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Wednesday, October 26th

$13,383,585.00 Budget For 2006

ig_BOCC-BUDGET_10-25-05-1 (34k image)

Just like one's personal budget, there some expenses one simply cannot reduce, and some items that are choices. The problem is what to include and what to reject, and based on the input from all of the county departments, and discussion between the Commissioners, choices have been made, and now they wait to hear from the public, who will be able give their input at a November 15 public hearing on the proposed budget. Based on the input, and discussion by the BOCC following the public hearing, it will be decide what, if any, changes will be made, and then the 2006 budget will be finalized. (Click for: BUDGET-06_Captal-Improvements.doc (245k file) ">Capital Improvements Budget

The problem each year for the Commissioners is the balancing act in meeting the County's financial obligations for the programs they must provide under state and federal law (some of which are not funded), and the additional programs they would like to provide, and to do so within the limitations of the available revenue that is generated by taxes, fees, grants, and, or course, borrowed money.

To compound the problem, there is always an uncertainty of the cash flow to the county, which can be more or less than the projections; a simple fact of the budget process which was most famously acknowledged by Commissioner Lichter's comment to the Freeholders that "Si has this magic desk that has drawers that sometimes allows more or less money to be found". When the forecasts fall short of the revenue (E.g. a poor business year means less sales tax to the County), the BOCC can cut services or borrow money, or increase fees. For 2006 the fees will be increased for both land use and building permits; a move that is assumed will raise $150,000.00 +/- for the year.


Wednesday, October 19th

Town & BOCC May Share New Office Bld

ig_Cahail-Fitch-1 (27k image)(Mary Jean Cahail & King Fitch before the BOCC)
In an attempt to make sure the new BOCC members know there has been, and still remains, a pressing need for both new and additional courtroom space and offices, Mary Jean Cahail, elected clerk for Superior Court, and a member of the Law & Justice Council, presented a proposal to the BOCC that may finally result in some positive steps toward that end; or at the least the spending of more money to study the problem.

Mary Jean gave a short history of the past studies, showing the board that extensive research and past studies have produced a Capital Needs note book and a Revenue book that address both the needs and funding issues involved, and she also presented the idea that the town of Friday Harbor and the County come together and meet both of their needs for space by building new court house and office space for their joint use. Mary Jean reported that a review of other communities that have shared space for both county and town use have found the concept works for them, and has saved tax dollars by not duplicating facilities.

Town Administrator King Fitch joined the discussion, and told the Commissioners that they too have space needs. The Town had conducted a 1998 study that showed an additional 10,000 SqFt of space was required, and he was encouraging in his remarks that, although the possibility has not been formally discussed with the Town Council, he saw merit in the concept.

The ideal came up later in the day at a workshop on the 2006 budget, and the new Board was told that $150,000 had been put aside in the past as seed money to produce a plan to address the need for new courtroom space, but it had been used for other purposes.

The Board agreed the proposal should be looked at, calling it "logical" and an "exciting possibility", and plans to enter into preliminary discussions with the Town.

To keep the BOCC focused on the project, Cahail presented the Board with a one dollar bill attached to a page that earmarked it as a contribution toward the future construction project.


Sunday, October 16th

BOCC Requested To Adopt New Bld Code

ig_Nina_LeBaron-1 (31k image)Nina Pellar Le Baron addresses BOCC during Citizen Access Time

Two citizens have used the BOCC Citizens Access Time to lodge a complaint, and a request, that the County adopt the building code that is being used by the county CD&PD (Community Development & Planning Department) to conduct building plan reviews and construction inspections. Nina Pellar Le Baron, a local architect, and Steve Belluomini, a home owner who wishes to build a barn, appeared before the BOCC to plead their separate and unrelated projects that are being impacted by the failure of the BOCC to act in adopting the code.

The code in question is the IBC (International Building Code), which is the new replacement for the old stand-by UBC (Uniform Building Code) that has for years been the adopted code of choice in the country for most of the western states. The new IBC was introduced and ready for adoption in July of 2004, and while it is was adopted by the State of Washington, and by the Town of Friday Harbor, the County has never got around to adopting it, or the appendices that would allow the County to address the sort of issues raised by Le Baron and Belluomini. But there are other issues as well. The County has a number of policies and permit exemptions that are now in conflict with the IBC if the appendices are not adopted.

