Letter from Mysti McKeehan

To: San Juan County Land Bank Board
San Juan County Council

Subject: Opposition to the Clure Acquisition

I am writing because I strongly oppose the proposed purchase by the San Juan County Land Bank of the two parcels known as the Clure acquisition.

The price of the property is @$900,000. The property includes approximately 230 feet of shoreline and is approximately 10 acres. The Islands Weekly article of 11/15/2016 describes the purpose of the proposed purchase as giving “walkable trail access through an island forest to the sandy beach…solitude and beauty offered by a quiet walk on a beach…two miles of walkable beach available for walks, sunset vistas, wildlife viewing and birding.”

This description sounds attractive enough. Why am I opposed? Let’s look at the reality of the purchase.

Questionable Business Proposition

The beach property abutting that 230’ is private property above the Mean High Water (MHW) line. This means that anyone walking those two miles above the MHW line is trespassing. Many times of the day and many parts of the year, there is no public beach because below the MHW line the beach is under water.

From a financial viewpoint, what does this mean? Look at the table below. It lists 7 properties (vacant waterfront lots) currently for sale on Lopez. The Clure property is the first entry in the table.

Location Price Waterfront
$ per
Acres $ per Acre
Clure Property $900,000 230 $3913 10 $90,000
Lopez Sound $649,000 238 $2726 21 $30,904
Sperry Road $425,000 634 $670 6.39 $66,510
Sperry Road $349,000 88 $3966 10.59 $32,955
Sperry Road $349,000 218 $1600 10.11 $34,520
Eliza Road $325,000 200 $1625 1.36 $238,970
Eliza Road $325,000 204 $1593 1.64 $198,170
Lopez Sound $285,000 128 $2226 2.54 $112,204

The Land Bank is paying approximately $3900 per waterfront foot—the second highest—of any property in the table. Why is this a good deal for the taxpayers of San Juan County? What makes the Clure property worth this price?

Encourages Trespassing (Breaking the Law)

It is not realistic to think that beach walkers will stay within the 230’. The purchase is touted as giving access to “roughly two miles of nearly pristine beach.” That is, as long as the tide is out far enough that beach walkers can stroll below the MHW line. All the land above the Mean High Water line is private property, including most of the sandy areas and virtually all of the large beach logs. Visitors will seek to walk and sit on the most comfortable parts of the beach: the upper area of sand and logs, inevitably leading to trespassing on private lands.

The County surveyors use the range of 7.1′ to 7.4′ when measuring the MHW. Therefore when the tide is at or above approximately 7.4 feet, ALL of the public tidelands are under water. MHT line is located 24 – 37 feet seaward from the toe of the Bank. Thus, all of the beach between the “toe” (base) of the bank and the Mean High Water line (approximately 24 – 37 feet) is private.

Does Not Conform to the Land Bank Mission or Spirit

“Stewardship: Stewardship includes a broad array of land management activities designed to protect the community’s investment. Stewardship is being a good neighbor. It’s essential that we understand the land before undertaking any activities that could impact its function. Once this baseline information is assembled and processed, a management plan is created with input from the public. This valuable participation from the community helps guide the future for many of these lands and increases the effectiveness of our stewardship.”

Neighbors abutting the 230’ foot beach oppose the purchase of this property by the Land Bank as do other members of the community—ecologists, naturalists, scientists, citizens.

Ruth Mahan, first San Juan County Land Bank Director:

An intrinsic component of organizational development, which became a tradition in the land bank, is public input and involvement. Mahan said:

“When you listen and get input and process that input thoroughly and attentively, you do a better job.”(Mahan interview).

She advised anyone in similar circumstances to avoid spending time on controversial projects.

“Look for projects where there is already much appreciation for the place. Don’t spend too much time in debate wasting time that could be spent on other projects” (Mahan interview).

There is controversy surrounding this project. Please review the FAQs, Issues, and Letters on the Savelopezshoreline.org web site. There are also letters submitted to the Land Bank Board and the County Commissioners. Many protest the lack of public process, environmental studies, notification of neighboring property owners, consideration of the effects on wildlife, etc.

Compare this very limited use parcel with its 230’ of beach to the other Land Bank properties in the neighborhood: The Fisherman Bay Preserve, which includes the Spit, the Tombolo, Weeks Wetland. Consider Otis Perkins Day Park, which was recently expanded by an additional 800’ of beach for $2000—a purchase from the Sunset Acres Owners Association. In addition, there is Odlin County Park, Upright Channel Park, and Spencer Spit Park—all with low bank walkable beaches. Then there is Shark Reef Park. Why not leave this “nearly pristine beach” to wildlife and nature. Isn’t that more in keeping with the mission of the Land Bank?

As a property owner on Lopez since 2010, I have been a supporter of the Land Bank. However, I am opposed to this purchase for the reasons listed in this letter as well as in the thoughtful correspondence referenced above.

Unfortunately I am off island on January 10 for the public hearing on this proposal. I do want to register my opposition to this proposed acquisition.

Very truly yours,
Mysti McKeehan