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Home » Archives » September 2005 » BOCC Ends Controversy

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09/09/2005: "BOCC Ends Controversy"


Dear Editor,

The Board of County Commissioners ended a 7-year controversy over detached ADU's on September 6, 2005. The commissioners have offered the citizens of this county a compromise based on the historic rate of ADU development. The county estimates our rate of ADU development to be 16.7%, including internal and attached ADU's. The county has not been able to separate the types of ADU's in its analysis, but if detached ADU's outnumber the other types, then a fair estimate of the historic rate of detached ADU development would be 10 to 12%. This is the percentage used by the BOCC in the new ordinance. This is basically a proposal to maintain the "status quo" for numbers of detached ADU's.

So why is the Friends of the San Juans supporting this new ordinance? A good compromise gives all parties something that they need, but gives no party everything they want. The Friends of the San Juans is supporting the BOCC's new ordinance although it includes a number of things that we have argued and litigated against during these seven years. We are supporting this because (1) it includes, for the first time, significant environmental restrictions on detached ADU development and (2) it includes practical incentives for affordable housing.

We are ready to end this controversy. We believe that the ordinance contains some affordable housing incentives that will actually work. The main incentive in the new ordinance is the allowance of a detached ADU on small inland lots in rural areas, where folks are most likely to be able to afford to build additional housing for affordable long-term rental. We intend to support this in a compliance hearing before the Growth Management Hearings Board because one of the goals of GMA is affordable housing. We believe that the increased residential density that will result is offset by the gain in affordable housing.

The ordinance put forward by the BOCC includes some of the provisions of the Island County ordinance, like the one acre minimum lot size, which were found to be compliant with GMA. Our ordinance has more environmental protections than the Island County ordinance, while also allowing a limited number of detached ADU's on lots as small as one acre in some rural areas of the county. The Island County ordinance has been working for nearly 5 years, so we are confident that this new ordinance will not only be found to be compliant with GMA, but also will work in our rural county.

Lynn Bahrych, President of the Friends of the San Juans
Shaw Island


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