Shaw Island house purchase by county makes no sense - Salish Current
June 24, 2024
Shaw Island house purchase by county makes no sense
Lynn Bahrych

A resolution to purchase a $1 million property on Shaw Island to use for dumping road spoils is on the San Juan County Council agenda on Tuesday, June 25. (Courtesy)

June 24, 2024
Shaw Island house purchase by county makes no sense
Lynn Bahrych

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The essays, analyses and opinions presented as Community Voices express the perspectives of their authors on topics of interest and importance to the community, and are not intended to reflect perspectives on behalf of the Salish Current.

Commentary: Resolution to purchase $1 million home on Tuesday’s agenda

The San Juan County Council appears on the verge of spending more than $1 million on a residential parcel (vintage two-story with hot tub) on about 17 acres in the center of Shaw Island in order to have a place to dump road spoils once every seven years or so from Shaw’s 12 miles of county roads.

This might come as a shock to residents of other islands with backlogs of road repairs left undone due to a lack of funding. This million-dollar purchase also comes as a surprise to Shaw residents, who infrequently see public-works road crews, and most often just to mow road shoulders. 

It might also come as a shock to those citizen volunteers working to plan for extreme weather events on Shaw and elsewhere. What Shaw Island needs first and foremost is an engineering study of Blind Bay Road, a vital lifeline to the ferry, which floods in high tide/high wind situations and which was heavily eroded in the last atmospheric river. If we had been asked, that is what we would have requested: to shore up Blind Bay Road.

Island residents were told of the plan just a few weeks ago at a community meeting with the head of public works, county parks and council member Jane Fuller, whose district includes Shaw. To put it mildly, they were met with many complaints and an equal number of questions, most of which went unanswered.

A county-owned site with existing utilities has been used for materials and equipment storage in recent decades. (Courtesy)

Now, a resolution has been placed on this Tuesday’s council agenda to approve the purchase of the property. According to the sales/purchase agreement, the county has until the end of this month to complete the purchase or forfeit its $10,000 earnest money. There are conditions to the sale which, if the county decides they have not been met, would result in return of the earnest money. A feasibility study is one of the conditions. There is no written feasibility study, according to the county. Not only is there no feasibility study for the council to analyze and share with the public, but the county “has not created plans nor a budget for any site work that may be undertaken if the purchase moves forward,” according Colin Huntemer of Public Works (email to Lynn Bahrych on June 20). 

For over 40 years, the county has used an acre adjacent to the Shaw Community Center, where it stores gravel, other construction materials, and equipment. It was generously donated to the county by Shaw Island residents Ernest and Beverly Graham. The parcel includes a cement-block structure used as a garage/shop. It has been vacant for many years. There is a good well on-site and plenty of good ideas for creating a bathroom, even a bunkhouse inside that structure.

Instead of improving on what it has been given, the county now wants to spend over one million dollars on a vintage house with a hot tub and landlocked forested acreage that would need to be cleared for a construction yard in the midst of a quiet residential neighborhood. The county council should be encouraged to spend this million dollars to shore up Blind Bay Road and for much-needed road maintenance on other islands. 

County Commissioner emails are:

— By Lynn Bahrych, J.D., Ph.D.

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