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Home » Archives » September 2011 » LETTERS ON CRITICAL AREAS UPDATE



[Note:Date above left is when first letter was posted below on the subject -dates below are when a letter was posted -Ed]

“the academic Frederick Turner, on the one hand, reinvented the Great Chain of Being, at the top of which he places man himself. The activist Dave Forman, on the other, wields the clever but utterly useless metaphor of man as global cancer. Both points of view -and these sentiments are pervasive among grass-root environmental activists- are predicated on the faulty notion that man and nature are separate and antagonistic, because one or the other is fallen.”

George G. Hruby In response to “Only man's presence can save nature”, in Harper’s, July 1990

Will We Need A Large Fig Leaf For The Islands?

Dear Editor:

Lets look at the CAO from a metaphorical point of view. Most of us think of our islands as living art and wish to preserve and protect it. Imagine a new Washington legislative body by the name of Citizens Art Organization (CAO). The CAO mandates how all artwork in the state is to be preserved.

One of their requirements is that all art must be kept clean and that the procedures for cleaning must be updated in writing every five years.

Now lets assume that our islands are Michelangeloʼs marble sculpture “David”. Our recent County Council took very seriously the cleaning of the sculpture and under the cloak of meeting the CAO requirements, they also decided to have its genitals removed.

When asked why this was necessary, we were told that their presence might offend somebody. When asked for evidence that somebody had been offended, we were told that they had to use the “precautionary principle”-- just in case someone in the future might find the genitals offensive, they have to be removed.

The decision of the Council was quite controversial. When critically questioned about their course of action, they proceeded to talk about how simple the procedure would be and that they had hired the best “restorationist” in the world to perform the removal.

They always directed the conversation away from the act that was about to take place and the consequences to the island body that it would bring with it.

In a very real sense, the recently passed CAOʼs will have a similar effect on the “charm” of the islands. Many of the buildings, landmarks, harbors, and businesses that draw people here would not be allowed under the new CAOʼs.

Examples are Doe Bay restaurant and resort, Orcas Pottery, Orcas ferry landing, the old cannery at Jackson beach, Snug Harbor, Roche harbor, San Juan County park, Shipyard Cove, Rosario Resort, Duck Soup restaurant, many small home businesses, art studios---you can all add to the list.

An alternative to the fast approaching amputation is a community with Trust as its foundation. I urge all for my island neighbors to vote for a County Council that actually Trusts you. For more information:

Royce Meyerott
San Juan Island

Is Alderton Misinformed, or Misinforming?

Dear Editor:

I am writing to correct a glaring factual error in Ms. Alderton’s letter of 2-12-13. I was puzzled by the claim that the "fulfillment of Public Records requests for the CAO Update process has cost taxpayers close to $100,000" [see below -Ed]. Given the fact that the County has an obligation to maintain the CAO files in an organized fashion pursuant to the GMA, this number seemed highly unlikely.

I contacted Ms. Alderton to ask for the source of her estimate, but she has not replied. I also contacted Stan Matthews, who has been in charge of public records requests at the County, and asked whether the County kept such figures, either on the CAO or generally. He said no. I recognize that, as a Friends of the San Juans Board member, Ms. Alderton seems to have access to information not otherwise available to mere citizens. In this case, however, she seems to have been misinformed.

As for the notion that the CAO process was not micromanaged by ecology, I suggest that Ms. Alderton take the opportunity to review the public records that show the constant communication between the County, CDPD and Ecology from the very beginning of the CAO process, with CDPD and its consultants repeatedly asking Ecology what to do.

Finally, I am not sure why Ms. Alderton thinks that our unique County could simply have taken another County’s CAO and used it. Whatcom County? King County? It makes no sense. No other county has the pristine resources and voluntary and taxpayer-supported protections of so much land that we do. What would have made sense is reviewing the existing CAO, determining where it was inadequate, if at all, and making the minor changes required. That certainly would not have required several County planner FTEs and hundreds of thousands of dollars for consultants.

Peg Manning

The CAO Is Complex & Expensive By Design

Dear Editor:

I have been a close observer of the Critical Areas Ordinance Update process. I agree with many others that the CAO recently adopted by our County Council is far too complicated. There are also misconceptions about the origins of this expensive and complex set of regulations.

The Department of Ecology did not micromanage the CAO Update process. Under the Growth Management Act each county in our state writes its own regulations. Under the leadership of County Councilor Richard Fralick a majority of the Council was persuaded that a CAO using site-specific buffers was the way to go. A unique site-specific buffer plan for San Juan County was projected to cost around $185,000. But the inherent complexity of the site-specific approach resulted in protracted Planning Commission and County Council meetings. Additional rounds of meetings added to the mounting costs and distracted from other important County business. Since our county was among the last in Washington State to update the CAO, we could have saved money using the work of other counties. Unfortunately, we spent substantial funds during a period of shrinking county revenues to create a set of regulations that will cost more taxpayer money to support a larger Planning Department and cost landowners more money to comply with the regulations. Ironically, all this time and effort have only produced costly regulations that are much less protective for fish and wildlife.

Our CAO update was due in 2006 but only recently completed at the end of 2012. This lengthy process has polarized our community. Even before 2006, citizens were supporting simple regulations that would have been less confusing, less expensive, and more protective of our Critical Areas than the CAO recently adopted by our council. The fulfillment of Public Records requests for the CAO Update process has cost taxpayers close to $100,000. Most of these requests have come from one person connected to the Common Sense Alliance. The production of a CAO Update that pleases almost no one has led to legal challenges that will cost additional taxpayer money. Had we adopted portions of other counties’ CAO Updates that had already withstood legal challenges, we could have saved ourselves both grief and taxpayer money.

Janet Alderton
Orcas Island

Bad Content Nicely Wrapped

Dear Editor:

Fellow islanders-- The majority of islanders who I know are thoughtful, neighborly, and very community oriented. All really care about the pristine islands that we inhabit and would do almost anything to preserve them for future generations.

Many have a family and a job which occupies most of their energy and attention, leaving them very little time or inclination to wade into the political swamps that surround them.

Unfortunately, as a direct result of their very positive human qualities, many will be victims of political fraud.

Metaphorically speaking, an example of fraud may be observed at a local ballgame.

A ballgame attracts people for many reasons--most of them innocent and healthy. Crowds also tend to attract parasites who’s agenda is not so innocent and they prey on the unwary.

Let me focus on a hot dog vender who walks through the bleachers selling what he calls EcoDogs. He proudly explains that the buns are Organic and that the grains are Sustainably Shade grown by farmers who are paid a Living wage. If one inquires further he may tell you that they are also Gluten free and Stone ground.

Impatient to get back to the game, you just buy a couple of EcoDogs. During the season the story of the healthy EcoDog is passed from parent to parent and soon no one asks critical questions anymore as their attention is occupied by the game at hand.

What you donʼt learn is that the meat that is wrapped in the healthy bun is actually the waste from a cattle feed lot and is full of questionable hormones and deadly bacteria. By the end of the season, many are sick and an investigation ensues.

It is found that the vendor was never told about the contents of the EcoDogs because the distributor of the meat knew that no one in the islands would eat them unless the vendor at least believed that they were healthy. The distributors knowingly wrapped a rotten piece of meat with a healthy bun in order to forward their agenda.

The most obvious EcoDog sold to the public recently has been the updated Critical Area Ordinance.

It took years of not so critical scientific review by our non scientific County Council to draft a set of rules and regulations that are so far reaching that the result may well poison the community.

Much like the EcoDog distributor, the Council members and their lobbyists wrap their agenda with an environmental flag, fully knowing that the public would not support their decisions without this deception.

The County Council and their advisors can supply no scientific evidence that our previous Critical Area Ordinance was lacking, or that there is real science to support the new laws.

They consistently moved to follow an agenda which can be politely described as “without intellectual rigor”. Like the EcoDog vendor, the County Council may be unwitting accomplices to larger off island puppeteers.

The legal over reach of the newly passed CAO will result in lawsuits that may drain the County’s reserves for years.

During the past 30 years I have been a very active environmental advocate and always supported environmental laws that were well balanced, fair and effective. I am appalled with the decision making that I have observed within the County Council chambers.

It is quite obvious that the County Planning Staff, under the direct influence of the DOE, has authored the majority of the new CAO. Not only is this inappropriate, but it demonstrates a lack of leadership on the part of the individual council members.

Last November we voted out of office two of the previous council members. That was a good start. I am requesting that you pay close attention to the candidates running in the upcoming County Council elections.

If we are to heal the rifts within our community we must elect individuals who have a heart for the environment, proven business experience, and can think for themselves.

They must not be the pawns of off island political or governmental machines. We do not need politicians. We need smart managers to run the business of San Juan County--no more EcoDogs please.

Royce Meyerott
San Juan Island

Lame Ducks -If You’re In A Hole, Stop Digging

Dear Editor:

Holding an elected position in a county with diverse viewpoints is difficult. It’s a job that no sane person would want. Long hearings about boring topics, comfortable chairs, warm rooms. A person could almost fall asleep.

Our two lame duck councilors have a basic misunderstanding about their actions while on the council.

Both of them expressed they had done a fine job of listening to diverse opinion, reining in the budget, attacking problematic long-standing situations and protecting the interests of San Juan County residents.

The voters disagree. After 12+ years solid waste is not resolved. The council studiously ignored objections about constitutional rights and problem definition prior to change of rules by the CAO.

This council has been led by the nose by the planning staff and FOSJ instead of directing policy to subordinate staff.

Staff & council members have stated that San Juan County will be sued if they follow through, but continue to move on. This has been a weak council that has accomplished little and has divided the residents of San Juan County into angry camps.

Because of the changed council structure and election results we have a lame duck council. They should delete all they have done on the CAO.

They should report that our local controls are effectively meeting GMA requirements and that we will revisit them again if and when needed.

Don’t leave the “new” council to handle an old smelly dead animal. Kill the beast; redirect staff to productive work and stop following the agenda of the FOSJ. Stop throwing money at CAO and the suits that will emanate if this lame duck session passes it along to the new council.

Dennis R. Hazelton
San Juan Island

Pleased With CAO Process??

Dear Editor:

Are our citizens happy with the progress of the Critical Area Ordinance, the Shoreline Management Plan, the overruns in the county budget, the cutbacks in essential services, the influence of special interests and the dissension within the County Council? Are you as saddened as I am by the divisions in our community by the excessive land use regulations being considered and handed down by our current county administers?

Because I believe that the strength of an organization or community comes from the bottom up (the workers/citizens, not from the managers and politicians) I decided to run for County Council in San Juan Island Dist. 1 South, challenging the incumbent. I am a non-partisan candidate in a non-partisan election. Why is that important? Our Home Rule Charter makes it clear that Council members represent all citizens and should not be influenced by any political party affiliation or special interest group. The only special interest group I am interested in supporting is the “People of San Juan County”.

I have lived and worked on San Juan Island for over 37 years. My wife and I raised four children here. I have always been involved in community service and strived to help make this a great place to live. Now I am worried that my children and grandchildren will not be allowed to enjoy the rural sense of community and the healthy lifestyle that we have always cherished.

I know how to balance a budget having worked with multi-million dollar budgets in my capacity as Area Plant Supervisor with the telephone company where I worked for 30 years. I have been on both sides of a paycheck as an employee and as a small business owner for the past 7 years. I know how to “do more with less”. I believe in a balanced budget and fiscal responsibility.

I’ve worked with unions and workers’ concerns while at the phone company and as a San Juan Island Fire Commissioner. Having been elected Fire Commissioner 8 years ago, I am proud to say that by working with the Town of Friday Harbor, the County, and the Port, we were able to reach an agreement between the county and town fire departments, making the fire department more responsive, efficient and economical for all. This was accomplished by listening to both sides and seeking real solutions. I would like to bring this same sense of cooperation to the table as a County Councilman.

The issues at stake in this election are very real. The time for action is now. We need new, common sense leadership on our County Council, governing ourselves without relying so heavily on “paid consultants and special interest groups”. I believe I can make a difference and help to maintain our Island Way of Life.

Thank you.
Bob Jarman
San Juan Island

County Has Little Interest In Wetland Locations

Dear Editor:

Many thanks to Ms Gavora for finally pointing out something [2nd letter below -Ed] that has bothered me for years. Those wetland reports just sit there, in boxes in a back room. I have mentioned this a couple times to people there, including long-range planners, but they don't seem to have the time to discuss a way to re-use them. I've suggested that they be provided to the GIS team, so they can be digitized and added to that collection of data. Maybe The Friends should offer to do it.

Also, the Planning Department has hundreds of eelgrass, archaeological, and shoreline topographic surveys, all paid for by citizens, that languish in file drawers and boxes. Many are probably available digitally from the specialists who prepared them.

The County processes all land surveys that are recorded, thereby contantly updating the property maps. It should do the same with all the environmental surveys. After all, private citizens are required to pay for them, so the results should generate as much public benefit and utility as possible.

Bob Querry
San Juan Island

Lame Case for the CAO

Dear Editor:

At the town hall meeting on October 9th, Council incumbents Howie Rosenfeld and Lovel Pratt defended the CAO update, the land use debacle they’ve championed that’s dividing the county and threatening to bury it in lawsuits.

1. “Nothing’s broken, but we must fix it.” Howie and Lovel argued that because the San Juans’ natural environment “is pristine” (a term they often repeated…and a credit to current regulations), it follows that land use rules must be massively overhauled. The CAO update may be an illogical, arbitrary and intrusive solution untraceable to any problem, but, if one loves pristine nature, evidently, one’s obliged to support it.

2. “The GMA made us do it.” Not true. The GMA required nothing like the multi-year, multi-million-dollar process we’ve suffered. The Council let islanders down, abdicated to special interests, has given the views of DoE, Puget Sound Partnership, San Juan Initiative, Friends and tribes greater weight than the rights and welfare of local citizens.

3. “What economic impact?” Asked if the county had done an analysis of the economic impact of the CAO update, Lovel replied that the county wasn’t required to do one. Oh? Marc Forlenza took an hour or two to interview local bankers and the county auditor who confirmed that there would be big negative impacts. With over half of all county properties affected (a number approaching ten thousand), conceivably hundreds of millions of dollars of property value could be lost. But we don’t know. This Council clearly doesn’t want us to know.
Based on their comments at the town hall meeting, I think that electing Marc Forlenza and Bob Jarman would refocus the Council on putting islanders’ concerns first.

Scott Webster
San Juan Island

The Question Is Not BEST, but BETTER, Science

Dear Editor:
It is without dispute that the San Juan County is to review the current Critical Areas Ordinance and “include the best available science" in the update of its regulations. RCW 36.70A.172.

One of the most glaring problems with the draft ordinance is that the County is incontestably in possession of BETTER available science.

The proposed ordinance maps wetlands using a LIDAR survey which measures geographic contours. This technology does not define with any precision the boundaries of wetlands. In fact, in many areas, this technology erroneously identifies wetlands which, after physical inspection, do not actually exist.

In simple terms, the critical areas wetlands as identified in the proposed Critical Areas Ordinance can only charitably be described as “approximate”.

It is ironic that better scientific data exists and is already in the possession of the County. Simply, over the past decades property owners have, at the County's request, conducted professional surveys of wetland boundaries.

Often property owners are burdened by smaller buffers if they have a wetland professionally delineated. This situation is more or less symbiotic. The property owner gets more leeway on where she can develop - (buffers decrease by half in many cases) - and the County gets a better understanding of where the critical areas actually lie from a "boots on the ground" survey performed by a professional geologist or wetland specialist at the landowner’s expense.

The problem with the proposed ordinance's reliance on LIDAR surveys is that it discards decades of data from site surveys and for some reason relies on LIDAR contour data, assumes any depression is a wetland, and shifts the burden of proving the non-existence of a wetland on the landowner.

It would seem to me that the Council, at a minimum, needs to amend the proposed wetlands maps to conform to the data generated by hundreds of these on-site surveys.

It is one thing to parrot that the County is following the "best available science," it is quite another to actually do it.

The Council is needlessly exposing itself to liability by ignoring the decades of data already in its possession by reverting to the less exact surveys.

Alexandra Gavora
San Juan Island

CSA-Funded Study For CAO Is Flawed

To the Editor:

In 2010, the Common Sense Alliance (CSA) funded a study(.pdf (6815\k file) study that evaluated six soil samples from six residential parcels on San Juan Island. Two 1831envreport-07222010-ADDEMDUM "> additional soil samples (.pdf 2271\k file) were taken from two undeveloped parcels. According to some, this report shows that residential development does not generate pollutants that can negatively impact our wetlands and our fish and wildlife. There are multiple flaws in this CSA-funded study.

Because the frequency and sampling number is very small, this study was excluded from our county’s Best Available Science.

Many of the pollutants that were measured, but not detected in this study, have been banned for decades (DDT, Heptachlor, Aldrin, Dieldrin, Endrin, Methoxychlor, and Chlordane). Endosulfan is primarily used on cotton fields. It is registered for agricultural use -not for residential use. Lindane was banned in 2007 except for medical use for head lice. You would not expect to find Lindane in garden soil.

Testing for Bifenthrin, a pyrethroid pesticide that is used to kill carpenter ants and termites, was not performed. Bifenthrin is routinely applied on the exterior of buildings and on the soil next to the foundation every three months by San Juan Pest Control to prevent insect re-infestations. It is designed to be very persistent, and it is toxic to salmon at extremely low concentrations.
MCPP, an herbicide in “Weed and Feed” products, was detected in soil samples from four out of the six developed residential sites. The presence of MCPP in 66% of the developed residential sites suggests that synthetic chemicals are in common use. This is contrary to some who say, “Don’t worry. Everyone only uses organic methods.”

