that many of you don’t believe that real estate sales are being affected by the council’s decision to move forward on the 100-foot shoreline setback portion of the CAO. As a REALTOR, on the front line, I can attest that there is an impact, and it is a huge economic impact to our community.

I currently have a waterfront lot listed at Cape San Juan for a long -term resident. The lot is priced at $350,000, which is $159,600 below its current tax assessment, or 32 percent. It is priced below the client’s original purchase price of $427,000 in May 2005. They improved the lot with a four-bedroom septic and a water hookup, and installed a driveway. The lot has great views and is l/2 of an acre.

The clients are targeted to lose more than $100,000 at the $350,000 sales price. Most agents consider the price to be exceptional.

I have spoken personally with numerous waterfront lot clients about the lot. In addition, numerous agents in my office discussed the lot with their clients. The clients are concerned about purchasing a waterfront lot at the present time due to the uncertainty of the proposed CAO shoreline setback regulation. They are further concerned over the impact to their possible investment should the setback be increased from 50 to 100 feet or more on this lot.

As agents, we are able to suggest the “reasonable use” provision, but regardless, to the client, the thought of processing a variance is still a concern due to unknown results and expense. These buyers are not moving forward on a purchase at this time due to the possible setback change and associated impact on the view from the proposed home, size of the home that can be built and/or value of the land.

The lot is not selling due to the CAO issue — not the pricing, not the marketing, not the REALTOR, not the condition of the property. A REALTOR is obligated to disclose to any potential client that the county is considering a setback change in the future; if they don’t, they will see their client in court when the ordinance is adopted.

Your decisions are having an economic impact on the community of San Juan County. The 50-foot setback is adequate.

These clients are just the ones within the office of Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands for this waterfront lot. I am sure there are more within the four other brokerage offices on the island for other waterfront lots as well.

I recognize that the overall economy has an impact on San Juan County real estate. However, this situation involves qualified buyers that have not been impacted by the downturn in the economy. These clients are viable and making site inspections.

It is not just the loss of income to the real estate industry; it also deprives the seller of necessary funds to relocate either on or off island. Some of these sellers need to move due to health or financial reasons and cannot do so without selling. The county loses out on tax revenue. Merchants, material providers, contractors and sub-contractors are all adversely impacted due to the fear and uncertainty surrounding the CAO and future use of property.

Feel free to contact me should you have any questions regarding the validity of my claims.

Merri Ann Simonson
Associate broker
Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands, Inc.
Friday Harbor

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