As a concerned citizen and property owner in San Juan County, this CAO has been driving me nuts. As I think about it and observe the document coming to completion, I am left with a few thought. Let me state out right that I oppose this ordinance for a number of reasons, mostly because the Best Available Science is so subjective and no one has been able to definitively show that there really is a problem! The Growth Management Act states the CAO should be updated if there is a need or problem.
This document is full of too many "could be", "maybe", "most likely", "probably", and assumptions that if this, this, and this is present most likely this will happen (I might add that there is no "base" science data for wetlands for example, to compare to when specifically talking about the San Juan Islands. It blows my mind that the wetlands from maps in 1993 have increased when we compare the maps of 2010. Do they multiply?) That is like saying everyone should where a protective helmet all the time because you "may" get hit with a baseball. Or everyone should have hard rubber tires because you "probably" will run over a nail at some time and get a flat.
Sounds ridiculous doesn't it. The real question should be why did we opt into this in the first place when there was no problem? I wasn’t around when this was passed but I can guess that the County Council who voted for this were environmental "greenies" who would rather save a tree or frog and stifle growth, then to think about the socioeconomic and property rights of human beings. Last time I read the Constitution I don't remember life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for plants and animals. There is a solution to this but it is not the current intrusive CAO.
The Planning Commission has tried to do a good job. Some of the members are critical thinkers while others are witless and think they are doing the right thing. In the end they have to take responsibility for their actions. That takes us to the County Council who appoint the Planners. The Council seeks the advice of the Planners when making their decision on issues such as the CAO.
This ordinance, as I see it, is a politico-scientific grab for power and control. The Planners are trying to do what they were told, knowing that there really is little accountability on their part. The County Council members are accountable and being that no one on the Council has the intestinal fortitude to buck the system, we the people have only one option, recall. It is sad when money in the form of grants is at the root of all of this. No CAO, no grants, no money.
That leads us to the head of the snake. This ordinance stinks of the Department of Ecology. Past history of this bureaucracy speaks for itself and this is just another example of control and loss of property rights. Add to this the environmental special interest groups and you have a double edged sword. In the end it is a joke that the law requires public input to the Planning Commission and County Council.
The Council is going to pass this ordinance no matter how much input there is from the people. They can listen and sure make some token changes to appease us, but no one will stand up and do the right thing and say this is not fair and really is burdensome, stifles growth and affects the economy of the County, not to mention, violation of the rights of property owners. Unfortunately, the need for money is too great.
I wonder what the judicial actions will look like in the near future?
Dr. Kenneth R. Sinibaldi
Editor's Note: Counties must foot the bill for the state-mandated update to the Critical Areas Ordinance. The state Department of Ecology does provide funding for the required update to the Shoreline Master Plan.