The samples were taken from locations where most of the analyzed chemicals would be unlikely to accumulate. The root zone of plants breaks down many toxic chemicals into harmless molecules. The timing of application, the amount applied, and the chemical breakdown rate would determine whether the chemical would be detected in the soil under the root zone.

In contrast to this poorly-designed CSA-funded study of soil samples, another study tested for pyrethroid pesticides and surfactants in San Juan County surface waters. This study (Barsh et al. 2008) found significant levels of these pollutants and is included in San Juan County’s Best Available Science. Pulses of surface runoff carry pollutants downhill into our wetlands, lakes, streams, and marine waters. Many critical areas of our marine waters are not well flushed. These include the calmer embayments around which the early settlements were established. Eelgrass meadows are found in calmer waters, and these critical habitats provide nurseries for juvenile salmon and forage fish.

The 2010 Common Sense Alliance-funded study has multiple flaws. Inappropriate sampling sites and methods were used. Widely used toxic chemicals were not analyzed. This flawed study should not be used to claim that residential development does not pollute our critical areas. Instead, the presence of the synthetic chemical herbicide MCPP in the tested residential soil samples shows that organic gardening methods are not as widespread as some are saying.

Janet Alderton
Orcas Island
(Alderton is a board member for the Friends of the San Juans -Ed)

CAO Open Letter To The County Council

Council Members,

I write this short letter as a private citizen. I am not speaking for any of the organizations I participate in or work for.

This note addresses your upcoming deliberations on the FHWCA portions of CAO.

One of the fundamental relationships you must come to grips with is the balance between risk and reward for all of the citizens of the county.

The risk is the extent of continual degradation of the habitats that create the ecosystem that is the driver of our economy. Our tourism, whale watch, sportfishing, kayaking, second/summer home, and primary retirement housing industries all exist because we live in such a beautiful and ecologically rich place.
The reward of conservation and protection tends to enhance the future value of those industries.

The reward of development is short term individual freedom and personal financial gain at the expense of the ecosystem, and those industries that depend on the ecosystem.

It is my personal belief that our environment and therefore our way of life is dying the death of a thousand cuts. Development interests like to talk about the resilience of natural systems insinuating that balancing the risk/reward equation too heavily on the development side is a situation that can be recovered from. I do not see a lot of science that supports that idea without incredible amounts of regulation and public money (eg the millions spent on salmon recovery).

Balancing the risk/reward equation too heavily on the conservation/protection side tends to constrain personal freedom and financial gain but benefits us all through the retention of our economic drivers.

I would like to urge you to not get side-tracked by all of the noise at the street level and concentrate on the strategic position that you feel is the best balance of the risk/reward equation. To the extent that you define the strategic position your staff and consultants will craft the products that make it real.

Our future really does depend on you.

Thanks for your time and efforts!

Jim Slocomb
San Juan Island
(Mr. Slocomb works as an independent contractor for the Friends of the San Juans -Ed)

CAO Not Ready For Approval

Dear Editor:

The proposed CAO sets forth a system where in order to develop land, a landowner is expected to survey, delineate and, if necessary, remediate a wetland.

However, with buffers as big as 260 feet, It will not be uncommon for a wetland on one parcel to affect the development prospects of a neighboring parcel.

One of the major flaws of the proposed CAO is that it does not specify how a landowner will have access to a critical area in a neighboring parcel in order for it to be surveyed or remediated. Simply, how can landowner on Parcel A demand access to Parcel B in order to survey the wetland in order to complete the requisite study? This potential problem becomes even more likely when it is considered that the owner of Parcel B may wish to limit the development on Parcel A.

While perhaps a governmental agency could obtain a regulatory warrant to compel a landowner to submit to inspection by that agency, I can think of no law where Landowner A can compel the inspection of Landowner B's property.

Until this eventuality is addressed, it is clear the proposed ordinance is not ready for approval.


Nicholas Power
San Juan Island

Lovel Responds To Blanchard Letter [see below Pratt letter]

To the Editor:

Mr. Blanchard’s letter expresses concern that playing Frisbee or flying kites won’t be allowed near wetlands and Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas (FWHCAs). The draft Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) update lists many allowed activities in and near wetlands and FWHCAs. I’ll include the complete sentence from the CAO tables that Mr. Blanchard references: “Outdoor recreational activities including hunting and fishing (pursuant to state law), bird watching, hiking, boating, and swimming.” I think the entire Council intends to allow for “outdoor recreational activities.” I encourage Mr. Blanchard to reference the complete draft language and to promote constructive discussion instead of being alarmist. If ‘outdoor recreational activities’ doesn’t adequately address Frisbee-playing or kite-flying, I invite him to provide suggestions for changes.

The CAO update is required by law and must comply with current law. Significant time and scarce County resources have been spent since this CAO update began in 2003. We need to complete the CAO update and I am working to develop regulations that satisfy the law and work for our community.

I want to point out that there are changes in the draft CAO update that include some significant improvements as compared to current code from the perspective of property owner rights, including:
• The draft CAO update applies only to the areas inside in the (Federal) Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) with no additional buffers. The existing code applies within 300 feet of the FIRM maps.
• The draft CAO update clearly states that lawfully non-conforming structures, uses, and activities may continue in perpetuity. The current code requires that a shoreline structure that does not conform to current regulations and is destroyed more than 75% must be rebuilt according to current regulations. The draft CAO update allows structures that are non-conforming because of CAO regulations, even if 100% destroyed, to be rebuilt in the existing footprint and continue as lawfully non-conforming structures in perpetuity.

San Juan County is fortunate to have so many citizens engaged in the CAO update process and I thank the Island Guardian for providing a forum for discussion.

Lovel Pratt
SJC Council, District 1

Beware Of Overreaching CAO Buffer Restrictions

Dear Editor:

Did you know that CAO provisions on Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas (FWHCAs) and Wetlands pending before the County Council would declare our entire shoreline to be a “critical” area, and turn shoreline setbacks into “buffers”?

Setbacks and buffers are NOT the same. Setbacks govern where structures can be placed, but buffers govern what you are allowed to do on your land. The new restrictions are not limited to shorelines, but also extend buffers around “streams” and wetlands, and will enable the County to regulate almost everything we do in areas of our land declared to be “buffers.”
Why should you need County permission to use your property to:

• Walk your dog or ride your horse?
• Picnic near the shore or by a stream?
• Play softball or Frisbee during a family gathering? (“Hiking” and “birdwatching” are OK.)
• Fly a kite or radio controlled airplane?

Rather than prohibiting only specific activities that are proven harmful to habitat, the proposed CAO allows structures, uses and activities in buffers only if they are specifically listed and approved. Any activity that is not listed and approved in the regulations is prohibited, unless the owner secures a provisional/conditional use permit or variance, subject to additional requirements imposed by the County. (See Table 3.10 in the FWHCA Section and Table 3.8 of the Wetland Section (current draft at

It may be true that you will be allowed to “keep doing what you’re already doing,” if you can prove, to the satisfaction of the Planning Department, that you have used the area for the specific activity prior to the CAO, that you haven’t abandoned the activity, and the "degree of nonconformity is not increased."

It is not too late to stop this unwarranted overreaching in the guise of environmental protection. If you value the use of your land and the rural character of our community, call your County Council representatives and attend the Hearing on August 21, 2012.

Tim Blanchard

Polices Must Adapt To Changes

Dear Editor:

Richard and Rita Weisbrod are promoting the point that we need a new CAO due to population growth [letter below -Ed] . Their view that humans are bad for the environment is simplistic, and their assumptions are not based on facts. If you look at Forest areas where the Native peoples manage their lands, and areas next door where the BLM manages its lands by leaving them natural, one can see that humans can actually improve the quality of the environment. Another example closer to home is Lake Washington. In the 60s Lake Washington's Water clarity was about 15 ft and levels of dissolved oxygen were so low that some species of fish disappeared. Lake Washington is cleaner now, despite the large population growth of Lake Washington's watershed. Population growth does not equal accumulative harm to the earth. The earth is resilient, and nature knows how to recycle natural elements. Environmental improvements occur without draconian regulations, because of enlightened self interests.

Besides spreading misinformation regarding our CAO, many are misquoting information, confusing the public, and providing distractions like the idea of the Commons. Private property is NOT the commons, and our CAO is not protection of the commons. However, since it is brought up, the undisputed expert on the Commons is Dr. Elinor Ostrom, who won a 2009 Nobel Prize for her science on the Commons. This web link, reports on Dr. Elinor Ostrom telling about her best strategies for managing a commons. Dr. Elinor Ostrom recommends local control as the best path for protecting a commons because it allows rules to be “based on unique aspects of a local resource and culture”. Dr. Ostrom believes that, "local people usually know more about what’s best for their communities than expert planners." Dr. Ostrom promotes education and low cost sanctions for rule violators. This respected, and high quality scientific information, does not work well for DOE, County Staff, or their network of special interest groups. Why is that? Mostly because it does not create income or promote control of the many by the few. See this video about "Obedience" to get a better understanding:

I encourage all to ask our County Council to shift gears on the CAO process. Ask them to enter into the legal process of Coordination, rather than the process of cooperation that they are currently using. Coordination levels the playing field and establishes the principle that all levels of government must work toward equality and consistency of policies. In Coordination, DOE would not be able to dictate based on theories, agendas, and fear tactics that are arbitrarily and capriciously promoted as necessary by special interest agendas. If equality and consistency are not agreed to in Coordination, then the party asking for change (DOE, EPA…) have to pay for all mitigation costs. In cooperation they just offer bribes in the form of grants with strings attached. Coordination would also give us the tools of the Data Quality Act and the Regulatory Flexibility Act to protect our communities' health and welfare from overreaching arbitrary and capricious regulations.

Currently assumptions/theories are pushed forward through votes in cherry picked committees using bogey man tactics, rather than by scientific evidence or by identified problems. Our islands are cleaner today than years ago, because we have less industrial pollution in our islands. Logging is gone, the canneries are gone, the lime kilns are gone. We have a right to know: "Where is the problem?" "What are we doing wrong?" Just like the video above, Staff and Council are marching forward in blind obedience toward prohibition, rather than toward conservation. If you haven't seen, "Prohibition vs Conservation", call me: 360-378-6473.

Solutions to real problems are critical and absolutely necessary; but one must identify the problem before a "solution" becomes viable and targeted to correct the problem. If one has tuberculosis, a cancer treatment is not likely to help or be effective.

Frank Penwell
San Juan Island

Polices Must Adapt To Changes

Dear Editor

What is the problem that the new Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) process will fix? “What did we do wrong? We followed the rules.” As a local land surveyor and land use consultant since the 1970's, Tom Starr and other recent writers, question the need for new ordinances to protect critical areas for the future. To answer, we should note that no blame is being placed on anyone for past actions. We cannot re-write the past, but when things change, policies must adapt to those changes.

If you viewed the San Juan Islands from the air, as we did many times over these years, the difference from 1970 to the present is dramatic. In fact, population growth in San Juan County has been explosive. U.S. Census data for San Juan County shows the population in the county was essentially stable at around 3000 people from 1900 up to 1960 when the economy centered on agriculture and natural resources (fishing, logging). In 1970 the population was 3856, doubling to 7838 by 1980, then increasing to 10,035 by l990, to 14,077 by 2000, and to just under 16,000 in 2010. Looking at housing units in the county, 66% have been built since 1970 (and 23% of these since 1990).

What has been the result on the land of this increase in population? Deforestation, increased water use, increased sewage volume, increased herbicide and pesticide use, more roads and trails, more paving of the land surface, and more shoreline developments including more stairways and docks. History is full of examples of civilizations that flourished and then disappeared because they ran out of necessary resources. As a county of islands our resources are very limited, and we need to husband what we have left. Water in our dry summers is now a problem we all live with.

The problem is not that any one of us alone has caused any specific environmental change that has occurred. It is the combined impact of all of us that has changed the islands. Garrett J. Hardin called this effect the “Tragedy of the Commons.” An example is False Bay on San Juan Island [the largest watershed in the county]. When we arrived in the early l970's sand dollars were common, and eel grass reached well into tidal streams; there were many species adapted to sandy substrates where children played and built sand castles at low tides. What do we see now? The sand dollars are gone, none since the late 1990's, and eel grass is restricted to the bay’s mouth. The bay has silted in from run-off, mostly from the now seasonal False Bay Creek (a former salmon stream) and smaller temporary streams. Now we have a mud-silt tide flat with very different species. This degradation of False Bay did not occur because of what any who live on False Bay did, nor is it a result of the development actions of any one person or any one development within the watershed. It is the result of accumulated impacts from many individual sources.

We need to look ahead to resources we will all need in the future, and we must begin where we are now, not as we were at some point 30 or 40 years in the past. What the CAO process must do for future development is try to minimize further damage and mitigate environmental change that will protect the critical resources we share and leave them intact for coming generations. We need new regulations because the land and its resources have changed. We have changed it �" collectively.

While it is true that land use regulation restricts your freedom to do what you personally want to do with your land, that same land use regulation also protects you from the harm that your neighbors can do to your land and to our shared critical resource areas... the commons.

Richard Weisbrod
Rita Weisbrod
San Juan Island

Money Drives The CAO Process

Dear Editor

As a concerned citizen and property owner in San Juan County, this CAO has been driving me nuts. As I think about it and observe the document coming to completion, I am left with a few thought. Let me state out right that I oppose this ordinance for a number of reasons, mostly because the Best Available Science is so subjective and no one has been able to definitively show that there really is a problem!

The Growth Management Act states the CAO should be updated if there is a need or problem. This document is full of too many “could be”, “maybe”, “most likely”, “probably”, and assumptions that if this, this, and this is present most likely this will happen (I might add that there is no “base” science data for wetlands for example, to compare to when specifically talking about the San Juan Islands.

It blows my mind that the wetlands from maps in 1993 have increased when we compare the maps of 2010. Do they multiply?) That is like saying everyone should wear a protective helmet all the time because you “may” get hit with a baseball. Or everyone should have hard rubber tires because you “probably” will run over a nail at some time and get a flat.

Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it. The real question should be why did we opt into this in the first place when there was no problem? I wasn’t around when this was passed but I can guess that the County Council who voted for this were environmental “greenies” who would rather save a tree or frog and stifle growth, then to think about the socioeconomic and property rights of human beings.

Last time I read the Constitution I don’t remember life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for plants and animals. There is a solution to this but it is not the current intrusive CAO.

The Planning Commission has tried to do a good job. Some of the members are critical thinkers while others are witless and think they are doing the right thing. In the end they have to take responsibility for their actions. That takes us to the County Council who appoint the Planners. The Council seeks the advice of the Planners when making their decision on issues such as the CAO. This ordinance, as I see it, is a politico-scientific grab for power and control.

The Planners are trying to do what they were told, knowing that there really is little accountability on their part. The County Council members are accountable, and because no one on the Council has the intestinal fortitude to buck the system, we the people have only one option, recall. It is sad when money in the form of grants is at the root of all of this. No CAO, no grants, no money.
That leads us to the head of the snake. This ordinance stinks of the Department of Ecology. Past history of this bureaucracy speaks for itself and this is just another example of control and loss of property rights. Add to this the environmental special interest groups and you have a double edged sword.

In the end it is a joke that the law requires public input to the Planning Commission and County Council. The Council is going to pass this ordinance no matter how much input there is from the people. They can listen and sure make some token changes to appease us, but no one will stand up and do the right thing and say this is not fair and really is burdensome, stifles growth and affects the economy of the County, not to mention, violation of the rights of property owners. Unfortunately, the need for money is too great.

I wonder what the judicial actions will look like in the near future?

Dr. Kenneth R. Sinibaldi
Lopez Island

Burnett Is Right & Wrong..Mostly Wrong

Dear Editor

Recently, Vivien Burnett of Friday Harbor complained [5th letter below -Ed] that San Juan County has had the same critical areas ordinance since 1998. Wow! If that's the case, we'd better get crackin' and replace it. Immediately, right? I mean, after all, it's old! "Nothing is new."

But nobody's found a single instance of pollution or damage to our beautiful33 islands since we adopted that old ordinance. And our “old” CAO actually meets nearly every requirement of the interim state law changes. So, do we have to replace it just because it's old?

Wait a minute! That can't be right; I'll bet both Burnett and I are a lot older than that old ordinance. Does this mean that because we're "old" both of us should be replaced? Gosh, I hope not!

Or, perhaps she meant we should replace the "old" ordinance because the proposed CAO will give the county a lot more control over our private property?

Burnett was right about one thing: the majority of the people of San Juan County oppose government spending and/or any regulations that infringe our "personal freedom" to do whatever we want on our own property.

On the other hand, Burnett's wrong about nearly everything else. All the outstanding organizations she named seek to protect our rights -hers, mine, everyone's. Those groups know that, while we have a right to do anything we want on our private property, we have a gigantic responsibility that goes along with our liberty.

We may not do anything that infringes anyone else's property rights. For example, if our activity causes pollution on our private property, we may not allow that pollution to leave our property. Nor may we deliberately damage the overall environment on our or anyone else's property.

Where do we find a statement of our private property rights? In the Declaration of Independence and both the United States and Washington Constitutions.

