09/29/2005: "Baby Boomer's Money Outweighs Loss of Lots"
(Re: Ray Bigler's letter, A Response to Losleben & Garrison) I am not sure I can respond with absolute facts and figure regarding the relative impact of the rezoning which reduced the number of buildable lots by 15,000 as against the relative impact of the new money coming into the islands. I personally think that the baby boomers' equity coming out of urban California is having a far greater impact. I also don't know if the 15,000 is a real number of actual buildable lots lost, or some statistician's raw interpretation by looking at map plots. I suspect the latter. I do know, from talking to several dozen realtors in the process of gathering information for affordable housing, that the money pouring in is happening now, while the build out of these additional lots, including the necessary roads, water and sewer, had we not been rezoned, would have been a multi-decade operation. So, from a short-term cash flow point of view, I believe that the current rates of appreciation would have happened in any case.
But the larger question is, so what? We are attempting to deal with the real world which exists today. If another group wishes to gather and fight for upzoing, so be it. However, our focus will and must remain on attempting to house the service sector employees within the constraints that exist, be they regulations (good or bad), escalating home prices, and the minimal amount of buildable land that fits within our investment criteria.
You are certainly correct in that the absolute dollars being spent by the community on property taxes is increasing, even if the mil rate is low, again because of rapidly escalating housing prices. However, this is not just a San Juan County problem, but is happening all over the country, giving local property tax beneficiaries a windfall for spending programs, and driving poor and/or fixed income property owners out of their neighborhoods. Again, my suggestion is to "man the ramparts!" Fight for more efficient and hopefully less costly, government. I can assure you that you are no less frustrated with bureaucracy and regulations that we have been, trying to put this program together, and in attempting other economic development initiatives. In the meantime, however, we all must pick our battles, and ours is to be the most cost-effective builder of necessary infrastructure housing in the county.
As far as our costs are concerned, we are talking about one employee. All the rest are volunteers. We have put in well over 2,000 person-hours, with less than $5,000 spent from private anonymous donors. We have experience and skill sets which would have cost a fortune to contract for on the outside. We have commercial and investment bankers, contractors, architects, lawyers, scientists, and marketing specialists, all who have committed their time for free. How much more grass roots and "free enterprise" can we get? If we could find the seed capital from any other source than the excise tax on those who are bidding up the overall prices of real estate, we would take it! If you have any private enterprise sources that we have not scoured, please let us know!