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Tuesday, April 4th

CC Moves Forward With Restrictive Ordinance



With praise of the work of the Planning Commission (PC), the County Council (CC) embraced the draft ordinance that the Commission had finally worked out of the draft sent to them by the Council. By unanimous vote on Tuesday, the County Council approved it as the basis for a hearing to be held on April the 25th to take public input on the Ordinance. Once approved by the CC, with or without any changes, the Ordinance will then go to the State for their approval, and all agree that given the restrictiveness of the new ordinance, it is expected the Growth Management Board will find it acceptable, and declare the County to be in Compliance. This assumes that the Court of Appeals grants the CC request for a stay on the court's decision on the lawsuit before them, and does not come back with a decision that finds the County was in compliance all along -doubtful, but possible given recent Supreme Court decisions that give some hope. It also assumes there will be no appeals on the action of the CC in passing the ordinance, and if there are appeals, that the courts or the hearings board find them to be without merit.

The CC could have rejected the proposal from the PC, or changed it at will, but In accepting the recommendations of the PC, the CC made very few changes, however they did delete large portions of it, the most notable of which was the recognition, and the inclusion, of the language of the now famous advisory ballot on guest houses that asked the voter in the 2004 general election "Do you support local land use provisions for San Juan County that retain the right to allow one guest house (detached, accessory dwelling) on any parcel with a single family residence, subject to restrictions on size, location, ownership, occupancy, and proximity to the main house?". A question that had been answered in the affirmative by 73 percent of the voters. A ballot measure that at the Tuesday meeting Chairman Lichter called a "bogus written ballot that asked the voter if they wanted to break the lawnot a very good thing for the County to ask them to do.." Ranker said that he believed that a majority of the community simply wants us to "get out of non-compliance" by passing the ordnance before them.

One of the reasons the CC gave for asking the Court of Appeals to stay a decision on the Guest House issue was the fear that the court may come back and be more restrictive than what the CC would approve as part of a settlement with the Friends. In the words of Ranker, Previous Story "If we settle this matter now, before the court decision, we can move forward, as a community, with guest houses".

Councilman Ranker had previously told the SJ Board of Realtors Previous Story that he favored free standing guest houses, and had stated in The Island Guardian that "Like a majority of our community, I feel very strongly that guest houses should be allowed.", and on Tuesday he said he would have preferred they had pushed the envelope to allow more flexibility, but repeatedly commented that he was pleased with the more restricted work of the Planning Commission than with what the Council had put forward -which also would have ban freestanding guesthouse, and said that he was "amused by the fact that those members of the Commission who were opposed to the original Council draft as being too restrictive, now have a more restrictive ordinance".

Councilman Myhr called the PC proposal to the CC a simple solution to the problem and asked the staff if there had been any discussion by the PC about small building envelopes, stating that "looking into the future we may need to protect more open space".



[more..]


Court Asked Not To Grant Stay Of Decision On ADUs



As of late last week, an Orcas couple have argued in a brief to the Court of Appeals that "Further delay in the resolution of this case thwarts the clear intent of the legislature that these disputes be determined expeditiously". Margaret Manning and Timothy Blanchard of Orcas have filed an Amicus Brief in the case of Friends of the San Juans (Lynn Bahrych, Joe Symons and Maile Johnson) vs. San Juan County, in which they ask the court to not extend the date for the current stay of proceedings on the "guest house" case now before the court. A case that the County Council and the Friends have asked the court to not decide, at least for now. Previous Story

It is believed that the court has reached a decision, and the Council and the Friends are concerned that, for whatever reason, they may not like what the court has to say. Their idea was to reach an agreement between the Council and the Friends, hold public hearings, and then forward the final agreement to the State in the hopes the State will find the agreement to be compliant with the Growth Management Act; and if so, the need for a decision from the court would become moot.

Based on what the County and the Friends have come up with, and then tightened by the Planning Commission, there is little doubt that the State will approve it, since it goes beyond what is required. Previous Story

The concern of many in the county, and the reason for the new request from Manning and Blanchard, is that based on the past vote on the guest house issue, the desire of the majority of the citizens of San Juan County are not reflected in the proposal by the Council and the Friends. They believe the Court of Appeals may very well let the County have a more generous set of regulations than those that have been proposed by the Council and the Friends. Manning stated that significant changes in binding court precedent should incline the Court of Appeals to rule in favor of the County. "The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that Counties have significant discretion in weighing the 13 goals of the GMA. Nothing requires so-called structural density' to be the overriding factor, even if ones assumes that guesthouses double' density."

Manning said: "The County Council told us last year that settling the case would at least allow some homeowners in rural and resource areas to build guesthouses. Now, they are pushing an ordinance that eliminates all detached guesthouses and puts new, severe restrictions on attached and internal guesthouses. A decision by the Court of Appeals against the County could certainly do no worse than what the plaintiffs in the case have already extracted from the County Council; a decision by the court in favor of the County will allow the overwhelming majority of homeowners who support detached guesthouses to continue that tradition."