In other words, those outstanding groups Burnett criticized are protecting the same rights that are described and memorialized in our founding documents. We think much like James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and all the other American patriots 225 years ago did about personal liberties.

But, don't feel bad, Ms Burnett, there are folks in history who think like you do, too. They also thought government should be able to either (a) dictate what may or may not be done on private property, or (b) control all land outright. Who were they? Well, let's see; Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, …

J B McGuire


Dear Editor

It’s getting old -actually it’s so ripe it stinks like something dead on a hot day when you dread you might inhale a buzzing fly.

We’ve heard it from Congress, from the executive branch, from our county council, from our school board, from our planning and permit center and from almost anybody accused of a crime including OJ Simpson.

Obama says it was Bush’s fault; the senate says it’s the minority; our council says the solid waste issue stems from the previous council; the school board says it was the old school board that contracted for and accepted a faulty roof; the planning center says it is DOE, etc., that is the cause of current issues. No matter which issue we face, we find somebody pointing fingers at somebody else, saying it was “them”, protesting their own innocence and expounding their pure motives

The common denominator is that we pay for the irresponsible actions of our public officials. Now we have a council blindly sallying forth on the CAO road toward expenses we can’t even imagine and they repeatedly turn a blind ear to the questions that haven’t been answered’

What are the problems that actually exist in reality that will be solved by CAO?
What are the actual and potential costs of proceeding with the CAO?
Why has our council allowed itself to be bamboozled into other endless issues ala solid waste that will linger for years?

Do you hear the flies buzzing?

*Some other dude did it!!!

Dennis R. Hazelton
San Juan Island

Evans Columns Ring True For Us

Dear Editor

I just finished reading the columns by John Evans on CAO, etc. Our experience mirrors in actuality what John Evans talks about.

Before we moved to Lopez Island and bought the pharmacy here we actually had the opportunity to look at and buy another pharmacy on Maratha's Vineyard. I did some preliminary tire kicking and was close to flying out to actually look at the pharmacy, then the other shoe dropped, in that we found out it was virtually impossible to live on the island due to real estate costs.

We were told most of the workers were ferried in and most of the property was owned, or would be owned by the very wealthy. We also looked at several pharmacies in the mountains of Colorado and found the same problems, the only difference was most workers drove large distances to work. The bottom line is we choose Lopez Island, but we are seeing much of the same problems now starting here.

For example my wife and I would like to sell our business at sometime to a younger couple, however a young couple would be hard pressed to find reasonable property values. Professionals with many years of schooling, while willing to tough it out for a few years, ultimately want to own their own property.

To this end we built a second home on our property with the idea of basically giving free or low cost housing to them, should we find a prospective pharmacy couple. Needless to say we faced many regulatory hurdles in getting our project done. Hopefully the close proximity to our pond will not bring out the CAO police when we need to cut the grass around the pond.

e recently moved the pharmacy on Lopez to a new building we purchased starting in 2010, and as with all projects we encountered more than our share of red tape, federal, state and county in order to get open in 9 months.

We made the decision to move our pharmacy from a leased location to the building we purchased in an effort to ultimately find someone to continue providing care on Lopez, and to lower our expenses in an effort to survive. Instead of moving and trying to keep the pharmacy in business we could have very easily folded the tent and retired, but we love Lopez and it's people and decided to do all we could to continue the pharmacy.

We spent a large sum of our own money to this end, but recent events that John Evans and others have voiced have made me think that perhaps we made the wrong decision, maybe we'll never find a pharmacist to take over, the current discussion on CAO and the impact it has on everyone certainly can and will play a part in our lives, and ultimately the lives of our friends and patients.

Richard (Rick) McCoy, R.Ph
Lopez Island Pharmacy

Another Week, Another “Friends” Attack on Community Groups

Dear Editor

Clearly, the feathers of the Friends of the San Juans are quite ruffled about the wave of citizen opposition to the ill-conceived CAO revisions proposed by our planning department.[related letter is 2nd one down -Ed] Their complaints about evil, outside agitators are vaguely reminiscent of the McCarthy era’s guilt-by-association and “Communist under every bed” memes. Ms. Burnett’s letter of April 9 goes down this road again.

The Common Sense Alliance, the Orcas Eagle Forum, the Lopez Birds, and the San Juan Citizens Alliance for Property Rights are local organizations with widely varying missions, and no grant funding.

What they have in common is that they are all just as concerned with the environment as the Friends purport to be, and are much more concerned for their neighbors.

These groups include a broad range of folks -from old homesteading families to young farmers to self-proclaimed “former Democrats” and “former members of the Friends,” and they are not particularly happy with the Friends-driven CAO agenda. This the Friends learned to their obvious dismay at the February meeting on Orcas about the Charles Dalton fiasco, and in the numerous meetings here and on other islands held by these groups.

None of the groups challenged by the Friends has claimed any right to do “anything they want” with their property. They simply want to see valid reasons articulated for any proposed increase in the regulation of County property.

The overwhelming majority of the residents of the County have been excellent stewards of their lands, having successfully maintained what so many have recently praised as a pristine paradise. The people of the County, and the community groups that the Friends are so intent on reviling, want to see some evidence supporting the existence of a problem and a rational relationship between any such problem and the complex, expensive “cures” proposed to solve them.

With respect to government spending, the only common thread that the community groups attacked by the Friends have is the desire to avoid
(1) the extensive additional County staff that will be needed to implement the proposed regulations;
(2) the enormous projected cost of litigation about the ill-conceived new rules; and
(3) the impact of decreased revenues that will result from wholesale loss of property values.

The County has conceded that it has performed NO analysis of the potential economic impact of these rule changes. None. Any wonder who will be stuck with the bill?

Peg Manning

Straw Man

Dear Editor

Vivian Burnet [letter below -Ed] does not understand what freedom means to the people who are trying to defend it. She says, ”they want permission to build what they want, where they want, how they want, when they want -- without regard of their neighbors or their environment.” If this statement were true I would agree with her. But it’s not.

This is a fallacious “straw man” argument set up so that our “greener than thou” friends have some imaginary ghost to attack. I would like to say something directly to her and her “Friends:”

Ms. Burnett, no one, absolutely no one is saying, “we can do whatever we want.” Furthermore no one has ever said it. All islanders have lived with and supported regulations that recognize the rights of our neighbors and the environment. This is the island way.

The idea that there is one pure and holy green group standing against a selfish greedy group is just silly. It is a fallacy that has nothing to do with reality. I fail to understand why you and your “Friends” seek to divide everyone up into groups of “us versus them.” It is ruining our community. You should stop.

The groups you mention are your neighbors. What they have in common is a healthy distrust of government agencies coming into the islands to impose their rules on us. They are not fooled by phony science that has been politicized. They want “local control” of land use and leaders that represent all of the people not just your “Friends.” If freedom-loving people are going to be required to give up the property that they have worked so hard for they want a good reason. And most of all they oppose overreaching CAO regulations that don’t apply to these islands.

It is we the people of the San Juans that have protected this place for generations. We don’t need some outside group like the “Friends” to tell us what to do and how to do it. You might want to join us instead of dividing your community with falsehoods.

Gordy Petersen
San Juan Island

Those Opposed To Draft CAO Have No Regard For Their Environment

Dear Editor

Do you realize that citizens in San Juan County have been living with the same Critical Areas Ordinance since 1998? Nothing is new. Same old Ordinance. Until the updated Ordinance is approved by the County Council the regulations will stay the same.

Since 1998 there have been many changes to our State Laws that affect our property and our environment alike. That’s why we need to get the CAO approved. It should have been updated in 2005. Please urge our County Council to go forward with this Ordinance.

Don’t be fooled by the Common Sense Alliance (CSA), The Freedom Foundation, the Orcas Eagle Forum, the Lopez Birds, Citizens Alliance for Property Rights (CAPR).

They all have at least one thing in common: They oppose government spending that prohibits what they view as their “personal freedom” -which means they want permission to build what they want, where they want, how they want, when they want -- without regard of their neighbors or their environment.

Vivien Burnett
Friday Harbor.

Slow Down, You're Moving Too Fast!

Dear Editor

After attending a recent town meeting at Rosairo,the one most important thing that my husband and I took away from this meeting was the fact that we as a community do not have to blindly go along with the state and other counties when it comes to the CAO.

The CAO is unique to each county and community.

We request that you slow down and really consider the input from the community.

As resident property owners we enjoy the lifestyle of the islands, and have for 50 Yrs. Hopefully you will not enact rules and regulations that are not only hard to enforce, but would drastically change this lifestyle.

Sincerly, Mike & Vicki Bartram
Olga, WA

Read The Lightning Rod Man

Dear Editor

In 1854 Herman Meville, author of Moby Dick, penned a short story, easily read in ten minutes: The Lightning Rod Man. A rascal goes door-to-door selling lightning rods, dramatically appearing at the height of thunderstorms forewarning danger and the benefits of his product in protecting from certain disaster. This time honored sales technique of doom is alive and well here: the Critical Areas Ordinance.

American history is full of tales of cozeners playing on anxiety and ignorance. Today, we have wetlands buffer promoters masquerading as a kind of scientific or technical authority backed by the powers-that-be. Herman Melville nailed this character over 150 years ago as have many American authors since. The Music Man: “We’ve got trouble in River City.” Elmer Gantry. The Wizard of Oz. The Flim Flam Man. And now, wetlands connivers using big words, exotic calculators and boasting of obscure research, reminiscent of dowsers and water witchers of old.

From Know Nothing angst over rising tides of immigrants to McCarthyism's search for communists to radical environmentalism’s peculiar self-loathing, there have always been people using troubles of the day to grab for power. Sadly, the CAO is little more than a power grab, no more effective at environmental protection than the Radium Ore Revigorator was in restoring “wilted water” in 1925. According to the American Medical Association: “As is commonly the case with latter-day pseudo-medicine having large financial resources behind it, the Revigorator puts forward a hypothesis for which there is no foundation and proceeds to build claims upon it.” Sound familiar?

Nearly every CAO sales pitch you hear sounds eerily like the dangers touted by Melville's 19th Century Lightning Rod Man or purveyors of the Radium Ore Revigorator. They all share a common thread in sales methods: a magic bullet, a miracle pill or an amazing cure that only expert authorities can provide. And, one that you must pay for, pass into law, or otherwise take advantage of immediately or face a dreadful fate.

Please read the Lightning Rod Man just a few pages long, easy to find on the web. Read it, before it’s too late.

Richard Civille
San Juan island

Lower Puget Sound Is Not San Juan County or B.C.

Dear Editor

A phrase in a letter to the editor [read letter below -Ed] praising county planners raised questions for me: "Our desire is to see San Juan County in compliance with the State's Growth Management Act, and to protect the long-term environmental health of our islands for future generations."

What about the long-term health of HUMANS? What HOPE is there in pages of regulations? Who says we're out of compliance with the GMA? What about using BAS that is "logical and reasonable... used in the appropriate context...based on accepted methods" as stated in the county's own FAQ paper on the CAO? What are we doing wrong that needs to be addressed by the CAO when 48% of our islands are already protected in Land Bank, Preservation Trust and public parks?

How do we encourage agriculture and sustainability when once productive farms or gardens are now Critical Areas because of seasonal streams, man-made ponds and drainage ditches? What happens to struggling middle class who may be told “no garden or home remodel to accommodate an aging parent” but can’t afford environmental impact statements and lawyers to fight it?

Who’s going to buy devalued property so folks like me can get a fresh start? What happens to future generations of my family if I leave the islands where my great, great grandparents' pioneer home still stands (unpermitted) after more than 100 years?

The socio-economic trickle-down effect of the CAO is devastating to everyone involved in the building trades--talk about taking away the power of the 99%. Our county and state wastes money creating more regulations to fix what doesn't appear to be broken.

Results don’t come immediately: Give the costly, eight-year-old GMA plan and an even younger Storm Water Treatment plan the time and the enforcement they deserve. Don't add even more stringent regulations by lumping our islands in with the over-developed Puget Sound or ignoring the real problems created by our neighbors to the north.

Future generations of islanders are depending on sanity prevailing so they can continue to make a living and have time to enjoy our natural environment. Let's say "enough is enough" and get on with being a close, supportive community like past generations who spent their valuable resources on family, schools, public fields and local businesses, not fighting the neighbors or the government that is supposed to be working for us.

Kristine Brown
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

Thank You PC for Your Fine Work!

Dear Editor

We attended the standing-room-only San Juan County Planning Commission meeting at the Friday Harbor Grange on March 6 and heard four hours of testimonies given regarding the revised Critical Areas Ordinance which is nearing completion.

In the midst of heated criticism, we admire the patience and professionalism of the San Juan County Planning Commissioners, Shireene Hale and Janice Biletnikoff. They have spent years hammering out the revisions, striving to form a CAO that is flexible enough to allow individuals to develop their property to the fullest extent possible while still protecting the functions and values of our critical areas. Credit to be given for sod roofs and permeable driveways are examples of creative ways the team has responded to the pleas of the public for more flexibility and an individually-tailored approach.

We support the open-minded, fair work they have done and want to see this process wrapped up soon. Our desire is to see San Juan County in compliance with the states Growth Management act, and to protect the long-term environmental health of our islands for future generations.

Thank you,

Liza Michaelson, Cady Mt.
Shaun Hubbard, Cady Mt.
Gretchen Gubelman, San Juan island
Peter Kilpatrick, Owner/ President Ravenhill Construction

Stop Already!!

Dear Planning Commission Members;

Dear San Juan County Council Members:

Good grief, don't pay ‘em another dime! Weren’t Adamus, Herrera,, hired to present scientifically substantiated findings/BAS that bear some reasonable relationship to San Juan County? Then how is it that Herrera turned out the most negative report on "paradise" to ever see the light of day? All we have to do is look around this beautiful county to know that this is preposterous. Makes one think that the folks that wrote this dubious tome need a high colonic.

Oh dear! Are we to live in fear of every risk associated with living on this earth? The airstrip about to disappear into a sinkhole; the Tsunami that’s overdue? What about that slip fault around Whidbey Island that hasn’t slipped in a while--faults that haven’t slipped in a while are prone to slip--maybe tomorrow! Holy Endangered Bat Cave! That's old news, probably not BAS, and certainly not exact science. Every possible negative tidbit of data thrown into the pot so our County is cast as being in dire need of major new controls and expanded regulation---all to the detriment of the quiet enjoyment of ALL of our land. Hummm---don’t worry, be happy---do whatever DOE says and everything will turn out just fine. NOT.

Where is their proof of measurable pollution in San Juan County that’s deserving of the draconian new regulations put forth by these “experts?” What’s with these “professionals” who won’t correct even the most glaring of errors being pointed out by the public in their work? Please--tell them: "No thanks, not what we expected, not gonna use it, and not gonna pay another dime for it. Oh, and don’t let the screen door hit you on your way out." Bat the ball into their court. Be obnoxious---throw a shoe. These “experts” have turned our county into the pit stop tire change between the powers that be---the consultants and the DOE. Wake up and smell the burning rubber: We’ve been duped.

This whole CAO issue is awaking forces beyond what most of us could have contemplated. Please don’t mess this up anymore than it already has been. Instead, stop doing business with these money pits and begin doing the right thing for San Juan County.

Shari Harrison
San Juan Island

Planning Commission First Line Of Defense

Dear Planning Commission Members;

You are the first line of defense for the citizens of San Juan County.

Below is the WAC that gives the County the legal right to depart from Best Available Science.

Almost 50% of the land in San Juan County is protected either by the Land Bank, Preservation Trust, Conservation easements, open space designation or Government owned land. With that level of protection, the restrictions on private property should not be required to the extent that the Staff has proposed.

I understand that the GMA requires protection of Critical areas. The County has leeway in what they determine is a Critical area. The Department of Ecology has stated that not every wetland needs to be protected. I would hope that you would send this Draft Ordinance back to CP&D for them to draft other options that are better suited to the San Juan Islands.

I would also ask that you instruct the CD&P to develop a system that will remove non-wetlands from the wetland maps without the property owner being required to spend thousands of dollars to have their man-made pond rated in order to prove it is not a wetlands. When the County has allowed ponds to be developed, they should not now become a liability. The County should remove those man-made ponds from the wetlands map at the owners request.

Dr. Adamus determined that there are only 4 perennial streams in San Juan County. CD&P has included every drainage ditch, seasonal stream, and winter runoff ditch on the stream map. Is that really necessary?

What is the purpose to require a wetlands report be re-done every 5 years? That puts a huge monetary liability on any property owner that is unlucky enough to have a wetland on their property. It makes the property value go down because no one in their right mind would buy a piece of property that automatically requires an unknown cost every 5 years. That should be eliminated. Once a report has been completed, that should be the end of it.

Not so long ago, it was an asset to have a stream or a wetland on one’s property. Those natural features added to the enjoyment of the property. Now, those same features have become a liability and reduce the value of the property.

The lighting regulation is unenforceable and should be deleted.

The final subject of the many, many, many, e-mails from the wetland group was signage. Please do not require signage around buffers. How ugly that would be for our islands.

WAC 365-195-915
Criteria for including the best available science in developing policies and development regulations

(1) To demonstrate that the best available science has been included in the development of critical areas policies and regulations, counties and cities should address each of the following on the record:

(a) The specific policies and development regulations adopted to protect the functions and values of the critical areas at issue.

(b) The relevant sources of best available scientific information included in the decision-making.