According to Le Baron, a local architect, the failure of the BOCC to adopt the code is causing a "hardship for those of us that live in the County, to not have the current IBC (International Building Code) adopted by the County Commissioners. Le Baron gave the BOCC an example of the problem: " under the current code (UBC), if one wanted to build a 2 story barn on a vacant lot, it has to be totally sheet-rocked inside ( this is to provide a one hour fire rating). Now if any body has any good sense when it comes to barns, sheet-rocking the interior is a huge expense and it tends to mold and mildew in Un-heated spaces'". Le Baron explained to The Guardian that "All this has been rectified in the New ICB Code, but the Head of the Permit Center, Matt Zybas, does not think that is an important enough concern to push for the adoption of this most up to date code."

Mr. Zybas inherited the problem when he took over as the interim director of the department, and told The Guardian that his department is understaffed and simply does not have time to schedule a public hearing the BOCC is required to hold to adopt the new code.

In the past the BOCC has scheduled public hearings to adopt each new edition of the old UBC as soon as it was adopted by the state. The hearings were simple administrative "house cleaning" and lasted only a few minutes, or longer, if a member of the public presented testimony in support or against the adoption.

Le Baron said that she had "met one lady at the BOCC Hearing in which I presented my case and she said that she is suing the County to adopt this new code, because otherwise she is being forced out of business with the cost to comply with the current code". Because Le Baron and Belluomini presented their comments during citizen's access time, the BOCC did not take action under their standing rules on access time. It is not known if there will be a follow up by the BOCC on the request for the adoption of the IBC.


Thursday, October 13th

Attorney Tells Gaylord Charter Has Flaw

Attorney Bill Appel has sent a letter to the former Freeholders, Randy Gaylord, and to the BOCC, outlining in a very academic fashion his contention that the language of the Charter that will be voted on has a "fatal flaw". A flaw that may require corrective measures to be taken by a Court to fully explain and define the word "district", as it is used in the Charter. Appel's solution to the problem is to call for the defeat of the Charter. But Gaylord has sent a letter to the BOCC, in which he disagees with Appel: click here for a PDF file of the Gaylord letter:Gaylord Responds to Appel.pdf (84k file), and/or the full text of the letter follows the Appel letter:

The full text of the Appel letter follows:


Wednesday, October 12th

BOCC Still Working On Citizens Committee

ig_CDP-PW-EPF-Committee-1 (29k image)PW Director Jon Shannon proves a photo is worth a 1000 words -Matt Zybas listens to BOCC - BOCC staff behind him

The idea of forming an advisory committee to the BOCC on EPFs (Essential Public Facilities), came from the previous BOCC, as a way of answering concerns from the public on the construction of EPFs. The original intent was to form a committee that would act as a disinterested group to review the need, and siting, of EPFs in San Juan County.

The push for a committee came as a result of the possible purchase of the LaFarge beach on San Juan island for a barge landing, and its possible use as a storage area for gravel, but at the last moment the former Board stepped back from forming a committee. (See past story: Who Needs A Committee ) After the recent purchase this year of land on SJ island for development of a PW yard and storage area, the cry for a EPF committee was once again heard by the BOCC, and the new Board stated they would quickly form a committee to advise them on EPFs.

Responding to continued questions from the public on why it is taking so long to appoint a committee to "do something" or advise "someone" on the long range planning of Public Works projects, the BOCC once again put the subject on their agenda and met with PW (Public Works) Director Jon Shannon & the CD&PD (Community Development & Planning) Director Matt Zybas; and yet once again failed to not only appoint a committee, but also failed to define it's mission, who it would respond to, and what it would respond on.

Public Works Director Jon Shannon told the board that he did not understand how the committee would intersect with existing county committees. He said it would be helpful to him if the Board would clearly state to him "Why do we want to do this? What outcome is expected from this, and what do you need that you don't have?"

Commissioner Bob Myhr listed what he believed should be the areas the committee should look at: Solid waste, maintenance facilities, office/ administrative space, and raw materials storage. These are siting issues, and he said the committee should look at the issues on a county wide level; but that he would exclude barge landing sites, as that was another level of review.

