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Tuesday, February 28th

Increase Sales Tax To Pay For Housing

To the Editor:

The proposed real estate excise tax to fund affordable housing is a bad tax to help fund a noble objective. The issue of affordable housing is a county wide issue, and to expect to fund it on the backs of a very few is just plain wrong.

A far more wide ranging funding idea would be to increase the sales tax by 1/2% for a finite period of time, say 5 to 7 years This is a tax burden that would be borne by all the residents of the county; as it should be for such an important social issue.

The second biggest impediment, after the down payment, for a purchaser of average means in this county, is the 1% land bank tax. Now the CC is saying in order to assist those who qualify for affordable housing, they want to raise the excise tax burden by 1/2%. It really makes sense to make it harder to purchase a home for those people you are trying to help. Not! A far better ballot measure would be one to bring an end to the land bank. This is an entity that has served its purpose and needs to be put to rest.

By eliminating this governmental department, you will reduce the hard cash needs of the average home buyer by $2,500 to $3,000. A reduction in permitting fees for affordable housing construction could also reduce the costs of those dwellings by several thousands of dollars.

In May, vote no on this poorly though out tax, and then urge your CC representative to look at, and adopt ideas that will truly make affordable housing possible in San Juan County.

John Bird
Friday Harbor


Monday, February 27th

Reader Appreciates The Balance of Opinions

To the Editor:

It's very remarkable that anyone can find on the Island Guardian website a balance of opinions and facts about the Friends of the San Juansopinions and facts both positive and negative. The same cannot be said for our other local news choices, print and otherwise.

I think I'll pass on Lynn Bahrych's supercilious suggestion to applaud the Friend's "sensible path" of "respectful conversation and honest debate", and instead applaud the Guardian for providing generously, and without puffed-up fanfare, the "open and respectful communication" that Lynn Bahrych and her Friends claim to offer.

What, me worry?

Scott Bell
(the loud one)
Friday Harbor


Friday, February 24th

Response to Friends of the San Juans Newsletter

To the Editor:

Fighting Desirable Development ?

In response to the FRIENDS Winter 2006 mailer, specifically page 8 "news updates" regarding Protecting the False Bay Preserve', it should be noted that the development of an eight home subdivision as presented gives an impression not truly accurate.

This development, which is located across the road from False Bay on 39 acres, has answered for eight months what can only be described as harassment by some of the adjoining neighbors, and as their representative, the FRIENDS. Firstly, this 39 acre parcel is zoned R-5 and close to a third of the parcel has been left in existing meadows as a common area, the only addition being a acre lake added at considerable expense to enhance the property, as well as provide a natural clay based aquifer.

The additional acres of forest have had minimal clearing leaving home sites to be set on 2-6 acres in a park like setting. This is hardly the setting of a typical "subdivision". Not only has this developer kept in mind the integrity of this parcel, but hired a Landscape Architect who graduated from Cornell University. In fact, on Tuesday October 4th the developer invited all the neighbors and the FRIENDS to a presentation by the Landscape Architect at the San Juan Library. One neighbor and one FRIENDS representative attended.

Since that time each and every complaint raised by the FRIENDS & Neighbors has been addressed. These include complaints to State Environmental Agencies, Department of Ecology, University of Washington, Building & Planning Department and the Fire Marshals office. The most recent appeal against the grading and clearing permit, for many of the concerns sited in this article, was found to be without merit by the Hearing Examiner, HE 35-05, (05APL015).

Development is always going to be a sensitive issue, but wouldn't the FRIENDS and residents of the San Juans appreciate a planned community that respects all aspects of our beautiful island, including the wildlife and habitat that make it so special?

Laura Westmiller
Westview Development of San Juan Island, LLC


Visser Should Applaud The Friends

To the Editor:

"Secrecy" is a misleading word to use to describe negotiations intended to settle pending litigation. In Mr. Visser's "Response to Friends," he misstates my comments to him. I explained that settlement negotiations intended to settle pending litigation are always done without news media present. It does not work otherwise. There are federal and state rules of evidence that protect the confidentiality of settlement negotiations. The reason is obvious, as Mr. Visser noted. He said he has negotiated many deals and understands why negotiations are confidential. All of the parties to the pending GMA appeal participated in several days of meditation, including the County, with an excellent mediator selected by our Prosecuting Attorney. The settlement negotiations were noted by the Growth Board, which gave us extra time to reach a settlement. Not only is there nothing wrong with that, but it is also the peaceful path that our judicial system encourages us to take. It's cheaper for the tax payer, too.

I called Mr. Visser in order to inform him of a few facts that he had gotten wrong. He still has one of them wrong: I did not write the vesting ordinance that is now in the public hearing process. It came to me for review along with the other parties to a separate pending lawsuit. The final version that was approved by the County Council did not originate with me or with the Friends of the San Juans. I think it will solve the problem of folks who have reasonably relied on county approval to their detriment, so I support it.

Instead of taking pot shots at the folks who are trying to resolve conflict through negotiations and settlement, Mr. Visser should be applauding this sensible path.

Another purpose of my call to Mr. Visser was to invite open and respectful communication. All of us seem to have the same goal, which is to protect the rural and natural qualities of the place we call Home. I think that respectful conversation and honest debate is the best way to get there.

Lynn Bahrych
Shaw Island, Washington 98286


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