(c) Any nonscientific information -- including legal, social, cultural, economic, and political information -- used as a basis for critical area policies and regulations that depart from recommendations derived from the best available science. A county or city departing from science-based recommendations should:

(i) Identify the information in the record that supports its decision to depart from science-based recommendations;

(ii) Explain its rationale for departing from science-based recommendations; and

(iii) Identify potential risks to the functions and values of the critical area or areas at issue and any additional measures chosen to limit such risks. State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review often provides an opportunity to establish and publish the record of this assessment.

(2) Counties and cities should include the best available science in determining whether to grant applications for administrative variances and exemptions from generally applicable provisions in policies and development regulations adopted to protect the functions and values of critical areas. Counties and cities should adopt procedures and criteria to ensure that the best available science is included in every review of an application for an administrative variance or exemption.


Wanda Evans

Even The White House Can Have Bigger Garden Than We Can

Dear Editor:

Under Washington state law the Critical Areas Ordinance must be supported by the "best available science". As a county there is nothing we can do about that. Eventually, the legislating body must create a scientific record and parrot that the ordinance is supported by the "best available science".

The reliance on the "best available science," however, should be seen for what it is. It is nothing more than an "abracadabra" word to provide a rationalization for the ordinance. The reality is the Council must undertake a calculus which balances the benefits of the regulation with its costs. Why is this so? Simply, if we were really to choose a policy that eliminated any adverse impact on protected areas, it would have to be a policy of wholesale human extinction. I doubt we are ready to do that.

The most flagrantly out of balance proposal is that only gardens of 1000 square feet or less will be allowed to be established in buffer zones -- and that gardens of larger size can only be established after permitting costing thousands of dollars. During World War Two, the British government, in order to reduce demand and free up supplies needed for the war effort, allocated 2700 square feet to each and every family that wanted to garden. This is almost three times the amount the square footage allowed under the proposed regulation.

I would also note that First Lady Michele Obama put in a kitchen garden on the White House grounds which exceeds 1000 square feet. It is a strange, scary and neofeudal world indeed when the wife of the President is allowed to put in a bigger garden than the common property owner.

Nicholas Power
San Juan Island

CAO Orwell

Dear Editor:

George Orwell likely wrote 1984 without knowing of the San Juan Islands but his world of Big Brother is coming closer with the latest County Council plan for amending the existing Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO). Like many people, I didn't pay attention because this effort was described as environmental preservation. I later learned that we already have a CAO in effect and that these amendments would fundamentally alter the relationship of property owner and government with respect to whether we are "innocent until proven guilty" and who has the "burden of proof".

For example, Critical Areas Section D would amend the existing language permitting an exemption "If the application of this section would result in the denial of all reasonable use of a property" and instead requires that it would “deprive the land owner of all economic or beneficial use of a property…” and the owner has the "burden of proof".

Should you want to maintain a garden or plant a tree you may need to provide the government with a detailed "planting plan", a mitigation plan (written by a "professional"), a cost estimate for implementing and monitoring it AND a financial guarantee to pay not only the original implementation and monitoring but up to an additional 115% of that cost. So, if you can afford an army of lawyers and "professional scientists" you may be able to build anything you want but the rest of us will be hard put just to take care of our existing property.

I initially assumed that efforts to amend the CAO would follow the direction of Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, which were designed to guarantee that the rights of citizens to vote, to free speech, and to other personal freedoms would be applied equally to all citizens. The proposed CAO amendments, however, move in the opposite direction taking away the rights of citizens and putting "Big Brother" in charge. I recommend that the Council make only the minimal changes necessary to become compliant with state legislation and let the original CAO do its job.

Phil Johnson
San Juan Island

Where´s The Beef?

Dear Editor:

In his letter to the editor in the Island Guardian on January 17, Dennis Hazelton responded to my letter of December 2 concerning legally nonconforming properties under the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO). He claimed that Marc Forlenza, in his letter of December 28, ¨contradicted everything that Mr. Dehlendorf had to say." This couldn't be further
from the truth.

I suggest that Mr. Hazelton and other interested readers consider the following facts:

Fact No. 1 - In my letter on December 2, I stated: ¨Recently I contacted Islanders Bank, Key Bank, Wells Fargo, Swanberg-Judkins Insurance, Islanders Insurance, Chicago Title, and the County’s assessor’s office. In all cases, I was told that whether a property is legally conforming or nonconforming is not even considered in the decision to approve or deny an application for financing or insurance, nor in the process of writing the title on the property, or in assessing its value. In fact, these institutions do not even inquire if a property is legally nonconforming.¨ I reported exactly what I was told by representatives of these institutions.

Fact No. 2 - Mr. Forlenza did not contradict Fact No.1. Instead, he primarily reported expressions by the various institutions of concerns, possibilities, and potentialities with the proposed new CAO regulations, Mr. Forlenza did not report that any institution told him that it takes into consideration whether a property is legally conforming or not when making its decision to approve or deny an application for financing or insurance, in writing the title on the property, or in assessing its value. Moreover, he did not report that any institution told him that it inquires if a property is legally conforming or not.

In the case of Key Bank, what Mr. Forlenza reported with regard to construction and refinancing loans is actually an indirect confirmation of what I reported. Although the bank went on to say "It is definitely possible that CAO regulations on conformity could impact loans for purchasing raw land”, this is a nonsequitur, as raw land cannot by definition contain a structure,
whether conforming or nonconforming.

And Swanberg-Judkins told Mr. Forlenza that "Mr. Dehlendorf may be technically correct that non-conformity status does not prevent us from writing a policy...". How is this a
contradiction of what I reported?

Some of these institutions expressed to Mr. Forlenza their concern that the proposed changes in the CAO to nonconforming status might have a negative impact on their financing and insurance activities. However, these concerns are unfounded. The draft of the general regulations section of the CAO recently approved by the County Council is actually more favorable than existing regulations to owners of nonconforming structures in non-shoreline locations that are damaged or destroyed by fire or acts of God. The new regulations only require him/her to apply within 48 months for a renewable permit to rebuild the structure, whereas existing regulations require that the rebuilt structure be completed within 24 months. With regard to damage to nonconforming shoreline structures, the revised general regulations include the same provision effective until the Shoreline Master Program is updated, at which time they are expected to be retained. Current shoreline regulations only allow replacement if the damage does not exceed 75% of the replacement cost, with the rebuild to be completed within 24 months of issuance of the necessary permit, with no provision for renewal.

Fact No. 3 - CAO regulations and resultant legally nonconforming status have been in existence in our county for more than 20 years. (Nonconforming status under county building codes has been in existence for much longer.) I have lived on this island for the last eight of these years, during which time I have attended numerous County Council and Planning Commission meetings about the CAO. I also regularly read all island news sources, print and online. During this period, I have not heard a single individual personally report being denied financing or insurance because his/her property is nonconforming. Nor have the lending and insurance industries spoken up, which they surely would have done if Mssrs. Hazelton and Forlenza were correct. Where´s the beef?

Although the above facts speak for themselves, it a perversion of logic for Mr. Hazelton, Mr. Forlenza, and other opponents of the CAO to argue their case without presenting any supporting facts, and then expect others to prove that they are wrong. As opponents made their claim in the first place, isn´t their obligation to prove their allegation? Where´s the beef?

Finally, Mr. Hazelton mentioned the recent letter to the editor my wife Susan Dehlendorf co-submitted on the completely different subject of campaign finance reform. As Susan co-submitted this letter as co-president of the League of Women Voters of the San Juans, why he brought her into the discussion is a mystery to me. Nevertheless, if Mr. Hazelton believes in campaign finance reform, including overturning the Citizens United decision, and bringing the facts about our current flawed system into the open, I am sure he would be welcome as a member and active participant in the LWVSJ. And yes, males are welcome as members.

David Dehlendorf
San Juan Island

Three Objections On Three Fundamental Points

Dear Editor:

As I read the 51 pages of the Community Development and Planning staff report and proposed CAO ordinance general regulations the other night I broke out in a cold sweat trying to wrap my mind around the complexity of these regulations and restrictions.

I am no slouch when it comes to critical analysis and unraveling complex issues, but I have trouble finding the time to keep up with these proposed regulations, much less predicting the impact they will have on our community.

San Juan County already has extensive development regulations to protect critical areas and my greatest fear if these additional restrictions are enacted is the Law of Unintended Consequences.

For example, our county has done a fine job of supporting and encouraging the development of local farms so that we all have access to fresh, safe foods grown in a sustainable manner that preserves the integrity of our land. I know something about this because my husband and I own and operate a small farm on San Juan Island.

Yet, if these onerous regulations are adopted by our County Council, farmers may not be able to clear dead trees and debris so that crops can be planted. Orchards may not be allowed. Local farmers may not be able to stay in business. I doubt that is the intent, but that could be the outcome.

The Voluntary Stewardship program is a nod toward addressing the particular issue of agricultural land, but if you read the background documents they are vague, undefined and strike me as an additional layer of oversight at a cost to taxpayers (us) and farmers. In any case, farm land is just one example of what could go wrong with these good intentions.

I don’t think the County Council has considered or can predict the impact these added restrictions will have on the viability of our community. So beware the Law of Unintended Consequences, and if you think these changes won’t affect you because you don’t have a waterfront home… think again. Pay attention to what is being proposed and let your voice be heard. Call or write your County Councilperson today!

Peg Gerlock
San Juan Island

Three Objections On Three Fundamental Points

Dear Editor:

In recent letters to the editor in the Island Guardian, opponents of the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) claim that the market value of nonconforming properties will be reduced if the proposed changes to the CAO are implemented. I take exception to this claim for three fundamental reasons.

First---- Opponents present no rationale for their claim. They apparently believe all they have to do is state it and their claim will be true. This is not good enough for me and other thoughtful readers.

Second---- Various forms of nonconforming status under existing land use laws and building codes have been in existence in our county for about 25 years. What has happened to property values during this period? Values certainly haven't declined, or their growth curtailed. Why should it be any different in the future under the proposed changes to the CAO?

Three---- I take exception is because opponents of the CAO have ignored the most basic tenant of economics, the "law of supply and demand". Under this economic model, the value of existing and new nonconforming properties should actually increase as tighter restrictions are implemented on new construction in critical areas and their buffers. Why? Because with rare exceptions, there will be no more construction of new structures within these areas. Given the resulting limitation on new supply, values of nonconforming properties within the proposed critical areas and buffers should increase. The owners of these properties should--- ironically-- indirectly benefit from the CAO.

Richard W. Hobbs
San Juan Island

Fear, Emotion, Irrational Caution Trump Facts

Dear Editor:

Decisions based on fear, emotion or irrational caution and few facts are seldom successful, yet that is where we are in the rules being written by County officials and planning staff to regulate property owners in San Juan County.

The County rule-makers have bought into the notion that calamity is stalking the island’s natural environment. On their short list, they fear our streams, lakes and salt waters are polluted by toxic storm water, population growth will explode, homes are a blight on the pristine landscapes, “wetlands” are being farmed, homes are to big, yards with non-native landscaping, gardens, and lawns are destroying the ecosystem. The shoreline homes are detrimental to the eel grass, salmon and Orca. People washing a car and or fertilizing their plants are major concerns.

The Council has just approved the General Section of the Critical Areas Ordinance. Technically, the Ordinance requires County permission for a vegetable garden or to fire up a chain saw to cut wood. On January 24th, responding to a question from Council Chair Patty Miller, the senior planner, Shireene Hale, told the Council the new regulations are no big deal. It only requires a County analysis and an “over the counter permit” approval before a property owner is allowed to disturb the environment. The Council and the CD&P staff want to be sure no one alters anything near the County’s designated Critical Areas or buffers.

The Council didn’t blink an eye when it was noted citizens from Shaw, Lopez and Orcas will be expected to go to Friday Harbor for their “over the counter permit.” (Before you spend a day getting there and back asking for the County’s permission, be aware CD&P may or may not have the staff available to approve a permit while you wait.)

There was no further questioning by the Council. Council Chair Miller was apparently satisfied. The Council voted five to one to approve the General Section of the CAO. Councilman Peterson voted no.

It is remarkable that so few islanders are paying attention to how radically our islands are being changed.

Dave Durand

One Thing Is Clear

To the Editor:

With regard to the proposed CAO regulations, I can't speak to the best
science here, but one thing seems clear: if they pass, affected homes
will be worth less than they would be without them.

Which, if I understand the law correctly, will have to be taken into
account by the County Assessor. These homes should carry significantly
reduced assessments, and therefore pay significantly lower taxes. (If
the Assessor tries to avoid making this calculation, then I foresee a
flood of litigation over the economic effects of declaring a home
nonconforming and significantly limiting or even preventing future
development on some properties. Unfortunately, I retired from the
practice of law and won't be able to benefit from all this litigation.)

Actually, I'm wondering whether it wouldn't be the best gift to
homeowners in affected areas to pass regulations prohibiting any
activity on the property by anybody other than those families
grandfathered into using the property. Then the properties would become
worthless, and we could pay zero taxes for the rest of our lives.

What a deal!

Meanwhile, I do wonder whether the economic impact of regulations has to
be a factor for the Council to consider, and if so whether they are
forecasting the impact of reduced property values and resultant reduced

Christopher Hodgkin
San Juan Island

Draw Your Own Conclusions

To the Editor:

On 12/2/2011 [link to letters -Ed] a letter regarding CAO signed by David Dehlendorf stated “… I have encouraged the County Council to ignore this issue in its future deliberations and not to weaken the CAO's nonconforming uses provision under the mistaken idea that these false opinions are true. I also urge the public not to let these false claims influence your opinions about the CAO update.”

On 1/16/2012, a letter signed by Susan Dehlendorf urged voters to “…question every political advertisement you see or hear. Ask yourself who paid for that ad and why. Does the ad state clearly who paid for it? If the sponsor is a group or organization, can you go to its website and see who is a member and who contributes? If not, ask yourself why not? Help make democracy work -cast an informed vote!”

On 12/28/2011 a letter signed by Marc A. Forlenza wrote an excellent, well-documented rebuttal to Mr.Dehlendorf’s letter that contradicted everything Mr. Dehlendorf had to say.

I don’t know if Susan and David Dehlendorf are related, but if they are and if she is urging us to check the personal associations of political ads then I would suggest we also closely check personal associations with regard to factuality.

Along with Mr. Forlenza, I suggest “…The reader can draw their own conclusions regarding the above, but as for me, I will stick to, “just the facts ma’am.”

Dennis R. Hazelton
San Juan Island

[Susan & David are married. Susan is also chair of the SJC Planning Commission -Ed]

Nonconforming Houses Worth Less

To the Editor:

I have been mulling over the non-conforming designation issue that is part of the proposed San Juan County’s rewrite of the Critical Areas Ordinance. The County is planning on extending a new regulatory overlay called a “buffer” around the islands wetlands and streams and along the 400 miles of County shorelines. The buffer overlays are intended to provide a natural barrier from human use as a protection for the designated critical areas. The proposed buffer widths range up to 300 feet; no small matter.

The Friends of the San Juan's support the County’s buffer proposals and in their newspaper ads say buffers should not be a worry to a property owner if their home, associated structures and uses (such as driveways or landscaping) are declared non-conforming. The Department of Ecology says that the purpose of a non-conforming designation is the eventual elimination of the non-conforming use; in this case a home. I am not sure a new layer of regulatory restrictions is in a property owners best interest. Maybe it is something to pay attention to.

The way I look at it, is to imagine a hypothetical example; two homes that are for sale and identical in every way inside and out. If one home has no restrictions on the use or replacement other than the typical County rules, and the other is encumbered by a County non-conforming use overlay, complete with new rules and restrictions under the Critical Area Ordinance, which would I choose to buy? The obvious answer is to choose the home without the added rules and restrictions associated with the non-conforming designation.

Considering that literally thousands of existing upland and shoreline homes ....maybe yours..... will become non-conforming uses unless the County Council directs the County’s planners to change direction, now is a very good time to contact your Council representatives. The Council’s final decisions will be made in the next several months. Get involved!

Fred Bowen
Friday Harbor

Questions about Nonconforming Houses

To the Editor:

I have read the county's Critical Areas Ordinance “Frequently Asked Questions”, but I find the answer to "What can and can't I do with a legal nonconforming structure?" too vague. So here are the questions that I would like answered before citizens have their last chance to give their input on the CAO.

1. If our house is nonconforming:

* How will this affect our property value and, therefore, how will this affect our property taxes? Will our taxes go down?

* Will we be able to refinance our loan?

* Will we be able to continue getting homeowners insurance and earthquake insurance? How will this affect our insurance rates?

* If our house burns down to its foundation and chimney, can we rebuild it?

* If our house is damaged in an earthquake and part of our lot “disappears”, can we rebuild on a different footprint?

* Will we and our heirs be grandfathered in? Will there be language in the CAO that guarantees the grandfathering?

* Will a future buyer, if we can find one, be grandfathered in?

* Are there any situations in which a nonconforming house cannot be rebuilt? If such a situation were to occur, would the value of the land fall to $0 and, therefore, would the county not be able to collect property tax on that parcel?

* Are there different answers to these questions if the house is located within 200 feet of shorelines, as opposed to upland areas?

2. If nonconforming house owners have their property taxes go down because the value of their houses go down, how will the government have enough money to operate? Can the government make nonconforming house owners pay a higher rate of property tax than the rate for conforming houses to make up for any potential loss of revenue?

3. What will happen to the economic health of the islands if property owners who own nonconforming houses want to sell their houses but can’t find buyers? Who will support the businesses, the charities and the government? What will be the impact on the housing market and on realtors?

