The San Juan County Land Bank wants to purchase a property along the west side of Lopez, purportedly to create beach access and a public park. Both are admirable goals. However, the purchase will accomplish neither, at great cost. The Land Bank must recognize this, because they have proceeded furtively and without reference to the law.
In San Juan County, by law, the limit of public waterfront is defined not by the beach but by the mean-high-tide line. Property owners along the waterfront own and pay taxes on the land that includes the sandy beach, which lies above that tidal line.
The public gains access not to the beach the Land Bank loves talking about, but only to part of the intertidal zone.
In addition, the slope beyond this beach is a fragile hillside. Beachcombers damage it – and create unstable conditions – by walking on the base of the bank. Who bears the liability for injuries or property damage resulting from slides? Homeowners and their insurance companies will surely come after the county and the Land Bank (meaning all of us as taxpayers) if they are sued by someone trespassing, however inadvertently.
Finally, this property has been for sale for a decade, with no buyers, overpriced and unsellable, even during the boom due to runoff from the airport. Yet the Land Bank would purchase it above market value to create a “park” that will be underwater much of the time and not usable for the purpose intended – a wide, walkable seashore – at any time.
Public beach access on Lopez is a wonderful thing; Watmough, Odlin, Otis Perkins and beyond. It is a resource that should be treasured. However, the Clure parcel will add only a strip of a few hundred feet to this stock, not the miles of beach promised.
Let’s get our priorities straight. This is not a good use of our tax dollars. It does not add usable beach stock. And it is based on misstatements and hasty, furtive, and not-thought-through actions by the Land Bank.
Let’s call it off and use the money wisely.