Letters to Editor
To Contact the Editor
Friday, July 29th
Jamie Stevens (D): A Candidate For The BOCC
Jamie Stephens, a small business owner and community booster, has lived with his wife and two children--Jessica, 16 and Dan 14, in Lopez Village for the past nine years. His wife serves on the Lopez Island School Board and both children attend Lopez School. "My experiences as a business owner and community volunteer have given me a greater understanding of what makes this County a special place, and the challenge we face to maintain it in the context of inevitable change."
Jamie currently serves on the Fisherman Bay Water Association Board and chaired the Committee for the Abbreviated Coordinated Water System Plan for the Lopez UGA for the 2 years of its existence. The committee, made up of a cross section of community members, engineers, and County health officials, achieved consensus on a plan that accounts for anticipated growth, provides for continuous monitoring of supply, and preservation of the nearshore environment fed by the island's groundwater. The Plan was presented to the BOCC and adopted with few modifications. He has been an active player in the GMA planning and compliance process. "I believe that clear and effective planning is one of the keys to maintaining the islands lifestyle."
Jamie is also currently serving on the Boards of the Family Resource Center and the Lopez Lions Club. He has also served on the Boards of the Lopez Chamber of Commerce and the Lopez Center for Community and the Arts (LCCA). He was the catalyst that put together a cooperative effort to build a skate park which was completed almost entirely by volunteers. "My work with these organizations has strengthened my ability to achieve consensus, plan effectively, exercise fiscal responsibility, and see projects through to completion. Successes have been gained through a blend of creativity, soliciting input, research and analysis." Through his involvement with the Lopez Lions Club, Jamie has chaired the 4th of July Parade on Lopez for several years.
Jamie served as Chair of Commissioner Rhea Miller's successful 2002 re-election campaign.
While serving on the Board of the LCCA, he chaired the operations committee, which guided it in the transition from a building project to an operating entity by establishing policies, procedures, and rate structures for usage and performances. He helped secure the adjacent Sally Bill property and helped administer leases to Fertile Ground community garden, the Farmers Market, and the Lopez Children's Center. He and his wife personally donated trees and waterway sculpting for Sally's Garden. He has been a strong supporter of the San Juan Preservation Trust, Lopez Housing Options (LOHO), Cascade Conservation Partnership, and the Lopez Community Land Trust.
Wednesday, July 27th
So Who Needs A Committee Anyway?
The BOCC has decided that appointing a citizens committee to advise the BOCC on Essential Public Facilities was not only not necessary, but in the words of Public Works Director Jon Shannon, "This is big time stuff we are dealing with…I am afraid we will get bogged down.. I think we need to just move forward". Community Development and Planning Director Matt Zybas agreed with his former boss. The lone voice for going forward with the appointment was Commissioner Lichter, who made a motion that all seven applicants be appointed to the committee. Lichter stated that "I am interested in as much citizen input as possible.. I would like to go with the seven member committee".
Commissioner Miller pointed out "We don't have to appoint this committee".
Lichter responded that "We have intelligent, knowledgeable people on this list, and we have asked them to come forward to apply, and I think we should appoint them"
Commissioner Miller, obviously frustrated, said "This is ridiculous.. as we saw this morning (referring to comments made to the BOCC during Citizen Access Time) not everyone out there is knowledgeable".
Martin Blackman, Senior Planner for the project expressed concern that the County may be open to criticism for twice asking for citizen participation on a committee, and then not appointing one. He advised the Board to seek an opinion from Prosecutor Randy Gaylord, who was present for the meeting, but the Board failed to ask Mr. Gaylord for advice.
In the end it was decided that the Planning Commission would be the "committee", but that the seven would-be volunteers would be specifically asked to attend the PC meetings; which of course are always open to the public in any case.
Tuesday, July 26th
Guest Houses Only With Permits Prior 2000
Throughout the County, people have built a guest house first with plans to build a main house later. In 2001, thirty people appeared before the Growth Board and asked the Growth Board to clarify its rulings to allow them to continue with those plans. The Growth Board issued a Clarifying Order in 2001, which the county implemented by allowing construction of a main house in the few circumstances where a structure that qualified as a guest house already existed on the property. Gaylord said that decision, by a different Growth Board, was based upon a fair approach that honored the reliance by citizens backed by investments in their property.In 2004, the Friends of the San Juans, Lynn Bahrych and Joe Symons objected to the 2001 Clarifying Order and the county's interpretation of that ruling. On July 21, 2005, the Growth Board said that the 2001 Order is limited to those circumstances where the vested rights doctrine applied.
But now another ruling from the Growth Board on the construction of a guest house states that only people with a "vested right" may build a guest house or construct a main house on property with an existing guest house. "This decision closes the door for a few people who had built a guest house first and planned to build a main house later," said Prosecutor Randall K. Gaylord. "In the big picture, there are few people who will be affected by this decision, but for those people the decision is harsh," said Gaylord.