4. How many houses in San Juan County will be considered nonconforming? What percentage of the total number of houses does this represent?

Rebbie Bates
San Juan Island

Expectations Dashed

To the Editor:

When I see a letter signed by nine people, (Credit For Past Preservation Is Unfair ) I have slightly higher expectations of it with respect to fact-checking and logic. Moreover, when I see a letter signed by someone who has recently complained publicly about an “objectionable attitude toward the friends and neighbors who represent us in local government,” (Opposed To Divisive Debate) I expect that letter at least to be civil and fair to those representatives.

Consequently, I was very disappointed in the recent broadside attacking Councilman Peterson. It grossly misstates and oversimplifies the issues being discussed and the actions taken by Council. As is apparent from the errors in that attack, the topics being discussed by Council -the methodology for determining “net loss” of a critical area’s functions and values, and how “cumulative impact” will be approached, for example- are far too complex to absorb without significant attention and effort, and accordingly I will not belabor here the law or the facts in play during the CAO process. (The details may be found on the County’s CAO website.)

I will note that it is odd that the letter treats “property owner” as a particularly dirty word, despite the probability that some of the authors do --(GASP)--own “property.” I would also note that I have personally heard at least two, and more likely three, Council members, in addition to Councilman Peterson, ask various State and County bureaucrats involved in the ongoing CAO train wreck similar questions: exactly when and how the citizens of the County (i.e., not those nasty “property owners,” but “good” folks like those who contribute to the Preservation Trust) will be recognized for the excellent job that has been done preserving these islands, and delivered from the State’s overbearing demands. Anything less would be abandoning the duty of those representatives to the citizens of the County.

Peg Manning

If We Mean "grandfathered" We Need To Say So

To the Editor:

The Friends of the San Juan's, in their recent newspaper ad blitz supporting the County’s radical re-write of the Critical Areas ordinance, claims that home owners, farmers and businesses structures, improvements and uses) will not be affected by the new critical Areas Ordinance. According to the Friends, a property owner ill be able to continue to do what they have always been doing as though the ordinance did not exist. Shireene Hale, County planner, has repeatedly made the same statement at town hall meetings.

According to the Friends, and the County planning staff, existing uses will be “grandfathered” and will not be affected by the proposed multiple restrictive overlays that will be blanketing most private property in the islands. If this is in fact true, then the new ordinance should say so directly with no ambiguity; no ifs, and/or buts.

If the Council does not insert a stand alone statement in the ordinance that all existing structures, improvements and uses (including farming activities) are “grandfathered” the claims of the County and Friends is not true.

As a side note, “the rest of the story” is that anyone who wants a permit to add on to their home, plant a new orchard or move a septic drain field will be required to comply with the new critical areas ordinance.

Good luck to any property owner who gets ensnared in the County Council’s open-ended vague permit requirements and use restrictions enumerated in the new critical areas ordinance. They are in for a very expensive up close and personal adventure with the County’s permitting bureaucracy.

Wanda Evans

Sergeant Joe Friday vs. COA “Facts”

To the Editor:

Taking a stand on any issue seems to cause more divisiveness today than ever, whether it concerns politics, religion, economics or San Juan County’s own maelstrom over the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO).

Crucial in coming to a truly informed decision is knowing the facts. Not Wikifacts, or half-baked facts, but good old-fashioned facts, as in Dragnet’s “only the facts, Ma’am.” With this in mind, I read with interest David Dehlendorf’s recent letter to the editor [3rd letter below -Ed] where he recounts having contacted “Islanders Bank, Key Bank, Wells Fargo, Swandberg Judkins Insurance, Chicago Title, and the county’s assessor’s office. In all cases,” he said he was told, “that whether a property is legally conforming or non-conforming is not even considered in the decision to approve or deny an application for financing or insurance, nor in the process of writing the title on the property, or in assessing its value.”

Well, David’s words got me to thinking he had just dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s regarding some of the major concerns of property owners have with the CAO.

Or had he?

So, I had an idea: I would consult the same list of entities that Mr. Dehlendorf queried and see for myself if what he reported could indeed be considered facts that would pass Sergeant Joe Friday’s muster.

Here’s what I discovered beginning at the top of Dehlendorf’s list:

1. Islanders Bank: The bank’s official position is, “We are waiting and are certainly concerned about the outcome [of the CAO] because it could have real ramifications as far as lending money in the islands.” The bank stated that Mr. Dehlendorf did not ask for their official position.

2. Key Bank: “Since we do very little lending for vacant land we only considered Mr. Dehlendorf’s question from a construction or refinancing point of view. It is definitely possible that CAO regulations of conformity could impact loans for purchasing raw land.”

3. Wells Fargo: Deferred comment to their corporate legal department, which could not be reached in time for this article’s deadline.

4. Swanberg-Judkins: Tim Judkins went on record stating, “Mr. Dehlendorf may be technically correct that non-conformity status does not prevent us from writing a policy, but it just might prevent us from paying a claim. Insurance companies could not fully indemnify their customers if non-conforming designations prevented a homeowner from rebuilding their home. Our contracts wouldn’t be able to perform because they require us to pay up to full value of the insurance policy to replace damaged structures. Even if there are grandfathered structures there are bound to be problems. The language of the CAO requirements would have to be extremely clear in defining what could be rebuilt. If the customer could not rebuild their previous home on the same footprint or new building codes prevented a house being rebuilt on site, customers could be denied payment of their claim or be forced to use the insurance proceeds to rebuild the same home on a different lot which would be considered conforming.” Mr. Judkins said Mr. Dehlendorf did not talk to him for his letter to the Journal.

5 Islanders Insurance: A spokesperson for the firm said that indeed there was “potential for non-conformity to become an issue.”

6 Chicago Title: An employee explained that a title insurance company is not in the business of granting building permits, so whether a property is conforming or non-conforming has no bearing on their function. Its only purpose is to relay to the customer what is on file with local authorities concerning a particular property. A licensed broker in Friday Harbor confirmed that a buyer would be within their rights to cancel an offer if a title search stated a property was non-conforming.

7 County Assessor Charles Zalmanek: Mr. Zalmanek explained assessed values are based on sales prices. He further explained,” There is a basket of considerations that go into determining a sales price. The economy, the weather, government regulations, etc. A properties’ designation as being conforming or non-conforming would definitely be one of the issues for a seller to consider when determining a sales price.” Mr. Zalmanek said Mr. Dehlendorf did not talk to him for his letter to the Journal.

The reader can draw their own conclusions regarding the above, but as for me, I will stick to, “just the facts ma’am.”

Marc A. Forlenza
Friday Harbor

Don't Worry, Be Happy.. Oops!

To the Editor:

Relax, be happy! That’s what the recent “Friends” advertisements in the Journal would have property owners do as the County deliberates the rewriting of the Critical Areas Ordinance.

• Don’t worry if your house or farm is designated “non-conforming” after the new regulations are written.
• Don’t worry that you may not be able to build your dream home where you wanted it, so that you could enjoy the stunning view that made you say, “This is it!” when you decided to purchase your piece of paradise years ago.

• Don’t worry that you won’t be able to garden or build that necessary tool shed so that you can use your property in ways you have always considered responsible, because you love your land and the environment that brought you here.
Seems the Friends are saying: Why not just relax and enjoy what little you may have left of your diminishing dreams? Ah, but don’t be misled. Pay attention to what is going on in your government!

Ask yourself the question: By what authority and/or intimate knowledge do the Friends have about regulations yet unwritten? They must be kidding! Fact. At this time the County Council hasn’t decided upon or implemented any new CAO regulations. The Council’s goal is to pass a new CAO in late March 2012.

As of this writing the San Juan County Council and the Planning Commission are engaged in critical deliberations that, ultimately, will determine where you may build and how you may use your property. New restrictions will be implemented as determined by the size of new buffers to be established around critical areas as well as the Council’s definitions of such terms as: “non-conforming,” and “reasonable use.” Contrary to pronouncements by the Friends, the terms of these definitions and restrictions will affect your use and value of your property.

We sincerely hope that the Friends aren’t privy to official information that isn’t available to us ordinary citizens. Otherwise, it seems that they would like us to stay home and blissfully enjoy the ride, while our rights are swept away. Are the Friends really our friends?

Stay informed. Speak your mind.

Dave Cable
San Juan Island

We Need "Critical Areas Ordinance Extreme"

To the Editor:

We live in one of the most strikingly beautiful places on the planet.

In 2011 The NYTimes placed The San Juan Islands #2 on its list of “Places To Go”.

Also this year National Geographic placed the San Juan Islands #3 on its list of, “World Travel Destinations”.

From 1980 to 2000 our population increased by 80 %, faster than any other county in Washington. Projections are that we will continue to see our population increase at a comparable rate. This influx of people has lead to more building, which has put pressure on our critical areas. It’s time to draw the line. It’s time to increase protections for future building.

The current draft of the revised Critical Areas Ordinance takes protections that have been in place for the past 25 years and waters them down so much that what was once black coffee is now more like weak tea.

For example I don’t understand the pressure to offer mitigation options. To me the only time anything should be allowed to be built that would require mitigation is if it is for public use, when there is no good alternative.

As for private homes, they should all be placed outside of all critical areas and their buffer zones, and built using the guidelines of Limited Impact Development.

San Juan County is a treasure that has been here long before we showed up and started calling parts of it our personal property, and one that will be here long after all of us are dead and gone.

We might be five years late in submitting an updated CAO, but we have the chance now to do an impressive job of it. San Juan County should now make global headlines for a Critical Areas Ordinance extreme in its protections so future generations can enjoy the pristine beauty that is here.

Liza Michaelson
San Juan Island

You May Finance & Insure Non-Conforming Properties

To the Editor:

In the current public debate about the County's efforts to update our existing Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO), some opponents of increased protections of critical areas have used scare tactics to advance their agenda by spreading the false claim that current owners, as well as prospective purchasers, of legally nonconforming properties, will have difficulty obtaining mortgage loans and homeowners insurance.
Don’t be fooled! These claims are completely false.

Legally nonconforming status applies to structures and uses that were in compliance with our county's land use laws at the time the structures were built, or the uses, such as farming, were initiated, but which would not be in compliance today if updates to these laws were to be applied retroactively. Fortunately, this is not the case, as the occupation of legally nonconforming structures can be maintained, and if destroyed by fire or other disaster, such
structures can be rebuilt. Also, activities such as farming can continue unchanged by any updates to the CAO.

Recently I contacted Islanders Bank, Key Bank, Wells Fargo, Swanberg-Judkins Insurance, Islanders Insurance, Chicago Title, and the County’s assessor’s office. In all cases, I was told that whether a property is legally conforming or nonconforming is not even considered in the decision to approve or deny an application for financing or insurance, nor in the process of writing the title on the property, or in assessing its value. In fact, these institutions do not even inquire if a property is legally nonconforming.

In view of these facts, I have encouraged the County Council to ignore this issue in its future deliberations and not to weaken the CAO's nonconforming uses provision under the mistaken idea that these false opinions are true. I also urge the public not to let these false claims influence your opinions about the CAO update.

David Dehlendorf
San Juan Island

[According to SJC Planner Shireene Hale the following is a correct statement:

"All activities, such as existing farming and residential use and development, can continue unchanged (i.e. not expanded), even if there has been some net loss to the existing functions and values of those areas -and this is true even if new use and/or development of those same areas will not be allowed by updates to the CAO."

However, if there is a current use that is not allowed under existing regulations, it will still be illegal in the future, unless new regulations should specifically allow it -which is unlikely to happen.

New regulations have been propose that will no longer allow development -e.g., laws, tree planting, farming. buildings- in areas that currently do allow them -Ed

Credit For Past Preservation Is Unfair

To the Editor:

We would like to thank County Council Members Fralick, Miller, Pratt, Rosenfeld, and Stephens for their decision on December 5 not to support an effort by Council Member Peterson to weaken the proposed update to our county's existing Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO). “Critical Areas” consist of wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat, aquifer recharge areas, geohazardous areas, and frequently flooded areas.

Specifically, Mr. Peterson suggested modifying, without any support from the other five council members, the obligation of property owners to mitigate future damage to Critical Areas resulting from changes to the development and use of their properties. (The updated CAO will continue to grandfather existing structures and uses.) Mr. Peterson proposed that owners be allowed to offset any harm they cause by taking offsetting credit for the unrelated voluntary preservation and restoration of Critical Areas, performed anywhere in the county, by any public or private organization or individual, such as the Land Bank, the San Juan Preservation Trust, the National Park Service, Friends of the San Juans, and other entities engaged in salmon recovery efforts.

Our preservation lands and projects should not become a mitigation piggy bank for new activities that harm Critical Areas!

If Mr. Peterson’s effort had been successful, the result would have been unfair and poor public policy. It is unreasonable to argue that property owners should be subsidized by the good works of unrelated organizations and individuals that have conducted, and will conduct, work to preserve and restore our county's Critical Areas and salmon habitat. If his proposal had been accepted, all of the preservation and restoration work performed in our county by public and private organizations, since their founding, would have been at risk of being offset by damage done by property owners who would no longer be motivated to avoid harm to Critical Areas. Our county would have taken a huge step backwards in protecting the environment we all cherish.

Moreover, had Mr. Peterson’s effort had been successful, there would likely have been a negative impact on potential funding sources, which would be reluctant to finance future restoration projects serving as a “get out of jail free” card for property owners who harm Critical Areas.

In the recent debate about renewal of the real estate tax that funds the Land Bank, Mr. Peterson and many of his supporters criticized the Land Bank, claiming it had strayed from its charter and founding principles. It is reasonable to assume that he and most of his supporters voted against the renewal. Apparently these same individuals now believe it is acceptable for the efforts of the Land Bank to be used to benefit private landowners. Do they now believe this is consistent with the Land Bank’s charter and founding principles?

We encourage all Council Members to continue their efforts to reach a consensus on a balanced and reasonable outcome to the update of the Critical Areas Ordinance and not to weaken the preservation and protection of our Critical Areas.

Marilyn Gresseth, San Juan Island
Gretchen Gubelman, San Juan Island
Clare Kelm, San Juan Island
Sharon Abreu, Orcas Island
Irmgard Conley, Orcas Island
Marta Nielson, Orcas Island
Patty Pirnack-Hamilton, Orcas Island
Dixie Budke, Lopez Island
San Olson, Lopez Island

Mitigation: The Last Resort

To the Editor:

Mitigation is the last resort for property owners who purchased their legal parcels with the intention of building a home in the future. Use of one’s property is a reasonable investment backed expectation.

San Juan County has said that all parcels have some type of critical area within their boundaries. Therefore, mitigation is the tool that would allow the reasonable use of a parcel that contains a critical area.

If Mr. Olson and his “Friends” establish the policy of “do no harm,” and they define harm as any adverse human impact (like building a single family residence), then the County may be required to purchase a lot of property.

Under the law the government can render all property useless by regulation. However, they must pay fair compensation to the owner if they do. This would be a nightmare for taxpayers who would be forced to pay the bill for this absurd abuse of regulatory power. Perhaps this could be the new focus of the Land Bank. Buy up all the property that this Critical Areas Ordinance renders useless. Under the current ordinance now being considered, that could mean most of it.

Gordy Petersen
San Juan Island

The Myth of Mitigation

To the Editor:

The County Council is completing the General Section of the CAO update. This section covers Mitigation, Reasonable Use Exception, and Nonconforming Use. The latter two are pretty straight forward legal issues, mitigation is not.

Mitigation is defined as causing something to be less harmful or severe; conceptually it feels good. In its regulatory usage, it means providing compensation for harmful actions or the replication of something which has been destroyed.

It’s easy to check off a box, approve a mitigation plan, and feel the problem is solved. But, the reality of implementing a plan is complex and exceptionally difficult when replacing biological and physical functions. Maintaining wetland functions, for instance, is one of the most difficult mitigation activities.

Each wetland is a unique feature, whose presence is due to factors such as topography, soil type, vegetation, and micro-climate characteristics. Even small scale wetlands are very complex systems which provide a variety of valuable functions through physical, biological, and biochemical activities, but they can be functionally overwhelmed by inputs as well as physical damage.

Determinants of success or failure of mitigation involves nurturing and monitoring for many years. Human nature and our regulatory system do not lend themselves to a long term commitment of cultivation or compliance when dynamic systems are involved.

Mitigation provides an excuse to permit injury to a valuable function, pardoning ourselves for the deed and expecting the impossible result of No Net Loss. This may satisfy an applicant and the regulators, but as guiding policy the result will be cumulative loss of irreplaceable values and beneficial functions throughout our county.

The best policy is to avoid the impact in the first place. It is easier to avoid a problem than to solve it. I personally prefer the medical dictum: “First, do no harm.”

San Olson
Lopez Island

Opposed To Hypocrisy: Show Me "One Citation"

To the Editor:

I am disturbed by the recent confrontational and divisive approach of the letter recently submitted [3rd letter below: "Opposed To Divisive Debate" September 18, 2001 -Ed] criticizing the Common Sense Alliance (CSA) and its supporters in the ongoing debate over updates to the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) and the Shoreline Master Plan (SMP).

While I am pleased that the authors of that letter acknowledge CSA’s right to free speech, I do wonder who put them in charge of deciding what speech is “uncharitable” and why they feel the need to chide others about “civility” when those other folks are complaining about government. The use of cartoons- and indeed, the cartoon image of a serpent bywhich the writers claim to be so offended-- dates back to revolutionary times.

