Really Setting the Record Straight

By Karl Duff

 Last month I charged that State Department of Ecology (DOE) senior staffer Erik Stockdale knowingly prevaricated when, in answering a San Juan County Councilman’s question, he claimed they were the only county expressing concerns over non-conforming property created under DOE’s Shoreline Master Program (SMP) guidance  — which renders many formerly legal land uses no longer legal (The Independent, 5/21/10).

A week later (5/28/10) DOE’s Curt Hart wrote a PR ‘damage control’ letter claiming to “set the record straight” regarding Stockdale.   But he did nothing of the sort.

Hart merely spouted statistical drivel about county SMPs and other “boiler plate” history showing what a great job civic-minded DOE is doing – even promoting “free speech” and public participation!  He then falsely claimed Stockdale’s problem involved only a “Bainbridge Island code enforcement case” that “Ecology had nothing to do with”. By claiming innocence over an irrelevant item never brought up in the first place, Hart perpetuates DOE’ distraction tactics.  Hart and Stockdale carry the same virus.

            My article was not “random accusation”.  I’ve seen Stockdale’s video statement (available to any who want copy.)  One cannot misunderstand what Stockdale wanted San Juan County to hear.  He appropriately stammered as though surprised, inserting plausible deniability phrases like “as far as I know” and “Gee, whiz!” phrases wondering how such misunderstandings could possibly arise.  He disavowed conspiracies to ‘evict’ people!  (Literal ‘evictees’ no longer pay property taxes.  Government much prefers taxing without the owner being able to improve his property!)  Stockdale never addressed SMP regulations creating property non-conformance.  But, he is not naïve; Snohomish, King, Kitsap, Jefferson, and Whatcom have expressed concerns for years (Kitsap since 2004-5, when the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) was issued and appealed.)  Jefferson’s SMP is now being reviewed by DOE with a majority of its private property shorelines suddenly being rendered ‘unbuildable’  Stockdale knows this!

            Hart says DOE isn’t forcing shoreline owners out (Gee, whiz, “they have homes, too!”).  But, other DOE presentations contradict this.  For example, a presentation by DOE’s Betty Rencor indicates the long-term goal is to eliminate non-conforming structures.  By   simply ‘discouraging’ improvement they can eventually be ‘phased out’. 

Hart and Stockdale totally ignored objections to increases in insurance rates, permitting difficulties, Hearing Examiner reviews, attorneys, appeals and other resulting non-conforming property impacts.  These now become major new ownership burdens.

DOE’s publicly recorded purpose to phase out non-conforming properties by making it impossible to improve existing waterfront is not imaginary.  Stockdale is acting out his position as naïve (yes, as having just “fallen off the turnip truck”.)  DOE treats property rights as irrelevant collateral damage to the supreme goal of restoring eco-systems to 1850 levels, through taking more property without compensation.

 I witnessed (radical environmental group Futurewise) Tim Trohimovich’s statement that DOE requested Futurewise to help Kitsap “do the right thing” (Tim’s exact words, March 23, 2009), seeking even larger buffers and setbacks than in the CAO! 

Yet, Stockdale and Hart claim there’s no conspiracy involved!

The public should expect clear and explicit answers from DOE on their shoreline policy, not evasiveness and misdirection intended to keep the public sound asleep until new regulatory plans become law!

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