Letters to Editor
To Contact the Editor
Friday, September 19th
Letters On Use Of Right-Of-Way
Watch your Freshwater
To the Editor:
To all the folks who are concerned about the removal of inland water to develop waterfront properties in San Juan County, imagine the worst case scenario, it is happening to our freshwater resources.
There is a company who has applied to the county for a "Franchise" to lay a pipeline in our public right of way in order to pump 14,440 gallons of water per day from Agricultural Resource Lands. If allowed it would be devastating to the environment, water would be mined and piped to develop 100 acres of R-5 parcels on Dolphin Bay Road on Orcas Island, Washington. This just seems impossible. It reminds me of what Mulholland did before removing water from Owens Valley to supply Los Angeles. 150 years of agricultural use hangs in the balance.
Thursday, September 18th
Letter On Crosswalk
---------------------------------------Crosswalk Not Needed
An open letter to the County Council:
I agree with Milene Henley...ANOTHER CROSSWALK IS RIDICULOUS !!!!!! I walk in and out of the Courthouse quite often as a part of my job.
Today, in response to the article regarding the crosswalk , I counted my steps from the existing crosswalk (that is directly in front of Vics Restaurant) to the place in front of the annex building directly across the street from the steps of the courthouse (from the Sheriff's office side of the building). It was exactly 27 steps.
Even allowing for the fact that I take rather long steps, it isn't more than 30 or so steps down to the crosswalk, and the same back up...a grand total of 60 steps! Surely, everyone who needs to make the trek from building to building can manage 60 steps! If safety is the issue, then the council should have considered that before purchasing the annex building and moving county business there.
Losing more parking spaces, to accommodate not walking 60 steps, is crazy.
San Juan Island
Monday, September 15th
Letters On FH UGA Expansion
---------------------------------------Annexation Is Not The Solution
---------------------------------------Homes for Islanders Is Viable!!
The Grey and Osborne Infrastructure Study gave us 52 Million good reasons to look at alternatives to Annexation of additional residential land into the Town Of Friday Harbor.
The Town of Friday Harbor currently has enough residential zoned land to both satisfy the County’s long term affordable housing needs and provide entry level homes for working Islanders. With minimal creativity we can meet the projected housing demands of the Growth Management Act without expanding the Town’s boundaries one inch.
This can be done at a fraction of the $52 Million of infrastructure costs cited in the “San Juan County GMA Infrastructure Feasibility Study”, a study which the County paid $132,000 for.
Under current zoning regulations maximum number of homes which can be built in Friday Harbor is 2,219. In our Town’s first 100 years of history we have produced a total of just under 1,000 residences. This means that only 45% of our existing residential development rights have been used in 100 years.
It is important to remember that these 1,219 un-built development rights do not go away when new residential land is annexed into town. If the Town annexed all the residential land in the expanded UGA area it would add another 1,384 potential housing units to our little Town.
At our 100 year average of 10 units of housing built per year, this would produce enough home sites for a 260 year supply of housing.
Our Town water and sewer systems have a limited capacity. Adding even the 330 new development rights proposed in Phase I of the UGA expansion creates the very real possibility that in the Town will run out water or sewer hookups and existing Town property owners will be unable to build on properties in the future.
Is it right to dump the financial burden of the entire county’s housing needs on a town of 2,000 people?
The San Juan Community Home Trust will tell you that they will pay for the infrastructure on their proposed 15.5 acre building site at the end of Grover Street. This may be true, but what they don’t pay for are the off-site infrastructure costs which arise as a result of their proposed development. They also don’t pay for the Town’s soft costs such as increased costs of Sheriff’s department services, street cleaning, weed abatement, domestic violence prevention etc.
Additionally, once the project is completed the on-site infrastructure which they pay for
becomes the Town’s responsibility to maintain. Is it really wise to take responsibility for more infrastructure maintenance when we can’t afford to maintain what we already have?
Is it right for special interest groups to gain access to town utilities when the current Town water service can’t provide sufficient water pressure to residential lots on University Road?
The current Town water system still lacks sufficient pressure to serve approximately 16 acres of residential land with about 200 un-built multifamily development rights. There is not money in the Town budget for a $1.2M +/- infrastructure project. Repairing existing infrastructure has taken a higher priority. If there is no money to provide proper water service to properties already inside the Town Limits how can there be money available to expand the Town?
Affordable housing is the carrot being dangled before Town Council members to justify the push for unneeded annexation, but the economics make absolutely no sense. Clearly we do not need more land for market rate housing, so the Buck annexation is being done for the sole purpose of creating affordable housing. This is an admirable goal, but the cost is too high.
The proposed annexation of the Buck property accounts for only 23.8% of the land included in the Grey and Osbourne study. Even so, taken as a straight percentage 23.8% of $52M is still $14,560,000 or a whopping $121,333 of infrastructure cost per affordable home being proposed.
Even if you could successfully argue that only one/tenth of the $52 Million of projected infrastructure costs ($5.2 Million) would be caused by the annexation of the Buck property it would still cost the Town $43,333 for each potential affordable home building site being proposed.
For $30,000 per home site the Home Trust could purchase more land than they need. There would then be no need to raise water and sewer hook up fees to pay for costly annexation infrastructure thus keeping it less expensive to build affordable homes in Town.
Several weeks ago I met with Home Trust Director Nancy DeVaux to discuss my concerns about annexation. I suggested that I may be able to come up with a better offer than what they are looking at with the Buck property.