As for “offensive words and attitudes,” CSA hardly has the corner on that market in the County: smugness, self-righteousness, and the “we know better, so do what we tell you” attitudes are divisive and unhelpful to civic debate. Particularly offensive are the repeated assertions that those opposing the current CAO and SMP changes are “developers” (one pictures Snidely Whiplash, rubbing his hands in glee over subdivision maps), rather than homeowners (or single parcel owners), or that only those supporting the CAO direction are “environmentalists.”

More important, I would like to see one citation to support the charge that the Common Sense Alliance “in fact denies such obvious scientific and locally observed events as the recent eelgrass and fish nursery collapses” or “promote[s] destructive land use practices”--just one citation, please, to establish the bona fides of the complainers.

Finally, the notion that the views promoted by armies of state and County staff and other paid representatives of special interest groups are somehow being driven out by the voice of one volunteer organization (CSA) is ludicrous. It has long been a pattern of those who cannot respond with logic or facts to citizens’ questions or concerns in the County to proceed instead to complain about “incivility” and “personal attacks.” Disagreement with a flawed course charted by public servants is not incivility. It is a fundamental expression of our freedoms.

Peg Manning

Reader Resonds To Sam Olson

To the Editor:

For me, San Olson’s recent letter [Letter below this letter -Ed] is a sign of hope that prospects exist for a narrowing of differences over buffer widths. Specifically, I am referring to Dr. Olson coming around to the view that only specific embayments may have issues; and if they do, “adequate” shoreline buffers may be needed to protect “functions” in those areas.

I am sure we will still have differences over the fate and transport of chemicals even in some of the embayments, but I still see it as an opportunity to have a fact-based discussion about fate and transport, something entirely missing from BAS. It is encouraging that Dr. Olson alludes to fate and transport dynamics himself, mentioning that pollutants are adsorbed onto sediment. Yes, that is quite possible. I agree. However, in addition to realizing that chemicals may be adsorbed onto sediment, there is also a need to realize that concentrations need to be corrected for organic carbon content; and a need to realize that it is usually pore water that is the risk driver for the marine ecosystem, not the sediment concentration.

The effect of contaminants on the ecosystem (or human health) can be quantitatively estimated, according to regulation and guidance. Washington even has sediment management standards promulgated in WAC 173-2040. If I am not mistaken, Dr. Olson is a retired veterinarian, so I would hope that he can appreciate that quantitative ecosystem and health risk is ultimately estimated by calculating, not just ambient concentrations, but by calculating, for all chemicals with a common toxic endpoint, the multi-chemical effect from all exposure routes to the target organism (or organ) for a specific exposure scenario. That is a quantitative risk assessment. That is really the only way to evaluate whether the biological functions of our embayments are impaired.

I also want to address an undertone expressed by some people, although not explicitly in Dr. Olson’s letter. The undertone is an assumption made by some that all non-proponents of large buffers have some kind of agenda, usually a development agenda. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I do not have an agenda, not a development agenda anyway. I have a “leave me alone” agenda. I do not see any reason to disrupt the private lives of average citizens without good reason. I see enlarged buffers in that light, and so far, the reasons proposed for large buffers have been spectacularly vague and poorly reasoned. Let’s hope that Dr. Olson’s letter signals a change for the better.

Ed Kilduff
Lopez Island

Our Waters Come From BC, But...

To the Editor:

In a recent Guest Editorial, Dr. David Hyde asserts that much of the water moving through and around the San Juans come from Canada. He is correct; most of our marine waters come from Canada not Puget Sound.

His conclusion that pollutants from Puget Sound are minimal here should provide some comfort. However, we receive the effluent from 80% of the commerce of BC, 3.65 M people, so Canadian input is considerable. If studies on relative contributions are valid, Canada becomes a prime suspect for the toxic burden in our marine mammals and with BC so close, I take little comfort from down sound exclusion.

The presumption is that the volume water in the Georgia Basin, and upwelling, creates enough circulation that any local pollutants are minimized by dilution. We need not be concerned about our contribution and it should not be grounds to require new buffer sizes.

Just because we have BC waters around us, and perhaps not the cleanest, does not mean we should ignore local input.

On a macro scale SJC shorelines may be well flushed; however, due to our very complex shorelines, it’s untrue in many local areas. Examples of poorly flushed embayments are: Barlow Bay, Fisherman Bay, Mud Bay, both sounds of Orcas, Westcott Bay, Blind Bay, and Friday Harbor.

Low tidal energy bays are where forage fish and herring spawn. Young salmon find protection in the eelgrass meadows and feed on forage fish and insects from the vegetated nearshore environment. These shorelines are significant in size and biological function and, besides water quality, these are the functions that adequate shoreline buffers protect.

Sediments accumulate and are retained in these embayments. Many nasty pollutants are adsorbed onto the surface of sediment particles and are transported into the nurseries of susceptible species. Some pollutants are water-soluble; others are fat-soluble hormone mimics which disrupt the reproduction of fish and invertebrates. Once fat-soluble substances enter the food chain, no dilution from Canada or anywhere else will eliminate their effects.

These are the reasons why we need to be concerned about indigenous pollution and why BAS should inform buffer sizes.

San Olson
Lopez Island

Opposed To Divisive Debate

To the Editor:

We are opposed to the recent confrontational and divisive approach of
the Common Sense Alliance (CSA) and its supporters in the ongoing debate
over updates to the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) and the Shoreline
Master Plan (SMP). Of course, they have the right to free speech.
However, we don't grant them the right to be uncharitable to our
neighbors, especially when they define themselves as a "charitable"

For example, in its recent ads in the Journal, this group demonstrated
its incivility by showing a snake representing the government of San
Juan County coiled around a body representing the citizens of San Juan
County. Such an objectionable attitude toward the friends and neighbors
who represent us in local government demands a response.

The self-proclaimed "Common Sense Alliance" in fact denies such obvious
scientific and locally observed events as the recent eelgrass and fish
nursery collapses. This group makes no "sense" as they promote
destructive land use practices and carry their message by offensive
words and attitudes.

Our beautiful island deserves protection in areas critical to its and
our long-term well-being. You can help counterbalance the inaccurate
claims and divisive behavior of the CSA by attending meetings of the
Planning Commission and the County Council. These gatherings will deal
with updates to the CAO and SMP and will hopefully provide more balanced
views on the issues involved. For meeting updates, please email and they will send you public notice of
Planning Commission and Council meetings.

Leslie and Val Veirs
Katy Nollman
Gretchen Gubelman
Audra and Eric Adelberger

A Postmortem Interview With A Flounder

To the Editor:

(“P" = Press; "F" = the Flounder)

(P) I read in a published letter [6th letter below by Mike Kaill -Ed] by a marine biologist that you died in the Spring Street aquarium. Is that true?

(F) I suppose it might be true. I don’t seem to be there anymore & I’m glad.

(P) Why so?

(F) Well, I’m not much on math or numbers, but I had been swimming around in that little tank for a long time. At first I tended to bump my snout on the edge of the water, but later I got used to just swimming in circles to keep my oxygen moving. It was really boring. There was nothing to graze upon & if I tried to get a little sleep these strange pale creatures would thump on the edge of the water. I heard some of them talking about depression & it sounded like I felt. They said there was some medication that would help, but I never got any as far as I know. I also heard that a good stiff drink would relieve my lethargy, but I didn’t know how to do that so I just kept swimming in circles.

(P) Do you have any sense at all of how long you swam in those circles or how old you were when you went into the tank?

(F) My best response to that is that the days got shorter and then longer at least five times while I was in the little tank. I’m not sure -It could have been a lot more, but I hear you don’t notice those things when you’re suffering depression. The pale things that thumped on the little tank talked about birthdays and death, but I never knew when I started or when I ended. I just was and then I wasn’t. There was a pale thing with glasses who said my normal life span was ten to twelve years depending upon my sex, but I don’t know because I never had any of that either. Might have contributed to my depression.

(P) You seem fixated on this depression thing. Why is that?

(F) Let me put it this way. If you were used to the wide open spaces and had the freedom to move where & when you wanted & were suddenly put in a small enclosed area with nothing going on, wouldn’t you be depressed? I heard the pale thing with glasses talking about the experiment and about surfactants and runoff going into the tank & I think he was talking about me. I gotta admit that he seemed a little depressed himself every time he saw I was still alive. He was my most frequent visitor, but he never showed any personal interest in me. It was so clinical & I felt he really didn’t want me in the same place with him. Have you ever lived your life feeling shutoff from your own kind, your friends and relatives and then being treated as if you were unwelcome where you were, but still forced to stay there? Even now as I think back on it, I start to feel depressed again.

(P) You can take my word for it that you died and that you’re not in the tank anymore. Do you know how you died?

(F) If I had to guess, I think I just sort of wound down. Life just wasn’t interesting or worth living anymore. It might have been old age or prolonged depression, but I just don’t know.

(P) Do you know if they did an autopsy to determine your cause of death? They seem to have some suspicions that it might have been other than natural causes.

(F) What’s an autopsy?

(P) It’s where they cut you open and examine all of your organs to determine how and why you died.

(F) If they did, I didn’t feel it. Why ask me? Why don’t you go ask the pale thing with the glasses? He would probably know.

(P) So as far as you know personally, you might have died from old age or depression. Is there anything else you would like to say before we close the interview.

(F) Yes, Will you please tell the pale thing with the glasses to just leave us alone. I was fine before he put me in that dumb tank. I’m smart enough not to swim around where there are things that will damage me just like you’re smart enough not to swim in bloody seawater with a school of sharks. There might be some of those surfactant things right around the Spring Street tank, but they put me in it. I certainly didn’t volunteer. I can tell you for a fact that there aren’t any of those surfactant things out in the open water where I used to live. Also, maybe they can do something about those pesky sea lions that capriciously catch and kill my cousin salmon around enclosed areas with only one bite out of their stomachs. All of this reminds me of what I’ve heard a lot of the pale things say, “I’m from the government & I’m here to help”. It doesn’t work for the pale things and it doesn’t work for us either.

(P) Thank-you. I’ll pass along your thoughts.

Dennis Hazelton
San Juan Island

Open Letter To County

Dear County Council, Administrator and Planning Staff,

You are required to adopt Best Available Science (BAS) that is factual, substantive, local and relevant. We appreciate the actions Council and Staff are taking to avoid personal liability and County liability. However, it is evident that the obligation to give a proper amount of time for the public to review and vet the information being considered as BAS is being mishandled. The time frame is too short. The intent of the law is simply not being met. The voluminous information cannot even be reasonably reviewed by trained Staff persons in the time that is being allowed, not to mention the obligation for continuous and robust interaction with the community, which is clearly impossible under the schedule that has been established.

It is not unreasonable that the Staff, Council, and interested constituents have the time to study, understand and agree that the information that is adopted and will be used in the future for guiding the actions of the planners and legislators of this county be local, relevant and satisfy the guidelines established by the WAC for best available science. There is a moral as well as legal obligation to allow sufficient time for all parties to be educated and involved.

Recently, inappropriate comments have been made by some of the Council and Staff regarding questions and concerns raised by citizens and organizations. These criticisms indicate a lack of interest in taking the time necessary to address the concerns brought up. These individuals need to revisit their comments and thoughts and adopt an approach that rejects bias and prejudice and indicates a willingness to consider the legitimate concerns of their neighbors and constituents. You will recall that, in the beginning of this process, many citizens were disparaged for disagreeing with Staff on Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) issues. Remember the accusations and comments toward those questioning the Staff information: they were passing “rumors” and "misinformation". How about the comments from Staff? “It’s all about the bugs” and “We have no choice”. Fortunately, enough time was available for citizens to prove to Council and Staff that they were either misinformed or uneducated about many presumed “facts”. Time has allowed us to identify some of the myths and some of the realities about the requirements of the CAO and the process involved We now know it is not just about the bugs, and that we do have many choices.

We would encourage the Council, Administrator and County Staff to revisit the schedule that they have set up for the BAS process, and to spend time discussing issues with those they currently view as adversarial. As citizens are reviewing the submitted BAS synthesis, they are coming forth with questions and facts that should be used to inform the decision making process. A reasonable amount of time for discovery and discussion of the voluminous information is essential.

Remember, down-Sound the Department of Ecology has not challenged waterfront shoreline buffers of 25 feet, and allowed non conforming restrictions to be relaxed, while other areas have done the opposite. The reason for this is mostly due to “politics”. If we follow that path our community will become divided, and we will eventually end up in court, which will waste valuable time and resources. The County, its employees and contractors should all be seeking truth, local and relevant, and applying it to San Juan County, and using the Coordination process as a means to the resolution of conflict on the CAO issues. A Coordination process does not just have to be between government entities. It can be used between citizens and local government as a tool to reach a consensus on facts and resolutions to issues in a proper, “bottom-up” process, as is required by the GMA.

We respectfully request that you: 1.) Extend your time line for the adoption of best available science. 2) Have Staff publish the discovered “problems” that indicate that there is a need to change our current CAO language. 3.) Have Staff share with the public their consideration and weighing of the 13 competing goals of the GMA in any areas of the current Sensitive Areas Ordinance that they recommend for change. They should also indicate how a decision to change our County's ordinance might be mitigated to lessen the impact on landowners and the other GMA mandated Goals. 4.) That Staff meet with interested citizens and organizations (in a bottom-up process) to find mutual areas of agreement, as well as areas of disagreement. This would save a lot of time and allow all to focus on meaningful conservation measures.

We should all want to have rules and regulations that address real problems and that are fair and economically feasible. There are no penalties for taking more time. There are numerous problems and unintended consequences in moving ahead in the current manner. We will be better stewards if we take the time to carefully craft a CAO that meets our local San Juan County's needs, and that balances all of the GMA goals.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.
The CAPR San Juan Board
A Regulation Looking For A Problem

To the Editor:

I am writing to express my concern over the process by which the County Council is considering modifications to the Critical Areas Ordinance and Shoreline Management Act.

I own property on Neil Bay at the north end of San Juan Island. The house was built in 1976 and is located on the waterfront. The bay, Neil Bay, has a healthy population of crab and small fish along with eel grass. The surrounding land has numerous deer, raccoons, birds, and other wildlife. The houses along the bay have not impacted the bay nor the land habitat for various animals.

To propose requiring new houses to built 150-200 feet away from the shoreline is a restriction not justified by the facts. This is akin to making a regulation looking for a problem. This regulation would reduce the property values and cause a shift of the tax base to other island residents. It would reduce the building a new homes and result in less employment for island residents in an already weak economy.

I urge the County Councils to consider these items before unnecessary regulations are put in place. Any new regulations should be subject to unequivocal scientific study before implementation. The environmental, social, and economic impact of these proposed regulations should be accurately assessed. There is nothing in state or county law to require regulations to restrict the use of private property without scientifically verifiable cause. The issue of individual building permits could be used, if certain areas are shown to be environmentally sensitive.

Respectfully submitted,

Larry Peterson
San Juan Island
Sometimes a Dead Fish is Just a Dead Fish
To the Editor:

I wanted to offer a few thoughts about Mike Kaill’s letter (4th Letter down -Ed) regarding "Dead Canaries and the CAO":

1. He and I are in agreement in our mutual suspicion that whatever problems exist in the County are related to places like the Spring Street outfall. Generally, I believe that environmental problems are mostly associated with urbanization, and for San Juan County, that means the UGAs. That is a testable hypothesis.

2. Despite #1, his observations about deaths in the aquarium are not proper toxicological studies. There is a very well accepted way of quantifying the risks associated with chemicals and linking cause to effect. It is called an ecological risk assessment. I would strongly support a proper ecological risk assessment for the suspect problem areas.

3. He mentions “San Juan County’s uniquely thin soils” which is a direct contradiction to the claims in the CAO on Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas (CARA), which said that we are permeable everywhere and an aquifer everywhere. If Dr. Kaill believes that we have thin impermeable soils, then I would like to see him support a major revision to the CARA (as I do).

4. Many of the other fears that he mentions such as “silt from homes … will be surfactant loaded” are testable too and the effects quantifiable via (without trying to be repetitive) an ecological risk assessment. He says he has seen contaminated places on the west side. That is a great place to start a scientific analysis.

On a related note, I have heard other citizens support enlarged buffers for other reasons. For instance, I have heard Mary Knackstedt raise the question, “How can you not come to the conclusion that if a community is on the same trajectory [to become urbanized like Seattle] that, given time and population increase, they won't arrive at the same place?”

That is a very different concern from Dr. Kaill’s. Mike Kaill is saying that the problem is now. Mary Knackstedt is saying that the problem is the future.

We need to be aware of that distinction. The “problem” has temporal components: now and the future. We need to be aware, when people speak, whether they are expressing a concern about current problems or anticipated future problems. They have different solutions, and importantly, unlike Dr. Kaill’s claims, the future is not a testable hypothesis.

If the problem is the future, then there is absolutely no need to place greater restrictions on current homes and development. There would be no non-conforming uses. One could argue that if the problem is the future, the burden of increased environmental protection might have to fall entirely on new homes/development and to an increasing degree as problems arose.

If the problem is now, then we should address those problems, but it is important to clearly identify them (via an ecological risk assessment) so the right solution can be developed. For instance, fifty years ago eagle populations crashed here and around the country because of DDT, and it was important to identify DDT as the culprit and not some other chemical. The right solution depends on identifying the right problem.