We will all have to now wait and see who moves next. Click here to access the Amicus Brief
[more..]


Lichter's Missive To Bush & Congress Still On The Pad



As advertised, a proposed advisory vote on passing a County Council resolution calling for "a rapid, orderly, and humane withdrawal of all US military personnel and bases from Iraq, during a period of no more that four months, commencing no later than January 1, 2007..and the US continue to provide financial and humanitarian aide (sic) to the Iraqi people...administered by the United Nations..." was discussed during the Council's Discussion/Other Action Agenda period on Tuesday. Lichter said that over 100 cities and municipalities have issued resolutions about leaving Iraq, but that he does not want to be a part of three council members taking an action that does not reflect the will of the voters, so is proposing an advisory measure be placed on the ballot for the August primary (thereby avoiding the cost of a special election). (Previous story) The draft proposed by Lichter differed from other resolutions that have been passed, in that the Lichter draft calls for a petition of the President and the U.S. Congress to withdraw from Iraq, and to do so based on the time-table in the draft.

The content of the draft failed to move beyond a discussion of should the Council embrace national issues when, in the words of Councilman Ranker, "I am opposed to the war and wish we were not therebut we have so much to do in the county, we are barely treading water. We have a number of issues and it is important that we stay focused." Ranker went on to state he was not opposed to the advisory ballot, but was just raising concerns. In response Lichter asked Ranker if he thought the Dog Ordinance was as important. Ranker pointed out that the Council has the ability to "solve problems that are important to our residents" , but that "we do not have authority to stop a war in Iraq".

At this point Councilman Myhr agreed with Ranker that he too had been "a strong opponent to the invasion of Iraq in the first place" and he did not object to putting this on the ballot "but agree with Kevin on how much we can do" to influence action on the issue of Iraq. Lichter in turn pointed out that "If enough voices are heard. It can make a significant difference" Ranker told Lichter that "we have a lot on our plate alreadyagain I question the focus" , to which Lichter asked "What do you mean Work on our plate'"? To which Myhr responded by saying "I can think of a few".. Both Myhr and Ranker stated they would like to see more information on the subject, and Lichter said he would provide it.

While the agenda item was not a public hearing, at the end of the discussion period a couple of the spectators spoke in favor of the proposal, and a couple were against it.


[more..]


CC May Ask For Vote On Iraq War



At the end of the County Council meeting last week, Council Chair Lichter told the departing audience that there was one more item he wished to bring up, and then suggested that the County hold an advisory election to see if the citizens of SJC would vote to have the Council pass a resolution to "Immediately withdraw the troops from Iraq, and provide Iraq with humanitarian aid through the United Nations". Tom Munsey of the Green Party of SJC had on previous occasions informed the Council that a number of communities across the country had passed resolutions, or sent letters, to the Administration calling for the withdraw of troops from Iraq.

The last time the voters went to the polls to vote an advisory ballot was on the Guest House issue, which passed with a nearly 74% majority in favor. The current Council has so far chosen to ignore the results of that election, which had been supported by the previous BOCC, but since the proposed Iraq vote would be their idea, one may expect they would abide by the results of that election -if it takes place.

[more..]


Saturday, April 1st

Court Asked Not To Grant Stay Of Decision On ADUs



As of late last week, an Orcas couple have argued in a brief to the Court of Appeals that "Further delay in the resolution of this case thwarts the clear intent of the legislature that these disputes be determined expeditiously". Margaret Manning and Timothy Blanchard of Orcas have filed an Amicus Brief in the case of Friends of the San Juans (Lynn Bahrych, Joe Symons and Maile Johnson) vs. San Juan County, in which they ask the court to not extend the date for the current stay of proceedings on the "guest house" case now before the court. A case that the County Council and the Friends have asked the court to not decide, at least for now. Previous Story

It is believed that the court has reached a decision, and the Council and the Friends are concerned that, for whatever reason, they may not like what the court has to say. Their idea was to reach an agreement between the Council and the Friends, hold public hearings, and then forward the final agreement to the State in the hopes the State will find the agreement to be compliant with the Growth Management Act; and if so, the need for a decision from the court would become moot.

Based on what the County and the Friends have come up with, and then tightened by the Planning Commission, there is little doubt that the State will approve it, since it goes beyond what is required. Previous Story

The concern of many in the county, and the reason for the new request from Manning and Blanchard, is that based on the past vote on the guest house issue, the desire of the majority of the citizens of San Juan County are not reflected in the proposal by the Council and the Friends. They believe the Court of Appeals may very well let the County have a more generous set of regulations than those that have been proposed by the Council and the Friends.

We will all have to now wait and see who moves next. Click here to access the Amicus Brief
[more..]


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