She asked me how they could do better than free land? At that time I told her I was not convinced that their “free” land wouldn’t end up costing more than if they just went out and bought existing property in Town. It appears that this will be the case.
$3 Million could buy improved, ready to build land in Town for 100 affordable homes. Using existing land in Town would minimize a non-profit’s development costs and eliminate the burden on Town residents since existing Town infrastructure could be used. This would also greatly diminish the cost of new affordable housing and could save Town rate payers millions and millions of dollars.
The Home Trust has repeatedly promised that their project would be done at no cost to the public. I am interested to see how they plan to keep this promise.
Fortunately there is another way. If the Town, the County, non-profit housing groups and private sector would work together we can come up with alternative solutions to costly annexation schemes.
There is a more economical and less wasteful approach which we can take. By utilizing existing land and buildings already within the Town’s borders we can meet our housing needs for the next 100 years without further burdening the people who can least afford increased utility costs.
The opportunity to annex land into the Town will continue to be there if we wait until a more appropriate time when additional land is actually needed. There is far too much money to be made by annexing County land into the Town for this opportunity to go away. If you give people an opportunity to increase the value of their land ten fold, they will jump at the chance. Most people would settle for a much lower rate of return.
Rushing into the biggest land use decision in 100 years because a non-profit’s grant may or may not expire is horrible public policy. I urge you to contact your Town Council members and tell them it is time slow down and to look at “Plan B”… or anything other than what the Town is being force fed.
The time for annexation will come, but it is not now. We don’t need it and we can’t afford it.
Annexation is a horrible deal for the people of Friday Harbor.
Let’s come up with a better solution.
The response by Nancy Devaux to Mayor Jones's editorial about the town annexation of land for affordable housing contains an inaccurate statement. The Home Trust is not the only viable option on the table for affordable housing on our island.
Homes for Islanders has helped 16 local families build affordable homes on San Juan, all of which are currently occupied. We are currently helping 9 more families build affordable homes across from the library in Friday Harbor, and another 8 families are nearing the start of construction on Orcas. We plan to continue our mission of providing affordable housing here on the island, including future projects in the town of Friday Harbor.
Homes for Islanders
(The above letter is response to Devaux's letter printed below -Ed)
Thursday, September 11th
Letters On Smoking Ban
---------------------------------------Rules Are As Good As The Enforcement
To the Editor:
If anyone has read my previous letters ( See below -Ed.
) in various papers on the subject they would know that I am all for the ban on smoking in public places.
I watched my mother die a slow and painful death thanks to her smoking and I am still suffering the health consequences of growing up with a chain smoker. That being said, I agree that "Discussion On Smoking Ban Continued"
another ordinance is just a waste of paper and taxpayer money without enforcement. Very little if anything is being done to enforce the current State law so why create another one.
Educate people, have the DOH plaster signs everywhere and give funds to the Sheriff's Department to ENFORCE THE STATE LAW ALREADY ON THE BOOKS!
It comes down to a simple fact that every experienced parent and teacher has learned while dealing with even the youngest child ... "Don't make rules with consequences unless you are willing to enforce them."
---------------------------------------25 Foot Law Not Adequate
To the Editor:
Re: "Tobacco Costs to Employers and Employees"
I don't really see what the point of the 25 foot law is if it is not enforced. If you look at the front door to the grocery store, the pharmacy, the tavern, almost anywhere I see people standing right in front of the door smoking away.
My favorite is the people who set their lit cigarette next to the door while they go in and shop so they can recover it off the ground when they come back out.
25 feet has become a nominal 25 inches at most. I watched my mother die a horrible death, stuck in bed for 10 years thanks to smoking and I sucked in second hand smoke for the first 20 years of my life. If people want to smoke that is their choice - just don't make me or my children have to "enjoy" it with you.
From what I can tell the State leaves it up to local Health Departments to enforce the law. My questions would be how many citations have actually been issued in San Juan County since the law was passed? Has the County Health Department made a concerted effort on all islands to get signs posted about the law in places where violations are frequent - the signs are available from the State website?
Tuesday, September 9th
Open Letter To Council
On behalf of the San Juan Builders Association I am writing to express our concern about the proposal on the agenda of September 9th, to allow changes to the UDC to be introduced for adoption solely at the prerogative of the Director of the Permitting and Planning Department rather than as an annual scheduled update.
By way of background, the UDC is a set of interconnected regulations designed to implement the Comprehensive Plan. They were developed through the extensive work of a citizen committee and adopted after lengthy public hearings. Past Directors have seemed to make the UDC work as intended. It is a bit of a puzzle as to why the current Director is having so much difficulty.
It is hard for citizens to keep track of changes to the rules even when the changes are made once a year. It is also difficult and time consuming for citizens to participate in hearings, especially those from other islands. At least with an annual docket there is enough publicity and opportunity for citizens to be heard. There is also enough time to get the new rules distributed to the libraries and on the web so a person who has a development or proposal can know what is required. Changes made here and there, no matter how worthwhile, will add great confusion to say the least. If I understand the proposed ordinance, new rules would take affect 10 days after passage by the Council. How in the world will citizens know what the changes are?
This is a case where the needs and expectations of the citizens of our county for clear predictable rules should outweigh the Directors apparent need to change rules to fit his particular situation. If, in fact, the department is so befuddled and behind in its work product it would appear that the current staffing level should be more than adequate to get caught up.
San Juan Builders Association