January 30, 2012
To the Editor:
As I read the 51 pages of the Community Development and Planning staff report and proposed CAO ordinance general regulations the other night I broke out in a cold sweat trying to wrap my mind around the complexity of these regulations and restrictions. I am no slouch when it comes to critical analysis and unraveling complex issues, but I have trouble finding the time to keep up with these proposed regulations, much less predicting the impact they will have on our community. San Juan County already has extensive development regulations to protect critical areas and my greatest fear if these additional restrictions are enacted is the Law of Unintended Consequences. For example, our county has done a fine job of supporting and encouraging the development of local farms so that we all have access to fresh, safe foods grown in a sustainable manner that preserves the integrity of our land. I know something about this because my husband and I own and operate a small farm on San Juan Island.
Yet, if these onerous regulations are adopted by our County Council, farmers may not be able to clear dead trees and debris so that crops can be planted. Orchards may not be allowed. Local farmers may not be able to stay in business. I doubt that is the intent, but that could be the outcome.
The Voluntary Stewardship program is a nod toward addressing the particular issue of agricultural land, but if you read the background documents they are vague, undefined and strike me as an additional layer of oversight at a cost to taxpayers (us) and farmers. In any case, farm land is just one example of what could go wrong with these good intentions.
I don’t think the County Council has considered or can predict the impact these added restrictions will have on the viability of our community. So beware the Law of Unintended Consequences, and if you think these changes won’t affect you because you don’t have a waterfront home… think again. Pay attention to what is being proposed and let your voice be heard.
San Juan Island