Thursday, April 26, 2012

Is This Helpful?

Did you hear that the Council has decided to evaluate the proposed cell phone ordinance's effect on property values? No such luck with the CAOs. According to one Council member:

My reason for supporting language in the wireless ordinance regarding impacts to property values is because it is my understanding that it is appropriate for aesthetics to be considered when drafting local wireless regulations. It is also my understanding that aesthetics and/or property values are not an appropriate consideration in the CAO update process.

I hope this is helpful.

What do you think readers?  Is this helpful?

Regardless, have a look at a recent letter from one of our fellow islanders. Our citizenry continues to speak out, and the question remains whether anyone is listening.

An Open Letter to the San Juan County Council

Re: Critical Area Ordinance (CAO) and Shoreline Master Plan (SMP) Revision For months, we have been subjected to the charade of the CAO and SMP update process. We were promised that the Best Available Science (BAS) would be used to justify changes in regulations but in reality the science that is being used is nothing but a smoke-screen for an agenda being furthered by certain elements in the County with the encouragement of the Department of Ecology (DOE) and the so-called "Friends" of
the San Juans (FSJ). This ''Troika's'' starting premise is clear but officially unstated. They believe the regulations on property owners need to be radically tightened and future development further restricted . The problem is that they have not provided ANY facts that substantiate that the existing development standards and regulations are ineffective in protecting the environment from REAL, SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE.

It was apparent from the outset of the CAO and SMP update process that the County and the rest of the Troika wanted to increase the "setback" or "buffer" along the waterfront. The Troika wants us to believe that all residential development adjacent to the waterfront causes REAL, SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE to the environment. If the County continues on its current path many existing waterfront homes will end up as "non-conforming" structu res when the County increases the setback. The BAS contained in the reports provides no factual evidence of any REAL, SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE to the environment created by the construction and occupancy of residences constructed consistent with current or relatively recent regulations.

In reality, each and every one of us "impacts" the environment every day. We breathe, drink water, eat, flush the toilet, and so on. Are these actions causing any REAL, SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE to the environment? No! They produce an acceptable and minimal impact on the environment! In the overall context of life and the ecosystem we live in, a properly built residence constructed and used under the current regulations with the existing setbacks/buffers also produces an acceptable and minimal impact on the environment. Yes there are occasional actions by some individuals which do not follow the existing guidelines and these individuals need to be dealt with, but the existing regulations do work!

In a way, the Troika of the County, DOE and FSJ are intent on transforming San Juan County into a giant petri dish. This is a county-wide laboratory experiment that will be at OUR expense. There has not been any publicly disclosed Cost - Benefit Analysis undertaken by the County to demonstrate the real cost impact and supposed environmental benefits of these new regulations. It is only logical that any proposed regulations should include a Cost-Benefit Analysis to see how much the environment will gain by their imposition. With no real data documenting REAL, SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE caused by following the current regulations, the County therefore cannot describe any tangible benefit that will result from their new, more onerous regulations.

That leaves us with the incredible looming cost to everyone who lives in San Juan County. These costs will include more County staff to administer and enforce the processes and regulations, litigation costs that the County will be exposed to as property owners contest the loss of property use, costs to landowners to pay for offisland consultants to defend their routine development and property management actions, construction jobs lost, etc. Perhaps more onerous, it will make building or renovating homes or businesses in the San Juans substantially more expensive than at present which will result in the San Juans becoming more of an elitist and moneyed community. The "Friends" are probably ok with that shift as are the DOE but the County doesn't even seem to have considered the impact of the direction in which they are heading.

Look around you. San Juan County is a beautiful place. It is that way because the current regulations are effective and the vast majority of the residents care for environment they live in. Yes there are occasional violators of the current regulations and they need to be dealt with, but you do not need to impose draconian regulations that have no real justification nor tangible benefits to offset the cost burden on virtually all property owners.

Washington State law does not require the County to change the existing standards. Washington State law only requires that the County review the existing CAO and SMP regulations. If you look around it is clear that overall the existing standards are working and at most, require only some minor adjustments, not arbitrary and unjustified draconian changes.

Don Webster
Orcas Island


  1. Lovel is sort of a tragic figure these days, it's likely the Brickworks affair will come back to haunt her if she runs again. To try and understand where she is coming from (not easy) its important to remember she ain't from around these parts.

    She is an east-coast transplant from an old-money New England political family who married into an old money San Juan Island political family.

    She doesn't really have a feel for our rural character. She doesn't have much in the way of real-world work experience to guide her judgment.

    She is trying to live and realize and take us all inside some kind of fantasy world, a utopian vision of the future that she believes will only appear through some kind of authoritarian dictate.

    The Gaia Hypothesis scientist Dr. James Lovelock has great appeal for Lovel and her Friends. A few years ago, Lovelock publicly suggested that it might be necessary to put "democracy on hold for awhile" in order to sort out the very real environmental challenges we all face.

    Lovel and Lovelock. And there you have it. Lovel is basically living in a fantasy world earnestly working for a utopian vision that can only be realized (in her mind) if we put democracy on hold for awhile.

    Kind of scary when you think about it, that a mind like that got elected here. Hopefully there will be change.