That brings me to my last point. I have heard buffers proposed as a solution to everything from toxicology to population control. Mentioning the word “buffer” is like giving someone an ink blot test. The response says a lot about the psychology of the participant.

And that is why we need to establish a genuinely supportable nexus between problem and solution. We need to take alarming claims out of the realm of psychology and fear, and establish a framework to rationally answer the questions that are posed.

Ed Kilduff
Lopez Island
Dead Canaries Only In FH?
To the Editor:

Re the debate between Frank Penwell and Mike Kaill, isn't Mike's study of surfectants limited to the waters of Friday Harbor?

if so, how does that analysis apply to the rest of the county? Isn't it likely that Friday Harbor is polluted, for the most part, by the town's storm drain (as is the case with Eastsound and Lopez Village - have there been similar studies there?)? The rest of the county's shoreline is polluted, for the most part, by sheet flow from the adjacent uplands, and should have significantly different water quality characteristics than the Town's runoff.

Have there been any tests for the presence of surfectants in front of large waterfront subdivisions such as Rosario or Cape San Juan? How about small point sources such as Deer Harbor or Roche Harbor?

I agree with Frank that an effort should be made by the County Council to ban toxins proven to be significant threats to near-shore water quality, rather than styrofoam or nuclear bombs. Those are easy targets.

Bob Querry
San Juan Island
To the Editor:

Recently Mike Kaill, President of the Friends of San Juan submitted a letter suggesting that the presence of surfactants in stormwater and other runoff is a justification for what he considers to be appropriate setbacks from the shoreline for development on shoreline properties.

Surfactants, or more properly, surface active agents, are substances that reduce the surface tension of liquids. This reduction in surface tension allows the liquid to spread out, rather than collecting in droplets. There are thousands of surfactants used for this purpose throughout the product lines of thousands of manufacturers. Some of these do have adverse impacts on marine life, and there is an argument to be made for controlling the release of those into marine environments. However, this does not translate into a valid argument for a one-size-fits-all system of buffers and setbacks for the use and enjoyment of private property.

Detergents contain surfactants, but are not surfactants in and of themselves. In some jurisdictions, certain surfactants have been banned for use in detergents. In order for those detergents to be useful for cleaning, though, the banned surfactants have to be replaced by others. Mike’s concern over surfactants in lawn chemicals, such as fertilizers, is noted, and he might wish to lead the Friends of the San Juans in actively supporting Senate Bill 6289, Protecting lake water quality by reducing phosphorous from lawn fertilizers, currently before the Washington State Legislature. It’s a bill most of us can get behind and support.

While some surfactants are long-lived in the environment, many others are not. While some can “lock” onto particles in sediment, many others do not. While some can harm fish gills, many others do not. While some are toxic, many others are benign . . . in fact there are many naturally-occurring surfactants that are absolutely critical to the biological processes of all living things.

Mr. Kaill’s use of the presence of product-residual surfactants in the marine environment as justification for wide separation between human activity and the shore is alarmist in nature and inappropriate as a basis for prescriptive regulation. CAPR, its members, and other concerned citizens are not acting out of "ignorance" or "stubbornness" in advocating for the application of the common sense test in our regulatory processes. We firmly believe that any regulatory restrictions on the use and enjoyment of property be based on the very best science possible, and we are not convinced that all of the science being used as justification for the provisions of San Juan County’s upcoming CAO and SMP meet that criterion.

In contrast to Mike's assertion that, “We don’t need a peer-reviewed study . . . “, we believe that every study, synthesis, and assessment used to support and justify the provisions of these programs must be subjected to independent and rigorous peer review. There’s a lot to be said for the concept of “Trust, but verify.” As citizens, we deserve the full validation of the science used to drive restrictions of our activities. Independent peer review is something that our scientists should welcome, not fear.

I agree with Mike that there are many chemicals getting into our stormwater as a result of the way they are used by some. It’s something we should look at as a community. Surely we can come up with ways to work on these issues without acrimony.

Recent Nobel Prize winner Dr. Elinor Ostrom was awarded her prize for her work on the commons. Her findings are that the users of natural resources are far better stewards of those resources than government. I agree with her and I fervently believe that property owners love their property and will do whatever it takes to properly maintain it and protect it for their children’s use. If we are educated on which surfactants are dangerous to our marine life, we can voluntarily take the necessary steps to keep those substances out of the marine environment.

I am encouraged by the research that indicates that we are continually making progress in cleaning up our water bodies. It’s something that often seems to get lost amidst the “sky is falling” rhetoric. CAPR looks forward to producing boots on the ground conservation actions that make a real difference without taking the right to use and enjoy property from our citizens. Please join us for our monthly educational presentations.


Frank M. Penwell
San Juan Island
Dead Canaries and the CAO
To the Editor:

In a talk with a leader of the CAPR (Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights) it was suggested that I stick to facts, and not philosophy. That is advice that I will take in this letter. I am arguing in favor of leaving as much protection as possible between households and the shoreline. Certainly more than is suggested by CAPR. The reference to “canaries” refers to the canary that dies in an unsafe mine, providing a warning signal. Animals dying in the Spring Street Aquarium may be offering a similar warning. Here are some facts:

A. “Canaries” are dying in the Spring Street Aquarium. The latest one, a flounder, was last week. Any fish that does not have a swim bladder to keep it off the bottom will die. In the last year we have lost this and another flounder, a greenling, and a sailfin sculpin. Now there are no bottom-fish. There are several species of anemone that cannot now survive. On the other hand, there is a lined perch (stays off the bottom) in the aquarium that I captured when the aquarium was first started, about 10 years ago.

B. Detergents (surfactants) are polluting stormwater from the Spring St. stormwater outfall. Surfactants from stormwater lock onto silt. Silt settles out in low current areas, like the aquarium and the bottom of Friday Harbor.

C. Surfactants harm sensitive surfaces of marine animals, like gills. Our testing of both the aquarium and Friday Harbor show high toxicity for surfactants. Our tests are confirmed by Town of Friday Harbor tests, and lethal doses are established by certified labs.

D. High concentrations of surfactants exist in many household products: Weed and Feed, rose spray, herbicides, deer repellent, and more. We are currently evaluating samples of these from local shops.

E. There are no barriers or controls for the use of these products maintain a smooth, green lawn.

F. San Juan County has uniquely thin soils, with a minimum of soil microbes. Surfactants traveling over and through these soils do not “naturally” break down.

We don’t need a peer-reviewed study to add up these points. Households near the shore in critical areas will put surfactants, in some amount, into marine waters. I have artificially restricted this argument to surfactants. A lot of other harmful chemicals are put in stormwater and ground water by households - that’s a problem for another time.

Currents along the shore are high -unless they are not. There are eddies, caves, any number of nooks and crannies that have low or negligible current. In those places, if silt is around, it will accumulate.

Silt from homes near critical shores, especially with crumbling banks, will be surfactant-loaded. Can we (do we want to?) tell these home-owners they are not allowed to have a large lawn, chemically fertilized and weeded? I don’t think so. But, in this situation, there will be surfactant/silt, and poisonous places where there is no current. I have seen these places diving on the west side. Appropriate set backs will allow natural treatment.

If these safe margins are not enacted and enforced, homes will ever after pollute the near-shore. Can we all just slow down for a minute, and compromise?

I don’t like writing letters like this. I’m supposed to be retired. But I love the ocean, and as long as I can, I’ll be puttering on the docks, tide pools, boating and SCUBA-diving. It makes me sad to see all that we are losing (why did we come here?) through ignorance and stubbornness.

Mike Kaill
Friday Harbor
CAO It Could Happen To You

To the Editor:

I, like many San Juan County residents, did not really understand the detrimental impact for all property owners if the currently drafted Critical Area Ordinance is, in fact, implemented by our county government. However, I have recently attended several meetings regarding this issue and have learned some very disturbing facts about this proposal that eventually could affect most all property owners in the county.

We have been full time residents of San Juan County for approximately 10 years and have owned our waterfront property for more than 18 years. When we built our home here we provided all of the required documents to county officials including site and construction plans for approval. We received our building permit, paid our fees to the county and passed all appropriated inspections. In short, we complied with all of the county’s regulations and approval processes in building our retirement home here on San Juan Island. In addition, we have paid our fair share of property taxes to the county, which I believe to be quite substantial.

Now, it is my understanding that our property like many others in the county could actually be classified as non-conforming if the proposed ordinance is passed. This could very well result in a significant financial impact should we or you ever need to sell, build or rebuild a structure on your property. All because of some so called “Best Available Science” that has not been tested via peer review or determined to be appropriate for this area. There are numerous experts that do not agree these proposed buffers are either appropriate or reasonable.

If you believe that you will not be affected by the implementation of this ordinance as currently proposed then I would encourage you to checkout the Common Sense Alliance website as soon as possible at Then contact your County Council Representative and let them know how you feel about the current proposal that could result in reduced property values and impairment of your civil rights.

Jim Pound
San Juan Island
Surprised We Allow Any Shoreline Development

To the Editor:

Though long overdue we now have an opportunity to update CAO. That we need to have more stringent protections and accept the consequent sacrifices is evident. Opponents say we need to strike a balance, a welcome opening position if it is sincere but I am skeptical because what balance has been struck in the past has been heavily weighted toward the human community. Personally I think restoration of the environment should take precedence over striking a balance.

Across our culture, the consequences of our decisions to date are well documented: the collapse of major fisheries, coral reef and forest ecologies, loss of topsoil, air and water pollution. We are facing further and mass extinctions of the world's flora and fauna. And the population of the planet will double in our children's lifetime. Please do the math. We are erasing our natural heritage and all its wonders.

So I am not surpised at proposals to push development back from the shoreline. The real surprise is that we are allowing any more shoreline development at all.

Our resources are finite: water, forest, soils. If we can't understand finite living on an island perhaps all hope is lost.

Tightening CAO regulations is not governmental regulatory overreach. It is responsible attention to population growth, consequent demands on the environment, and subsequent degradation. This restoration of the natural world isn't mere environmentalism. It is another chapter in the civil rights movement seeking to guarantee greater protections for the community of life forms with which we share this planet and with whom our lives and histories are intricately interwoven and interdependent. We are related to everything that surrounds us and share a common ancestry whether biological, chemical or molecular. We have no more rights than any other living thing on this planet. We've just assigned ourselves more.

Charles Carver
Quick Action Needed On CAO Regs

Dear San Juan County Council Members,

For the sake of our economy, please, please please consider the following approach:

1. Regarding the uplands: It seems that the purpose of an update would be to solve problems with the best available science. If we don't have identifiable problems, then what we have in place must have been done so well that it is working. If the DOE does not agree, then let them point out the problems they see and then we can address those specific issues. Please do not use broad strokes, they impact properties that have nothing to do with the issue. You do not have to sacrifice our rights and you have been told so by one of the most experienced environmental attorneys in the state. Do not commit our legal funds to defending positions that are not defendable.

2. Regarding the shoreline, I recommend a two step approach.

Step one - Please publish a written statement declaring that the shoreline regulations will not be changed prior to January 1st of 2012.

This will restore quite a bit of commerce and give short term confidence to the investing public.

Step two - Within the next 90 days, update the SMP within the changes that will become effective on 1-1-12.
If done in a balanced way, this will restore investor confidence for the long term, which as been completely devastated
for undeveloped or under developed properties. (please consider the upland strategy mentioned above for the SMP)

If any of you doubt that long term investment for such properties has been devastated, just ask yourself if you would invest
in a property for which there was great uncertainty of use and value.

The business of the county is, in part just that, a business and you must look at is as such. You must manage your / our assets. As of the last month or so, like it or not, the unintended consequences of your actions have caused the loss of over a BILLION dollars of value on shoreline properties.

If you ask the Assessor to segment out the total current assessed value of the undeveloped or significantly underdeveloped properties ( determined by lower valued improvements) and reduce those by a minimum of 50%, I believe you will be very impressed with the number. It may be less then I have suggested, but it will be a very big number that will impact our county for many years to come. If you doubt the loss, please allow me to help you or convene a panel to help you. The DOE set you up based on no or little peer reviewed science and you should be mad as heck about that. You had a right to trust them and based on recent case history, it is obvious that they failed that trust.

You must do something now to restore confidence. Just take a moment to really digest the impact of a lack confidence. I know you are burdened by so many issue, but please just get past your resentment towards me right now and think out this out. This is so big and the timing is very critical for our community at large. What is the down side to taking more time?


Sam Buck
San Juan Island
Open Letter To County Council

Dear Council Members,

At one time, the Best Available Science (BAS) told us only that the earth was flat and that it rotated around the sun. This was based on limited observations without correct scientific study. Unfortunately, we have a similar situation facing San Juan County today. It is of the utmost importance that as legislators you maintain the independence of science from policy pressures. This is the only way to ensure legitimacy and quality of science.

You are being asked to judge the reasonableness of a new Critical Area Ordinance (CAO) which is supposed to be based on BAS. Your decision will have far reaching consequences on the quality of our lives with unforeseen economic consequences. It is important you have a full understanding of the BAS being used to validate the need for the new and longer buffer zones.

As a Professional Geotechnical Engineer, I have owned and operated a consulting firm for 35 years providing geotechnical, environmental, and wetland studies on thousands of Puget Sound projects. For the last 20 years, as a resident of San Juan County, I have been providing studies on our Islands. Most of the local projects have been for slope and bank stability.

Let me first address bank stabilization, as this seems to be the reason for a lot of misinformation being circulated. Based on my years of experience with hundreds of bank stabilization projects, a natural rock embankment can be constructed on the shoreline that will perform for decades without any adverse affect on the shoreline environment. If you so desire, I can show you several of these rockeries that have performed as designed. They also blend in with our bedrock shorelines.

A properly constructed rockery placed at or above the high tide line will not adversely affect the movement of terrestrial insects onto the shoreline, or fish forage zones. All of the BAS is based on the Puget Sound area, which is geomorphically different than the islands’ bedrock shorelines.
Most of our San Juan County shorelines are subjected to high impacts due to wind and wave action. In these areas, low impact stabilization methods will not work; they will be destroyed by the high impacts on the shoreline. Low impact stabilization will only work in areas not subjected to high impacts such as bays and inlets.

The other area of concern I would like to discuss is the prescriptive buffers that are being suggested. The arbitrary buffers have little value in protecting functions and values of critical areas. The BAS cited and referenced does not provide the scientific conclusions to validate the reasons being offered for these new buffers in San Juan County. The buffers we have had in place for years have worked. In all my years on the Island I have not observed adverse impacts to our critical areas.

Maintaining the independence of science from policy pressure ensures legitimacy and quality of studies. Scientific studies can only be credible by rigorous peer review. Scientists agree that in the absence of monitoring, a project may be rendered invalid. Most of the BAS that is available is devoid of any long range monitoring and in many cases performed by organizations that have a bias towards the end result; more restrictive covenants. Also, almost of all these studies are performed in the Puget Sound area. These studies are not applicable to our Islands.

Thank you for your time. Please feel free to call on me if you have any questions whatsoever on the subject of natural shoreline rockeries and reinforcements.


Robert Levinson, P.E.
San Juan Island
Gordy Has It Right

Letter to the Editor:

Kudos to Gordy Petersen for telling it like it is.....oh that “Pain”! I trust he'll elaborate further at public hearings should the County Council choose to ask the electorate to approve a levy lid lift in November.

I last served with Gordy on the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee and can personally attest to his eloquence, forthrightness and, as respects the subject matter, well...that goes to the heart of his mettle.

Maury Liebman
San Juan Island
Sam Is Right On!

What a great letter by Sam Buck [see below] to the County Council re. shoreline setbacks. He absolutely nails the issue. Most waterfront property owners do care about the environment and a lot of us actually know more about the scientific basis and real best available science than the so called experts who are trying to cram these proposed setbacks down our throats while our property values are destroyed.

Anchor DeWitt Jensen
$9,600,000 To Be Recovered Via Higher Mil Rate For Everyone.

Letter to the Editor

There are two legs: uplands (mandated to update) and waterfront (optional for now). If the changes as proposed become law, both may have dramatic impacts to the use, enjoyment and value of ones property. For the uplands it depends on how close you are to what is considered to be a seasonal stream or wetland. For waterfront, if depends on the impact a 100 foot building set back or a freeze on all existing development within 100 feet of the shoreline will have for you.

Our marine waters on both sides of the border are being degraded from pollution sourced from; industry, storm water (from agriculture & population centers) and from toxic products we contribute via municipal sewage plants and failing septic systems which allow most chemical toxins to pass through.

Logically and relative to the daily deluge of toxins that are dumped into our waters, what percentage is being contributed from the newer homes built to current codes? Is a new house the problem?

Trying to polarize this issue as, dollars vs. the environment, is not fair. The vast majority of property owners alter their habits when they understand the need to do so and to think anything else is truly bigoted. If you used your creative forces and unrecoverable life energy to achieve such an investment how would you feel? People have stopped buying waterfront land. How can we restore confidence? Think of the negative trickle down effect to our local economy.

What financial impact will a 100 foot shoreline set back have on a wooded waterfront lot or a lot with a little cabin on it? Huge! We are losing those whom can afford to implement new “green” techniques that are really starting to catch hold.

Our $3.7 billion of waterfront properties = 47% of our total assessed value. A 1/3 lose of value = $1.2 billion (not counting upland losses) which = about $9,600,000 that will have to be recovered via a higher mil rate for everyone.

