08/21/2006: ""Friends" Win… County Citizens Lose"
The Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board has ruled against the citizens of San Juan County and approved the Friend's/Council guesthouse ordinance.
The Hearings Board chose to ignore the backroom dealings, the off the record contacts between the Friends and individual Council members and the failure of the Council to follow proper public process. The Growth Board apparently wasn't concerned with the Councils penchant for amending the Unified Development code outside the GMA process and the selective and exclusionary nature of the new guesthouse ordinance. The three -Governor appointed- Growth Board members came to the conclusion that it really doesn't matter to what extent the three County Council members failed the citizens of San Juan county. The ordinance, to the eyes of the Growth Board, does not significantly interfere with their, (the Growth Boards), agenda, so they lifted their order of invalidity.
It isn't all over yet, although most of us wish it was. The next step is a hearing on November 8th when those of us who have filed Petitions for Review will have a chance to demonstrate just how screwed up this ordinance is, and how flawed the process of adopting it has been. Will this make a difference? It is hard to say. It appears that to the old saw of "the ends justify the means" is going full throttle with the Governor's appointees.
The ordinance the Friends/Council passed, and the Growth Hearings Board approved, is unfortunate, not just because it shortchanges the citizens of San Juan County. It is unfortunate for lost affordable house opportunities. It is unfortunate because it means some folks will be clear-cutting and blasting to get their guesthouse within the prescribed distance from their primary residence. It means that people will chose to build bigger homes…especially on the shoreline…to incorporate guest apartments that otherwise would have been a small cabin back in the woods.
This reminds me of the recent discriminatory decision in Chicago, (now being reconsidered), to require the "big box stores" to pay a minimum of $13.00 per hour to their employees. Chicago's elected geniuses have now discovered that the new stores that were going to be built have been cancelled. Their citizens will not have the jobs that the stores would have provided or the more reasonably priced goods the stores sold… not to mention the lost tax revenue for city coffers. OOPS!
Failure to think through the logical outcome of legislation doesn't surprise many in San Juan County who have watch the three Councilmen flail around on one issue after another. Unfortunately, we all have to suffer the consequences.