The most Important step to take right now

March 17, 2021 by stephenshubert

The future of the islands will be decided by a “build-out Analysis” or what is the carrying capacity of the islands in terms of the number of people the environment can support, including water, sewage, and aesthetics. Residents of the islands have the greatest stake in what development patterns are allowed. Past attempts to get this analysis completed have failed for the past 30 years. A new County Council is going to take up the issue shortly. Your input is vital!

As of last year, our population was 17,340.  Our population easily doubles in the summer.  If build-out could reach 70,000, we are looking at possibly 140,000 people here in the summer.  If we are to plan intelligently for the future, we need to know what our county will look like when the build-out population is reached, which is why we need a BOA completed.  If the impacts found from the BOA violate our Vision Statement, we must change our regulations to honor the Vision Statement.

How many people can live in our county while still being true to the Vision Statement?  We don’t know, as a BOA has never been done.  The BOA would include an impact analysis  focused on themes from the official Vision Statement including the environment, transportation, housing, sense of community cohesiveness and the fiscal implications of new development on government services.  [For every new residence bringing in $1 in tax revenue, the county spends $1.32; in other words, growth does not pay for itself.]  And how about water?  How many people can our available water resources support without expensive desalination and water hauling?  Hopefully a water inventory will be done shortly, as Senator Lovelett is sponsoring funding for this in the state senate. 

The county needs to know that its residents support the Vision Statement, that we want our county to remain a quiet, rural, environmentally sustainable community.  Please show your support for the docket request by writing to ask for the completion of a Build-Out Analysis.  The more emails sent, the more support our county government understands there is for this effort.  Our county staff is well-equipped to complete this task, and I can’t think of anything more important for them to be working on.  Here are the bodies and people to write to:

San Juan County Council – council@sanjuanco.com
Planning Commission c/o their secretary Lynda Guernsey – lyndag@sanjuanco.com
Department of Community Development c/o director Erica Shook – EricaS@sanjuanco.com

Here is a sample letter that you can copy or adapt as you see fit:

I am a resident of ____________ Island, and I care about the future of our county.  We are a group of islands, and therefore have limited capacity for growth.  Our resources are limited, and our county can’t sustain our current quality of life if our population grows to more than a certain number.  What is that number?  We don’t know, as the county has not prepared a build-out analysis (BOA to study the effect of population growth on our resources and quality of life.

Joe Symons has submitted a docket request that asks the county to do this study.  In order to plan intelligently for the future and maintain the wondrous place that is our county, please approve his request and set the county staff in motion.  The BOA would include an impact analysis  focused on themes from the official Vision Statement including the environment, transportation, housing, sense of community cohesiveness and the fiscal implications of new development on government services.  While water is one of the most important elements, I understand there is an excellent chance that the state and USGS will be taking care of doing a water inventory.  

Thank you.

Background: A small group of people has been working for 30 years to preserve the quality of life we enjoy here in the San Juan Islands.  Participants have come and gone, but the one constant throughout this whole period has been Joe Symons.  Joe and a few others spent the 1990’s working to try to get the county to bring the Comprehensive Plan (CP) into compliance with the Growth Management Act (GMA).  Joe and friends eventually won in court, but nothing of substance was done to address the violations.  (You can read about this at http://www.doebay.net/appeal.html.)  Next Joe submitted a formal docket request to the Planning Commission (PC) in 2001 asking for a truth in planning document, basically a version of the Comprehensive Plan in layman’s terms.  The PC reviewed the request and unanimously voted that it should be done and be given the highest priority of county government.  Unfortunately, this request was ignored by the County Council (CC), and there has been no further action taken in the last 20 years.  Joe renewed his request in 2018 and 2019, but both applications were rejected by the CC.  We now have a new council, and Joe is renewing his request once again including a request for a Build-Out Analysis (BOA).

If you would like to look at Joe’s docket request to read more detail about his BOA request, go to  doebay.net/sunshine/Docketsubmission2021.pdf.  Two other good links where you can explore the context of the big issues involved can be found at http://www.doebay.net/appeal.html and at doebay.net/bigpicture.pdf.  In addition, http://doebay.net/appeal/pathlessibook.pdf is a site where you can find related essays.

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