According to Gaylord, the "vested rights doctrine" requires a person to have filed a complete application for a building permit for the main house and the guest house before November 30, 2000. "Simply showing a guest house on a plot plan is not sufficient," said Gaylord.
The Growth Board observed that the larger issue of detached guest house construction is on appeal to the court of appeals in Tacoma and that a decision is expected soon. The case was submitted to the appellate court after oral argument on March 28, 2005. "A decision from the appellate court is expected any time in the next three months," said Gaylord.
Gaylord said he will meet with the Board of County Commissioners on August 9, 2005 to discuss whether to appeal this decision, or simply wait for the court of appeals' decision.
Water Rights Fees Increased.. Because..?
It may take years -if ever- to receive a water right from the State of Washington, but the fees to apply for one have been increased. So why now, and what is the need for the additional revenue if the program has not changed? The explanation can be found in where the extra money is to go. 80% of the money will go not to the folks that process the applications, but will be transferred to the state general fund. The other 20% will be used to set up a tracking system for those applications that will now cost more. Only 4% of the fees will actually be used to process the applications. If this additional 4% will result in a speeding up issuing rights is not known.
According to a press release from the Department of Ecology, the existing application fees have not changed for 50 years. They have now been increased as follows:
Sunday, July 24th
Time Running Out To Be On Ballot
With the exception of the County Commissioner position, this is the last week to file for non-partisan offices in San Juan County: Monday, July 25 at 8:00 am until Friday, July 29, 2005 at 4:30 p.m. If you want your name on the ballot for the County Commission District Three position, then the last chance to sign up will be August 3, 4 and 5; the extension is due to the simple fact that Commissioner Miller will still be a commissioner until July 31.
And speaking of the District three position, it is expected the interim Commissioner that will replace Miller until the General Election, may well be decided on August 2nd, which is the first regularly scheduled meeting of the BOCC after Miller's resignation becomes effective. (Past Story)
Both Commissioners Lichter and Ranker have received input as to who Miller's appointment should be, and given the pressing issues in front of the BOCC, it will be helpful to move forward with a full Board as quickly as possible. While it is assumed the Board will soon agree on a replacement, it is possible that it could take a long time. The Board can put off -or argue over- who the replacement should be for up to 60 days, at which point the Governor is authorized to step in and make the appointment. But whomever the replacement may be, it will be the county voters in the November election that will decided who the District 3 Commissioner will be for the next four years.
But before the November election, there will be the primary election, which will be held on September 20. If three or more candidates file for a position in the primary, the two candidates with the most votes will move forward to the General Election ballot for the November 8th election.
Thursday, July 21st
Bob Myhr (D): A Candidate For The BOCC
Bob Myhr, with his wife Joyce, has lived at David Head on Lopez Island for over 20 years and has been a property owner in the San Juans since 1967. In 2002, he retired from his position as Executive Director of The San Juan Preservation Trust. His work with the Preservation Trust has given Bob the opportunity to visit most of the islands--big and small--and meet and understand the interests and needs of islanders throughout San Juan County.
Some examples of Bob's involvement in countywide affairs include the following:
. Initiated, in cooperation with the county Planning Department, the creation of the Open Space and Conservation Plan (1990-1991) that ultimately became part of the San Juan County Comprehensive Plan
. Member of the committee to establish the San Juan County Land Bank (1990) and to support successful renewal of the Land Bank (1999)
. Member of the San Juan County Comprehensive Plan committee (1993-1995)
. As Executive Director of The San Juan Preservation Trust, negotiated with private property owners for the protection of the open-space values of more than 8,750 acres of woodlands, open farmland, and natural shoreline on 15 islands throughout San Juan County (1985-2002)
. Worked with Washington State Department of Natural Resources and US Bureau of Land Management to create natural preserves on government lands throughout the county (1985-2002)
. Member of San Juan Valley Heritage Plan Committee, San Juan Island (2001)
Wednesday, July 20th
Two Volunteer Groups Want County Funding
The San Juan Conservation District has asked the BOCC to hold a public hearing for input on their request for an excise tax of $5.00 per tax parcel. The money is to be used to help finance the providing of free service to county residents.
Currently the group gives advice and help on Farm and Forest Conservation Management Planning, Residential Low-Impact Development Education / Guidance, Stormwater Management Guidance (based on SJ County development requirements), and Natural Resource Education Workshops / Clinics. Because the demand is great, and grant money and matching funds are hard to come by, the group would like to receive a steady and constant income stream for their activities. The public hearing will give the public an opportunity to voice their support or opposition to the new tax.
The Navigating Our Future, Housing Project, is another group that has an eye on a new tax, but this one is interested in taxing only those who purchase a home. According to a newsletter sent to The Guardian, the group has determined that their goal of providing perpetual affordability in the open market, that is, with only private money, is simply not possible, and that "The only solution that we have found that works for moderate income families is the Land Trust approach. This approach, … acquires the land, retains ownership of that land, and charges a very low lease fee to the homeowner (typically $1 for a very long term lease). By removing the cost of the land, we can reduce the cost of the house to a level well within the affordability range for moderate income".
