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Home » Archives » December 2005 » A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing

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12/19/2005: "A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing"


I am an engineer by training. Good engineers work hard to create simple solutions to complex problems. We have a word for designs that are overly complex and doomed to failure. The word is "kludge".

I mention this because I just finished reviewing the Board of County Commissioners proposal for changes to the Accessory Dwelling Ordinance and Settlement Agreement with the Friends of the San Juans. It is the most recent attempt by Alan Lichter and Kevin Ranker to limit guesthouse freedoms. I read it four times. With each reading the subtle convoluted detail sharpened through the bureaucratic fog. It is a mishmash of backroom special interest gobbledygook. It is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It is a kludge.

Alan and Kevin and Friends of the San Juans are positioning it as a "compromise" - acceptable to all parties. I would ask you to read it carefully and see what you think. This is a complex pair of documents. I suspect Alan and Kevin spent long hours crafting them. These guys worked very hard, but for whom are they working?

In a memo recently made public regarding the proposal and the agreement, San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord gave his best legal counsel to Alan and Kevin. He wrote: "The Friends of the San Juans would be consulted, and in doing so, it is private people who would be directing the legislative process in a manner that is contrary to public policy. Moreover, this approach unnecessarily and illegally restricts the power of the commissioners."

Randy Gaylord went on to warn: "Such an agreement makes a mockery of public process, the Friends have gained additional leverage in the public process that no other citizen will have. This the law does not allow."

The proposal and agreement are not only a kludge. They are illegal. If the commissioners had followed the advice of the Prosecutor, today we would have a decision from the appeals court and we would have clear direction on how best to proceed.

I have posted a copy of the commissioner's proposal along with the memo from Randy Gaylord at www.OrcasStyle.com. I urge you to read these documents carefully.

I believe the proposal will result in reduced property rights, increased bureaucracy, increased litigation expense, increased planning/permitting process cost and delays, and deep frustration for our already demoralized permit and planning people (who are sick of this political whipsawing).

Last year the Environmental Protection Agency gave the city of Santa Cruz the coveted Smart Growth Award for their innovative work with ADUs. While their leaders are innovating, we are moving backwards. We can do better.

There are several things worth doing about this. First, there will be a citizen's informational gathering on December 14, from 7 to 9 pm, at the Orcas Fire Hall in Eastsound. Second, you can also call the San Juan County Guesthouse Hotline at 376-7327. Third, the commissioners are required by law to have public meetings on this proposal. You should attend the first meeting of the Planning Commission on December 16th in Friday Harbor. Additional meetings are planned, so keep an eye out in the paper for the public notice.

A measure that would make the Guesthouse Proposal obsolete, House Bill 2323, is moving through the state legislature. Please lend it your support by calling or writing representatives Jeff Morris and Dave Quall and urge them to adopt the bill this session, as written.

I should mention that I am a Democrat, voted for both Alan and Kevin, and support them and the Friends of the San Juans in much of the good work they do. That said, on the guesthouse issue, Alan and Kevin's 11th hour attempt to circumvent the judicial and legislative process is a cynical attempt to undermine the people's will, and that is undemocratic.

When faced with the fact that people voted in favor of the guesthouse ballot measure 3 to 1, it is said that Alan Lichter brushed off the results with the comment "The voters didn't understand the question." Perhaps Alan and Kevin don't understand the answer.

Jay Kimball
Orcas Island


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