The Costs of Confusion | Letter to the editor

Confusing and often conflicting development codes and other county regulations have serious impacts on the lives and livelihoods of our fellow islanders.

The on-going struggles of the Jones family of Lopez Island are the latest consequence of the muddled state of our county government. Confused permitting lasting over several years for the “Craftsman Corner” development on Orcas Island prompted me to send the following email to County Councilor Rich Peterson on March 2, 2011:

“San Juan County should adopt an efficient, consistent and transparent system for planning and development similar to the City of Boise’s Online Planning and Development Services.”

A builder friend has worked with both systems. He praises Boise’s system, but is highly critical of the San Juan County system.

I have heard similar complaints from other people developing land or just adding a garage in San Juan County. For a given question or issue, different answers are received from different CDPD employees and even from the same employee at different times. In Boise, all the CDPD employees are in the same room. They all work from the same computer file for a given project. Conflicting instructions can be resolved quickly. The permits, project progress, and approvals are available to anyone via the city website. See the attached example.”

The status of any ongoing project is available at the following link:

Our community depends on builders, farmers, and other hard working people who are trying to do the right thing, but are often stymied by inconsistent or confusing regulations. Please urge your County Councilor to reform our current system so that it is efficient, consistent, transparent, and fair. I very much hope that the Jones’ family farm stand will not need to close.


Janet Alderton

Orcas Island