The proposal is to tax the purchaser of a new home because it is " the new purchasers that are creating the inflated housing prices in the first place, namely by steadily increasing demand for property.". The money thus collected will be administered by a new commission that will have the power to collect, spend, and issue tax exempt bonds. The bonds will also be used to raise additional money. The moneys collected will be used to hire an Executive Director, and " to acquire useable land and to provide incentives to non-profit organizations and private builders to create affordable housing for moderate income families.
It is hoped the proposal will be placed on the ballot this fall for a county-wide vote.
Thursday, July 14th
911 Program Missing Names & Addresses
The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) were asked last Wednesday to approve an emergency appropriation to temporary fund a "Post Engineering Technician II position for Public Works (PW). In response to questioning by the BOCC of the need for the funding, the Public Works (PW) Director Jon Shannon (photo at left), told the BOCC that there have been no new names or addresses added to the 911 data base since January, when the project was last under the control of the Building and Planning Department. While the reasons for this were not fully known, Mr. Shannon informed the BOCC that what was known, was a number of problems existed with the program, and that a committee had analyzed the program and had a solution to the basic problems.
The problem resulted from a combination of "bad data in the system", and a "system" that actually consisted of three distinct systems, used by three departments (Building Department, Assessor, and Public Works), that were not compatible, and that last, but not least, some of the data in the system was incomplete. The incomplete part of the problem had to do with a change in what data had been collected. The original data in the system resulted in the taking of GIS readings of the entry locations of the points where a driveway entered the public roads, and then followed the course of the driveway to the house. This data was entered into a graphics program that allowed the County and emergency responders to locate not only a driveway, but to follow private driveways up to the proper house.
For reasons unknown, at some point a decision was made to record only the driveway entrance to the county road. It was explained to the BOCC that this is fine for driveways that serve only one house, but there are many driveways that leave the county road as one, and then become many. This has resulted in confusion when using the GIS maps. The Board approved the request to fix the problem before it became a larger -and more expensive- problem to fix
Sunday, July 10th
Oops! Webster Lives In Wrong District-Out of Race
Scott Webster was a canidate for Port Commissioner, District 2, Port of Friday Harbor, but on Friday, July 8th, Dan Gillespie, San Juan County Elections Supervisor, and Mr. Webster discovered that Mr. Webster will not be eligible to run as a candidate for the position. There are three districts on San Juan Island, and a Commissioner runing for office is required by law to reside in the district thet seek to serve.
Turns out that when Webster checked with the County as to which District he lived in, he was given incorrect information. In a press release, Mr. Gillespie is quoted as saying: "I regret that I mistakenly told Scott that he was a resident of District 2 when he called the office in June prior to announcing his intention to run." Mr Gillespie said. "I relied on an older record system, one that is in the process of being replaced. Today, as Scott was in the office picking up a set of filing documents, we decided to again confirm his eligibility. A more careful check, using the newer system, revealed that his lot lies on the district boundry line—unfortunately, the wrong side of it," said Gillespie.
"Clearly, I am disappointed at not being able to run, but I'm glad Dan caught the error early in the process. I was looking forward to the campaign," said Webster. "Barbara Marrett is a strong candidate, and I wish her well". While it is expected someone from the proper district will step forward to run prior to the deadline for filing, at this point the only canidate left is Marrett.
Thursday, July 7th
And The Nominees Are: Ellis Jr., Lehman, Myhr & Stephans
The County Democratic Central Committee now has four names, one of which will most likely be the new County Commissioner for District three.
The timing is going to be tight. July 31st is the last day for Miller to sit as a Commissioner. August 2nd is the next scheduled meeting for the BOCC, and Commissioners Lichter and Ranker could make an appointment at that time; if they don't, they will have 60 days until the choice goes to the Governor's office.
Once Miller's replacement is named, the county can then wait to see who signs up during the period of August 3, 4 & 5, which are the special filing days to be on the ballor in September for the office of the BOCC; and if anyone wants to be on the ballot for the primary -including any newly appointed Commissioner- they will be required to sign up on one of those days.
Who will be appointed?
Fred Ellis Jr. is well known and respected in the county, but has had little experience in county government.
Lee Lehman is well known by county employees (he is the past president of the public employees union, and works for SJC Public Works), but not by the general public.
Bob Myhr is an international management consultant, has the longest history of involvement in county government (he helped write the Comp. Plan, is a Board member of OPALCO, and is an advisor for the SJ Preservation Trust -a private corporation that preserves land without the use of tax dollars).
Jamie Stephans has been involved in local elections, and while not well known off of Lopez, it is rumored that he is favored by Miller as her choice for her seat on the BOCC.
"The envelope please…" The next few weeks should be interesting.