Letter from Robin & Tom Pierce to Land Bank

Robin & Tom Pierce
32 Ivy Lane
Lopez Island, WA 98261
November 17, 2016

SJC Land Bank Commissioners
350 Court Street, # 6
Friday Harbor,WA 98250

Attn : Lincoln Bormann, Director
Re: Proposed Acquisition of Clure Property on Lopez Island

To the Board of the San Juan County Land Bank:

The purpose of this letter is to express our extreme opposition to the purchase of the Clure property on Lopez Island by the San Juan County Land Bank. After 35 summers on Lopez Island, my husband and I were fortunate to purchase our own home on Lopez just off Meadow Lane. This was a stretch for us but at the time we felt it was an important investment in a community that we had come to cherish and wanted to share with our children. In addition to the house and land, our property includes titled beach access which is shared with my parents The Baileys, The Wrolstad/Dillon family, The Currier Family and Helfman/Meyer Sanford families.

Our opposition to the proposed land acquisition is based on our belief that this proposal is not in the interest of the residents of Lopez Island including its marine, mammal, and other wildlife and runs counter to the stated mission of the Land Bank. At present, there are no competing plans to develop the Clure property. The property has been for sale for many years and is currently listed for sale at a price well above its assessed value. The sale of the property will be a financial windfall for the current owners, but it will be a tragic loss for a highly sensitive shoreline and marine sanctuary. At present, the property is part of a quiet residential community. The beach that the Land Bank describes as “pristine” and “wild” has remained so because of limited human activity. Purchasing the property to provide public access to the beach will in affect make a super highway for the tens of thousands of tourists that come to this beautiful island each year. According to the BLM nearly 19,000 people visited Watmough Bay in 2015, and these are under reported numbers due to the malfunction of the counter employed. You state that this project allows for “low intensity recreation,” but how can this intensity be managed given this volume of people, not to mention their pets. We also question the safety of increasing access to this vulnerable habitat given the ongoing collapse of the feeder bluff. My son and I were nearly wiped out by a tree falling from the high bank that abuts the beach. Since then more trees have come down along with large chunks of the bank. We forbid our children to climb the bank (a very tempting activity among the young) for fear that their activity alone could cause a catastrophic land slide. It is highly irresponsible for the Land Bank to pursue this project without even engaging in a geological and environmental impact survey. We strongly believe the acquisition of the Clure property to increase access to this beach is detrimental to the people, animals, and plants of Lopez Island.

Furthermore, we are greatly disheartened by the way in which this project has been directed thus far. No one from the Land Bank ever reached out to the residents that would be most affected by this radical change in land use. You concede in your own proposal, by agreeing to purchase a second parcel in order to mitigate the probably value loss this second parcel would have incurred being adjacent to a public park, that this proposal is not favorable to the surrounding property values. We realize that other residents may be unsympathetic to our financial loss. However, if you choose to continue with the Clure project with complete disregard to the homeowners most affected by the project, does this not set a concerning precedent for future projects? How is this in keeping with your stated intention “to ensure that the distinct character of life in these islands will endure.” Is it the Land Bank that determines the distinct character of this island?

We regret that we can not be present at the meeting being held this Friday November 18, 2016 at Grace Church. My husband recently started a new job and I am the sole caretaker for our three children. However, I hope you will give the concerns expressed in this letter your full consideration and please stop this project that will undoubtedly cause great damage to our human community and natural environment.

Respectfully,

Robin & Tom Pierce

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