  2. When it becomes obvious that the CAO is completely unworkable in practice, will we be able to change it, pr is it one of these laws that can only be modified once a year, or even longer?

  3. State law requires the CAO to be reviewed and if necessary revised on a periodic basis. Right now we are about 6 years overdue on the last round, so the state is leaning on us to get this done. That said, whatever we wind up enacting on this round, the whole thing is up for review/update again in just a few years.

  4. I thought the CAO had to reviewed every 7 years? If that is right, then we have to start all over next year. No reason why a county of 16,000 shouldn't employ three or four full-time "planners," right? Especially given the intense development that goes on everywhere in the County. The freeways, bridges, factories, smelters, etc.

  5. Let's be very clear here: the COunty has always had the choice to make minimum changes to the CAO. There is nothing wrong with our current rules. Instead, our planners decided to make us the most heavily-regulated county in the state. Being True Believers, they actually try to outdo Ecology in coming up with needlessly oppressive regulations. And stay fully employed for years. But they haven't kept track of what it costs, and what it will cost us.

  6. Thanks I wasn't quite sure about that time table, but that would put us up to starting all over again next year.

    Part of this article provides some insight into Lovel Pratt. Let's go there. She is kind of tragic well meaning figure and I fear the firestorm she kicked up over the Brickworks will come back to haunt her if she runs, the conflict of interest situation she created for herself is a fundamental indicator of character and lack of good judgment.

    Lovel ain't from around these parts. She is a well bred east-coast patrician from an old-money New England political family, who married into an old money San Juan Island political family. Her employment record is a little thin and she lacks any fundamental work or business experience to rely on for practical judgment and it shows.

    New England political traditions, especially about land use don't fit well out here and Lovel does not have an intuitive grasp of our rural character here. A look at American history will show that a number of western states, Washington in particular that came into the Union after the Civil War were extremely distrustful of the federal government, Wall Street, and east coast corruption. That's why we have a very strong State Constitution that provides stronger protections for basic civil liberties and property rights than even the U.S. Constitution does. I don't think Lovel really has much grasp for these historical facts and how that has shaped our culture here.

    Lovel lives in a sort of dream world, a Utopian fantasy of the future where she wants us all to live and the only way we'll get there is if we do what is best for us, in other words, if we do what we are told. Because, again as history shows, the tragedy of too many Utopian visions is that can only be pursued through authoritarian means that all too often take on the behavior of cults.

    Lovel and her Friends greatly admire the famous Gaia Hypothesis Dr. James Lovelock who famously remarked a few years ago that the only way for society to meet the crucial environmental challenges of the future is to "put democracy on hold, for awhile."

    Lovel as Lovelock. And there you have it. An out of touch eco-utopian dreamer in a little position of power who is very sure that she knows best for you. She is a character right out Harry Potter. Can you guess which one? It is a little scary that fiercely independent islanders could be gulled into voting someone like this into office. But that Utopian fantasy sure looked nice and shiny on the show room floor. We just had no idea how much it would cost and what we were being coerced into giving up. I really hope an important lesson has been learned and that change is in the air.

  7. This blog is outstanding!

    Help me understand something. I've attended many of the meetings and hearings, and watched the videos.

    With the exception of Rich Peterson, the other 5 council members act as if they were paid staff of the "Friends".
    Can they really all be that ideologically warped, or assume that somehow the people are just going to swallow this ordinance and be good little enviro-drones?

  8. Please do not refer to Lovel as "LOVEL THE HUTT".

    It would be insulting to Star Wars Fans everywhere.

  9. From "reading the tea leaves" and some serious conversations, it sort of falls out that they see themselves as independent thinkers working for the public good as they understand it. They really do. So, why, to the outside observer such as yourself and so many others, do we just see a sort of monotone group-think a go-along-to-get-along "consensus" behavior that just looks programmed. It is a disconnect. And a real negative. One thing that would really help would be if they would just individually go public and describe their philosophy, how they read the legislation so far and if they were to vote today, how would they vote? They have had plenty of time, not only in office but for heaven sake, the County has taken six years!

  10. Oh well if we are in the mood for political cartoon imagery a few come to mind: Lava Lamp Lovel. Lovel as the head of Zardoz floating over the land. Easter Island Head.

    There is something about that glacially grim determination that can hear hardly anything from the real world ...

  11. Well, the whole "friendly fascism" of the CAO has turned me into a "jihadist". Every Friday, when I drive by the Courthouse, I swear I'm gonna paint me a "hey, hey, ho, ho, CAO has gotta go" sign and mix in with the Occupodistas!
    Dust off my copy of "Rules for Passivists" and see how to bring down the man! Cover myself with pesticide, and video a "suicide plunge" into a wetland, with the promise of more to come if they don't fix the CAO, pay a ransom, provide a getaway helicopter, and delete the letter "M" from the alphabet!

  12. Personal attacks and denigrations? Yea right. They have our hands strapped together. They've got us lubed up and bent over. Now they're complaining they forgot to put a sock in our mouths.

  13. That's right. The reasonable use exception basically means you can have a second bowl of gruel if you beg properly.