Editorial: Council should discuss Argyle Ave purchases in Friday Harbor not Lopez Village

If San Juan County wasn't a charter county, the council's discussion on April 10, 2018  of the Land Bank's proposed $700,000 purchase of the  Drigg's property on San Juan Island would take place in Friday Harbor rather than Lopez Village. 

Driggs property on the corner of Argyle Avenue and Caines Street in Friday Harbor.

State law limits the items that can be included in a special meeting outside of the county seat. The agenda has to be specifically related to the location. In other words, the agenda for the Tuesday, April 10 meeting on Lopez Island would be limited to items that have to do with Lopez. 

San Juan County is a charter county and has chosen not to follow the limitations on meetings held outside the county seat.  Since the video and live-streaming equipment is installed in the Legislative Hearing Room in Friday Harbor, Tuesday's meeting will not be easily accessible to anyone who doesn't travel to Lopez Island. The county does audio record the meetings and copies can be obtained later in the week. 

Cady Mountain Preserve outlined in green; Lester property in red.

The council will be discussing and acting on the Land Bank's proposed $700,000 purchase of the Drigg's property located on Argyle Avenue and another purchase of a 160-acre property on Cady Mountain.

The Land Bank held a public hearing about the purchases on March 16, 2018 in Friday Harbor. 

The Land Bank's staff report is a bit misleading regarding the Drigg's purchase. It implies that the Land Bank has played a vital role in preserving the historic neighborhood near the Drigg's property. The report states: 

"The Land Bank has endeavored to preserve the Argyle neighborhood since 2002 through purchase of an historic preservation easement and purchase of the lots at the corner of Argyle and Malcolm St. with the intent of resale encumbered by an historic preservation easement or covenant to be held by the town. Since that time, five historic homes have been restored and two additional historic structures moved into the neighborhood." 

Years ago, the Land Bank purchased a historic preservation easement on this property at 460 Argyle Avenue in Friday Harbor.

The Land Bank  purchased an historic preservation  easement on the house at 460 Argyle Avenue several years ago. That home has been resold at least twice since then. The rest of the historic preservation efforts in the area are unrelated to anything done by the Land Bank. 

Lynn Danaher has played the major role. 

Two of Danaher's properties on Argyle Avenue. 

Danaher has been stymied in her efforts to acquire the four lots. Her latest offer in October 2017 would have reduced the density allowed, developed affordable and workforce housing, and affordable commercial space. Greenbelts, off-street parking and trails were also part of the proposal. 

In the interest of transparency, San Juan County Council should amend its April 10, 2018 agenda and move the two San Juan Island Land Bank purchases to a meeting scheduled in Friday Harbor. 

While the county charter allows the council more leeway than the state law, that doesn't mean it's a good idea to ignore the logic behind the law. The public deserves to see their government in action.  

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