09/05/2005: "Guest Houses: BOCC to Try Settlement- Public In The Dark?"
The BOCC may try for a fifth time to sit down with a group of citizens that has appealed the County on the degree to which the County allows guest houses, and attempt to reach an agreement with them that would limit guest house construction in the county (See Ranker Guest Editorial ). The question is what will the County have to give up to satisfy their opponents in this matter, and if they do settle with a private group outside of the Courts, and without -as Commissioner Lichter likes to say- full transparency, will any future public comment and hearings on the matter be clouded by the settlement?
The BOCC has historically gone into executive session whenever the law allows them to -but does not require them to, and in doing so they prevent the public from seeing and hearing how they got from point A, to point B, on matters that can have profound effects on taxes, property values, and a host of other issues that can impact -for good or bad- the public they represent.
Up to this point the new BOCC has been back and forth on public involvement, stating there will be involvement, and then backing away from their general statements on the importance of citizen involvement and review, or not acting to implement it. One can sense they recognize the importance of open government, but their actions do not always support their rhetoric.
While there is no question that the BOCC has the right to meet in private, with a private group, and have an open and frank discussion that may lead to agreement and settlement of costly legal actions, there is also no question that to do so leaves the public in the dark as to what was said, and by whom, that may, or not, result in any "agreement". Finding out the conclusion after the fact is not the same as watching the process, and it is not the same as having our elected officials being watched and judged as they barter towards a settlement that, to some degree, will effect everyone in San Juan County.