Odlin Park illustrates several things. For instance, it is one more example of how the County, once it has made up its mind, will not reverse course no matter what the revised price tag or data say. Think solid waste. The same appears to be happening on the CAO/SMP. Every local project here seems to be a reprise of WPPSS in microcosm. Reminiscent of a Custer decision in Little Big Man, projects aren't re-thought even when projections don't pan out, even if disaster is at hand. The County seems to have a collective ego about its own decisions that prevents it from ever re-evaluating or reversing decisions, much less learn from past mistakes.
But the main point I want to emphasize is that the Odlin Park fiasco illustrates that the County may not be immune to the costs of its own stricter regulations. After the contemplated CAO/SMP revisions go into effect, everything the County does, or will do, will probably cost more. Even in the unlikely event that the oft-talked-about phantom "millions in lost grants and loans" materialize, it may be eaten up by correspondingly higher costs for mitigation and for enforcement. And the stricter regulations are likely to erode the tax base, so the "millions in grants and loans" will likely have to make up for increased costs as well as decreased revenue from other sources, such as taxes.
Odlin is just one example foreshadowing our CAO's Wile E. Coyote relationship with money. We are told we cannot take into account the cost impact of the CAOs on property owners. Yet, the same people who make that declaration chase State money purportedly linked to the CAOs. We can't consider economics, but we have to ram these requirements through because of economics. That only makes sense if, paraphrasing the old Mad Magazine Lone Ranger joke, it depends what you mean by "we" kemosabe. We (property owners) will bear the cost of the CAOs so "we" (the County government) can get millions in grants and loans. Sweet, if you're the government ... or is it?
On average, the governments of rural communities already rely more heavily on State funding than urban communities. Whereas State funding in King County may make up less than 10% of the County budget, in rural communities like San Juan County, State funding can comprise 20% or more (sometimes much more) of the County budget. One way to interpret such data is to say that the size of government in rural communities is much more out of whack with the tax base than in urban communities. There is a bigger tax-base funding gap to close. An overly restrictive CAO/SMP won't improve the situation. By shrinking the tax base while adding costs, it increases the tax-base gap and our relative dependence on State funding. This creates a feedback loop which just makes us even more fiscally susceptible to State policy pressure about the CAO/SMP (or other matters). I have a suspicion that buffer widths vary across communities according to the State's ability to apply fiscal pressure rather than environmental risk. A community's adopted buffers probably have more to do with fiscal leverage than functions and values.
In the end, rural overreaction on the CAOs and SMP leaves us economically vulnerable and is likely to cause implementation of those ordinances to be economically unsustainable. In high school economics we should have learned that the classic factors of production are land, labor, and capital. The CAO/SMP undercuts those factors of production, especially the use of rural land. With further restrictions, we will accelerate our current trend of an increasingly less diverse economy and a government that must either shrink accordingly or be further subsidized from outside. And, no, tourism (not even eco-tourism) will be enough to pull us out of our decline.
The situation at Odlin Park is a harbinger of hard times to come, unless you think we can get grants to cover every cost overrun. Like the planners at WPPSS who projected electricity demand to double every 10 years, we're contemplating outlandishly expensive measures designed for projections that are likely never to occur, except in the minds of our community Custers. The real community massacre won't run its course until after adoption of the revised CAO/SMP, when eventually there won't be nothing left of our community but a greasy spot.