Commissioner Lichter pointed out that the past minutes of the Board clearly show the committee was to address PW's long range plans, and the concerns of the Kelsey South proposal for a PW facility, but now it seems to have expanded into something else. Myhr responded that he will always want to look at the impacts on the county as a whole, and not to limit reviews to specific projects

The Board did agree that the committee should be of an odd number, consisting of seven or eight members, but did not come to a consensus on the degree and the scope of the committee's work. There was also a question raised as to where the staff support for the committee will come from. Director Shannon wanted it to go to the CD&PD, and volunteered to move budget money around in his department to help fund the administrative costs of the committee and then make the funding available to the CD&PD to help them defer the costs of staffing the committee. The Board was split on which department should provide support -regardless of where the money came from.

Shannon make it clear he was not very excited about having a committee, but at the end of the meeting he told the Board that he could see some value in having the committee test PW assumptions that PW has made based on previous Board directives. As an example he cited the work toward a transfer station that PWs has been moving forward on for years, but now is not clear if that is a priority for the current board, or not.

The Board will meet again next week and try to finalize a mission statement. Commissioner Myhr said the Board should also continue to solicit candidates for the committee.


Thursday, October 6th

Appeal Upheld On Thor Black Permit

IG_BLACK-BOCC_Hearing-1 (23k image)(Stephanie O'day makes a point while Peter Eglick waits his turn. Lee McEnery with back to camera)

Citing failure of proper notice, burden of proof, and incompatibility to the surrounding area, the BOCC went against the staff recommendation to deny, and instead unanimously upheld an appeal by David and Jane Cable against Mr. Black's approved CUP (Conditional Use Permit) for a landscape materials yard, tub grinder and associated processing site.

The property is located on San Juan Island, just south of the end of the Friday Harbor airport, and has a land use designation of Rural General Use, which is one of the few designations that can, under appropriate conditions, allow a commercial/industrial use such as those uses contemplated by Mr. Black.

Mr. Black owns an excavating business and a machine called a tub grinder, mounted on a trailer, used to grind up such materials as tree stumps, limbs, and building materials; turning it into a mulch that can be used for anything from landscape "bark" to fuel.

When the original application (past story) for the CUP of the property was heard by the HE (Hearing Examiner) in May of this year, some of the neighbors expressed concern that the operation would generate noise and dust that would have a negative impact on the neighborhood. While the reason for the conditional use process is to address such possible impacts by imposing mitigating conditions on the use (hence the name), there is always the problem of defining what conditions are adequate to mitigate impacts.

While the question of the adequacy of the conditions was a part of the appeal, the Cable's attorney also raised a question on the adequacy of the public notice, maintaining that not all of the proposed uses were included in the original notice, such as on site grinding of sheet rock by the tub grinder But the main issue seemed to be the noise factor, and would the conditions proposed by the applicant to limit it, be successful.

Peter Eglick of the Eglick, Kiker & Whited law firm, attorney for Cable, argued that the HE failed to follow the law when he approved the permit without up-front proof from the applicant that the building of earthen berms would control noise to the degree necessary to meet the conditions of the permit. Eglick told the BOCC that the "key is, where does the burden of proof lie".

Stephanie O'Day, attorney for Black, pointed out that to test the noise levels against the proposed berms, the berms would have to be built, but the HE had ruled that if the beams did not control the noise, then as per the conditional use permit approved by the HE, that part of the operation could not continue. But Eglick said that the HE was in error, for that approach puts the burden of proof on his clients, on the neighbors, and ultimately on the County. Eglick told the Commissioners that under county regulations for a CUP, the burden of proving the noise could be mitigated was on the applicant, at the time he made application for the permit, and not after he was operating the equipment.

After three minutes of summing up by the attorneys, the BOCC entered into deliberations, then by a unanimous vote upheld the appeal; an action that negated the HE approval, and made all aspects of the permit null and void.

After the hearing O'Day said her client would take the case to Superior Court.


Tom Bauschke
John Evans
Mary Kalbert
Ron Keeshan
Gordy Petersen
Janice Peterson
Bruce Sallan
Terra Tamai
Amy Wynn
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