As an alternative to beating up those who have chosen to invest in our community and ruining our little economy, we could blueprint a means of creating significant and measurable reductions in persistent toxins.

With the help of private funding we could; 1) create a baseline of the toxins flowing into the sound via local sewage treatment plants, 2) use a creative and sustained educational campaign via simple drawings and bullet sentences via local media to demonstrate the links between what goes down the drain and the food chain etc. 3) highlight the products that are the safest to use, 4) take measurements on a monthly basis to determine the effectiveness of the campaign.

If after a year we had accomplished even a 10% reduction in pollutants, we will have: had way more impact on the actual health of our marine environment than 100’ setbacks and once proven others would follow, leading to an even greater positive effect.

If a specific area is demonstrated to be critical habitat, may be organic standards could be required. It is not the location of the house; it is the habits, which will change with effective education.

Sam Buck
San Juan Island
No More Gardens??

Letter to the Editor

I enjoy the ambiance of the island and its varied wildlife, and would like to see it continue the same way for the rest of my life. I do not believe the increased buffers outlined in the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) Guidelines are needed. In fact, they constitute an illegal taking of property.

In the past 20 years I have not seen any deterioration of our environment. It has certainly become more populated, but the quality of our shorelines and wildlife has not decreased. So, why do we need these new CAO guidelines? The environmental guidelines in place have served us well over the years. Although the resident Orca population has declined, even NOAA cannot pinpoint a specific cause. It makes no sense to make blanket changes when the cause of the problem is unknown.

As a professional geotechnical engineer, I do not understand how any increase in buffer set backs from shorelines, wetlands, or streams will help our whales or other wildlife. It appears that these setbacks are arbitrarily set. We cannot rely on the principles of best available science to give us a realistic analysis. They are not scientifically proven and contain far too many variables. In addition, they relate to conditions in Puget Sound which is vastly different than the shoreline condition in the Islands.

I have been personally involved with numerous shoreline slope retaining projects on the islands using natural rockeries, and when constructed correctly, they do not interfere with shoreline processes. I have also observed well constructed rockeries that have been in place for over a decade with no adverse affects to the shoreline.

The toxicity that affects our whales is caused by other sources, not from our single family shorelines. Other sources of toxicity could be sewerage that is dumped into our waters and even from the outflow of large rivers. Most of our shoreline development consists of homes founded on bedrock with native growth between the houses and shorelines. I doubt very much that shoreline homeowners on this island use massive amounts of fertilizer and chemicals.

If these extreme buffers are adopted, almost every shoreline and many other inland homes near wetlands and so called “streams” will become non-conforming. The existing structures may be grandfathered in, but what if the owner wants to put in an addition to the home? They will have to go through an expensive and time consuming process.

They will have to hire consultants just to prove their addition will not adversely affect the environment. Should they want to sell their home, the potential purchaser would have no idea of what it would cost to permit an addition to the existing home. Thus, the value of the home and property is reduced due to the uncertainty of future costs.

I understand that several potential sales have already been lost due to the possibility of the CAO becoming a reality. Make no mistake about it, the value of shoreline and other affected properties will go down with the likely consequence of lower tax revenue to the county and higher taxes to CAO unaffected homeowners.

I have an organic raised bed vegetable garden that is within the buffer zone. It appears that I will have to go through the permitting process to add another bed since gardens are not allowed in the buffer zone.

Adopting the proposed CAO sounds environmentally friendly. However, it will not reduce human impacts on the environment and will lead to higher taxes on other properties not affected by the CAO. There is no valid reason to force these illegal property taking laws on the citizens of our islands. Our shorelines are governed by the Shoreline Management Act, which has more than sufficiently protected our shorelines thus far. We do not need an arbitrary and invasive ordinance forced upon our already environmentally friendly citizens.

Bob Levinson

(Mr. Levinson is a civil engineer, past director of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and is a graduate of USC and Berkeley. He lives on San Juan Island and is a staff member of Earth Solutions NW, LLC .)
Reader Responds To "Balance Of Panel" Complaint

Letter to the Editor

Dear Vivian Burnett, I am so sorry you misunderstood, and misquoted, our event slogan. {Burnett letter below} It was prominently displayed on posters all over the walls as well as on flyers and handouts on the tables.

The slogan was, “It is not whether we protect the environment, but how”. I am in hopes that you will attend the July 28th FORUM at the FHHS Hall gym.

Dr. Kenneth Brooks will explain how property owners are better stewards of the land than government planners, and he will tell us better ways to protect the environment.

Education is our primary goal.


Frank Penwell
President of CAPR San Juan
Reader Questions Balance of Panel


I went to a meeting and pot luck last night hosted by the Citizen's Alliance for Property Rights. The panel was supposed to be a balanced dialog discussing the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) impact on property owners. What it turned out to be was a feeling that property owners should be able to do anything they want on their property -- not wanting any regulations or change from the old days when “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” was the slogan.

They also believe that protecting the environment under the CAO current updates would be a financial burden. Members of the panel were from the San Juan Builder’s Association, the San Juan Realtor’s Association, a private land-use attorney and planner, members of the Citizen’s Alliance for Common Sense, the editor and publisher of the Island Guardian and members of the Citizen’s Alliance for Property Rights.

Who wasn’t there on the panel to add to the one-sided dialog: The Orcas, the Eelgrass, the Heron, the Smelt, the Sand Lances, the trees, the water, the Salmon and more. They couldn't stand up for themselves to protect their lives. They weren’t invited. They weren’t considered, even though the Orcas and Salmon are endangered and full of toxins. All the wildlife is affected by what we humans do. We think we’re just building a house with a great view.

Things have changed here in the San Juans. We have grown to 16,000 residents; and over 200,000 visitors flock to our islands annually. We have created a great impact on ourselves and that is why we have laws to govern how we can be responsible stewards of our islands. The CAO isn’t perfect but at least it addresses the changes that are needed to protect our property which includes our environment. We can’t separate the two. Let’s work together to create something we can all be proud of.

Vivien Burnett
San Juan Island

(Guardian response: The Editor of The Island Guardian was not a member of the panel, but only asked by the Citizen's Alliance for Property Rights to serve as a moderator for the panel, and to manage questions from the floor. Also, the SJ Realtors’ Association was not represented.

As for a balanced dialog, a statement was made at the beginning of the meeting that this was to be a balance to the views expressed by County staff in their past presentations, and was a panel representing the views of “the other side” of the story on what the CAO process was about, and what the possible impacts on property owners would be -Editor.

Bad Stuff Happening Here


I spent a career in Alaska, watching clear-cuts take place. And sitting in lectures in which “biologists” told us that clear-cuts were GOOD for deer. Yeah. With slash 8 feet deep, hillsides eroding into the streams in the rain, and drying up when it was sunny.

Unhappily, similar things are happening around here. Not as bad as clear-cuts, or maybe they are as bad, everything considered. The County Council is allowing docks to punch right through eel grass beds, allowing sea walls to be built to protect LAWNS. These things directly impact rearing areas for salmon, crab, and other things we want. Ironically, we are spending millions of dollars to bring back salmon, while at the same time, allowing special interest groups to do things that help destroy those same salmon, crabs, etc.

And now, the kerfluffle about the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO). Let’s focus on shorelines. There is a huge turn out of special interests to stop logical protection of shorelines. If the natural vegetation (lawn does not do the job!) is taken out, the shoreline is much less stable. If the shoreline erodes, spawning beaches (for fish that are salmon food) are damaged. If there is not a buffer, things in the stormwater can reach marine waters.

And remember, I have been fighting to keep my marine creatures alive in the Spring Street Aquarium for more than a year. Thanks to the town, things are better, but not fixed. Why is the aquarium still getting toxic water from Friday Harbor? Because Spring Street storm water has no natural filtration and processing of roots, soil microbes, and oxidation. The water runs right from your car drippings, Aunt Mable’s rose spray, Joe’s weed-and-feed, into the harbor. Where (since it’s toxic) it kills marine animals.

I recently read a good article on Minnesota. Why they elect these bizarre politicians (like the wrestler, and now the comedian). It turns out that Minnesotans pay attention. When the politicians stop doing their job, the Minnesotans get some one in there to shake things up. And it works. Don’t get me wrong. I am not running for office. But I would like to ask the question: Why do these special interests have so much power? The shoreline belongs to us!

To me it would seem reasonable that we would protect our natural resources. I never hear the special interests argue on merit. That is: “We don’t need erosion protection.” The best scientists in the University, the County, the State, the US government, are all telling us how to keep banks stable, so that our marine ecosystem can not just be healthy, but recover.

If you live here, if you fish, if you crab, if you like to walk on the beach and see a healthy shoreline, please participate in the CAO discussion. Support the recommendations of the people that study this stuff for a living. For example, 100’ (150’ would be better) set-back from the shore to allow stabilization, and ground water processing.

Mike Kaill
Friday Harbor
Reader Responds To Slocomb Letter (3rd letter below -Ed)

To the Editor:

It seems like the 7.7 million could be used to compensate property owners who have property that you and your "friends" want to take from them.

Activist government employees should stop trying to bribe us into giving up our local control with grants. Instead government should pay for what they take. It's the law. It is also fair. I'm not sure that stealing our property is going to work this time.

Gordy Petersen
San Juan Island
Letter To Citizens Of SJC
Dear Citizens,

It is clear that some people are trying to pit property rights concerns against critters and the environment. Nothing could be further from the truth. With a little education on the subject, one can quickly learn the debate centers around, “How to best protect the environment”, “How to follow constitutional law”, and “How to be fair to our neighbors”.

At a recent picnic in Port Townsend, scientists and environmentalists, such as Dr. Kenneth Brooks, one of the authors of the “Precautionary Principle” and “No Net Loss” said that there are better ways to protect the environment than by setting arbitrary buffers.

There is a lot of misinformation regarding property rights concerns and the environment. The sky is not falling. Carlson from KOMO News recently reported: Despite the increase in the number of people, business and public consumption; EPA reports have been recording improvements in air and water quality year after year all over the United Sates.

This draft CAO Ordinance:
1.) Takes away the use of property from owners, without providing compensation or any proof of how it would help our environment.
2.) Will make many properties non conforming or unusable for the owners.
3.) Has overbearing regulations that do not account for human health or safety protections.
4.) Will make it impossible for the average person to remodel or rebuild.
5.) Is being done in a covert manner, because owners are not being told the details of why, or how, this CAO will burden their particular piece of property.

I know of one person whose home now falls in a buffer zone in King County. He now is not allowed to mow his lawn despite the fact that it creates a fire and rodent hazard. The “Reasonable Use” clause in the CAO document is meaningless. I can introduce you to people who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to obtain “Reasonable Use.”

The studies required, rejections from Planning Departments, and other unknowns usually make building a home economically impossible for the average person. No net loss, to some planners, means no new buildings or people. If you want to hear some real horror stories, google “Behind the Green Curtain”.

If you want to help the environment in effective ways, if you want the average person to be able to afford and enjoy property ownership, if you want to prevent government theft from your neighbors, then join us at the Grange Hall on July 7th, and at the Hall Gym July 28th. CAPR San Juan is a 501 c 3 organization, and it is non partisan.

Frank M. Penwell
San Juan Island
Open Letter To Council
Hon. Council Members:

In the debate regarding the Critical Areas Ordinance and it's practical effect on the county I feel that there is a factor that is being overlooked. The Salmon Recovery Program through the Lead Entity and MRC is bringing app. 1.4 million dollars into the county this year. This program has been bringing to the county substantial sums of money for almost 10 years now, over $7.7 million since 2001. This is project money that winds up as employment for local contractors and service providers. In other words it goes directly into the local economy at the street level.

The central tenants of the approved local Salmon Recovery Plan are protection of salmon habitat and restoration of damaged habitat. The Best Available Science principle guides both salmon recovery and county planning for the CAO and soon the SMP.

If the County Council encourages and adopts a CAO (and SMP) that are not clearly within State guidelines and do not bring us into GMA compliance by meeting at least the minimum state standards it well become clear to the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Puget Sound regional salmon recovery organization that our central tenant of protection of habitat is in fact a smoke screen. This begs the question of why we would bother to restore habitat if that restoration is not going to be protected. Given that scenario it seems quite likely that the money that has been flowing into the county through salmon recovery would dry up.

Considering that the county is not eligible for a substantial volume of grants and loans due to it's lack of compliance do you really want to cut off yet another substantial source of funds?

Jim Slocomb
San Juan Island
Supports Proposed Changes
To the Editor:

The San Juan Islands are undeniably a beautiful and desirable place to visit, and for those of us fortunate enough to live here an environment that nourishes both solitude and community.

Most of us have several reasons why we chose to live and work here. Likely among them are the scenic qualities, the recreational opportunities, the proximity of wildlife, and the feeling of belonging in a special place. Along with these benefits should come responsibilities such as being good stewards of what we presently have and to preserve as much as possible for those who come after us.

We, the citizens of San Juan County, will determine what these islands will look like in the future. The County has recently been holding public hearings to discuss the proposed Critical Areas Ordinance. I notice that some of us feel that the regulations are an infringement on the right to develop our property in the manner that we wish. This is understandable in a culture that values financial success and even excess.

However, I suggest that we take a larger view. Think about the values that brought us here. If we value salmon or orca, then perhaps we should not place a bulkhead on a forage fish spawning beach, or place a dock over eelgrass, or allow toxic chemicals or bioactive hormone mimics into our waters.

The less we interfere with the natural processes and the web of marine life, the more likely we all will be able to enjoy those values that called us here and be able to pass on a healthy functioning environment.

It all comes down to what you value. People protect what they love. The proposed CAO is a reasonable effort and our best opportunity to protect this precious place we call home.

San Olson
Lopez Island
Fair Play
To the Editor:

This letter is in response to county comments on the Critical Areas Ordinance and reasonable use of “buildable lots”. The county published that there are:
50 shoreline lots of less than 1 acre possibly affected by shoreline setbacks or geological hazards
25 possibly affected by a stream buffer
80 possibly affected by a wetland buffer

How many of these undeveloped parcels are actually legally created building lots and not just recreational lots or tax parcels adjusted by Boundary Line Modifications?

San Juan County unlike all other counties allows property owners to adjust lot sizes by Boundary Line Modification and create by lot averaging substandard parcels that would not be building lots in any other county.

The existence of a tax lot (parcel) does not mean it is a legal lot.
There is a difference between legal lots and tax lots or parcels created by the assessors’ office. A tax lot is created solely for the purpose of property tax collection.

RCW 84.56.340 requires anyone requesting a separate tax parcel # be given one. A legal lot is created for the purpose of sale and is subject to county codes and state laws governing lot segregation.

Legal lots can include recreational lots that have been exempted from county subdivision codes but they are not building lots. The courts have ruled in St Clair v Skagit County 43 Wn App 122 that recreational use is reasonable use.

This county does not:
Determine how a lot was created
Does nothing to prevent a proliferation of innocent purchasers and Continues as ( recently as last month) to allow the creation of nonconforming lots through BLM .

How many of these lots could be eliminated by requiring that substandard lots in contiguous ownership be combined for building purposes as all other 38 counties and the smallest of municipalities in this state require?

RCW 58.17 regulating subdivision of land as a public interest was enacted in 1969.

RCW 90.58 the shoreline management act identified San Juan County as shorelines of Statewide Significance needing increase coordination in their management and development necessary for protection. It was adopted in 1971.

RCW 36.70A the Growth Management Act was enacted in 1991 to prevent urban sprawl in rural areas.

Some of us have had a lifetime of increasingly restrictive land use laws that we have had to abide by. Most of us accept rules that are justly applied. It is wrong for the county to write ordinances to further allow special privileges to be granted by the director. Procedures should be established to define what a legal building lot is. Existing county code should be followed. To allow ever more development on ever more nonconforming lots is completely destructive to county and state zoning objectives.

These actions would further violate state laws and plays the fool to all those many citizens and organizations that are wasting their time and money thinking they are saving these beautiful islands and playing on an even playing field.

Lori Gutschmidt
Eastsound, WA 98245
Hendrickson Needs To Follow The Law
To the Editor:

I have served as one of nine appointed members of the GMA Critical Area Ordinance (CAO) review committee for two years. A polarizing and contentious issue during this entire process has been whether the committee should address the shorelines.

Critical Areas are regulated under the Growth Management Act (GMA) but shorelines are regulated under a completely different state law -the Shorelines Management Act (SMA). It is illegal to regulate the shorelines through GMA.

The State Supreme Court issued the Futurewise Anacortes decision in August 2008 which confirmed that it is illegal to regulate the shorelines under GMA. That’s why we were astounded in early May 2009 when we learned that the Director planned to release (without committee review or approval) his own draft of GMA amendments to the shoreline code.

The draft includes drastic changes to the shoreline code, including 100’ setbacks for all structures and landscaping. The advertisement run by San Juan Count the heading of “Puget Sound Partnership” is misleading. The ad suggests that the county is required to adopt new stringent shoreline rules at this time. That is simply not true.

In fact that statement contravenes the advice given to the County Council by the County Prosecutor, who said in a May 15 letter: “an amendment to the critical areas regulations in the SMP at this time is voluntary and not required.”

San Juan County will be updating its shoreline regulations in due course. That process deserves the attention and time necessary for a comprehensive update. New shoreline setbacks and regulations at this time are inappropriate, and will cause nothing but chaos.

We must not allow this to happen.

Stephanie Johnson O’Day
San Juan Island

(O’Day is a member of the CAO Review Committee, and a former SJC Freeholder. )

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