Posted June 2, 2020 at 8:35 am by

Response by Ron Whalen/Sponsor of San Juan Coun­ty Ini­tia­tive 2020-10

I request the fol­low­ing be post­ed to San Juan Update as a response to the let­ter post­ed by Alice Hurd on June 1st.

Not true…..Neither the ini­tia­tive or the peti­tion says any­thing about end­ing or elim­i­nat­ing the Land Bank (LB) and afford­able hous­ing. THE PROPOSED INITIATIVE WOULD NOT ENDTHE LAND BANK. That’s alto­geth­er con­nect­ed to the fact the LB and Afford­able Hous­ing have mul­ti­ple sources of fund­ing. The pro­posed ini­tia­tive speaks only to the Real Estate Excise Tax por­tion of fund­ing. The ini­tia­tive states Reduce Dura­tion of Con­ser­va­tion Area Real Estate Excise Tax (REET). The LB receives mil­lions of dol­lars in grants and dona­tions aside from REET. As recent­ly as 10 days ago the LB direc­tor announced a 5 mil­lion gift for prop­er­ty acqui­si­tion. That gift is sep­a­rate from the Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) and rep­re­sents a frac­tion of mil­lions the LB has avail­able. The afford­able hous­ing pro­gram also has oth­er sources of fund­ing aside from the Real Estate Excise Tax (REET). The fol­low­ing is tak­en from cor­re­spon­dence with the San Juan Coun­ty Coor­di­na­tor for Afford­able Hous­ing (Ryan Page);

5/26/2020 9:29 AM, Ryan Page wrote:

“Good morn­ing Ron, the Coun­ty has  mul­ti­ple dif­fer­ent fund­ing sources that fund afford­able hous­ing pro­grams in the County”.

Won­der­ing which ver­sion of the above state­ments is cor­rect? Call the Afford­able Hous­ing Coor­di­na­tor (360–370-0590 ). Email him <ryanp@sanjuanco.com>. Ask if the Afford­able Hous­ing pro­gram is entire­ly depen­dent on the Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) or if it has has mul­ti­ple sources of fund­ing. Com­pare these state­ments then ask your­self which is accurate?

All the pro­posed ini­tia­tive is ask­ing is for vot­ers to be able to vote for con­tin­u­ing or end­ing the Real Estate Tax Tax (REET) cur­rent­ly in place. Many believe the cur­rent state of the econ­o­my doesn’t sup­port the extend­ed tax­a­tion the REET rep­re­sents. How about just let­ting vot­ers speak for what they want? Does it get any more demo­c­ra­t­ic than that?

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  1. I appre­ci­ate Ron Whalen’s quick response to Alice Hur­d’s let­ter re. this lat­est ini­tia­tive, 2020-10 for which he is a spon­sor. What would be help­ful to know is who else is spon­sor­ing this. Is Whalen the only spokesper­son for it or are there oth­er peti­tion­ers that we can talk to?

    Comment by Gay Graham on June 2, 2020 at 10:39 am
  2. I would like to respond to Mr. Whelan’s reply. Fund­ing from the REET is the fund­ing source upon which the Land Bank has been cre­at­ed. It has always been the major source of income to sup­port the Land Bank. Over the years there have been some pri­vate con­tri­bu­tions to the Land Bank as well as some grants des­ig­nat­ed to a par­tic­u­lar pur­pose, but they have rep­re­sent­ed a very small por­tion of the Land Bank sup­port. The recent $5.M dona­tion Mr. Whe­lan speaks of is excep­tion­al in Land Bank his­to­ry. It is promised to pur­chase a spe­cif­ic prop­er­ty on the mar­ket that the Land Bank would not have been able to afford at this time, if ever. That dona­tion is as unusu­al as it is gen­er­ous. There is no doubt that with­out con­tin­u­ing sup­port from the REET, the Land Bank would be unable to stay in oper­a­tion in its cur­rent form.

    Afford­able hous­ing (like con­ser­va­tion) is a long­stand­ing con­cern in the islands, and it has been addressed in many ways. There are non­prof­its address­ing com­mu­ni­ty needs on San Juan, Lopez and Orcas Islands. One of the numer­ous ways the com­mu­ni­ty has addressed afford­able hous­ing is the most recent coun­ty­wide vote that approved a .05% REET (one-half per­cent) to ben­e­fit afford­able hous­ing pro­grams. That is one part of the effort, and. los­ing it would be a very sig­nif­i­cant loss to those efforts.

    Comment by alice hurd on June 2, 2020 at 12:01 pm
  3. Yes, afford­able hous­ing devel­op­ment requires cob­bling togeth­er mul­ti­ple fund­ing sources. The afford­able hous­ing REET (the Home Fund) was approved by vot­ers in 2018. In its first year, over one mil­lion in grant fund­ing was dis­trib­uted to local afford­able hous­ing projects. This pro­gram has just begun to ben­e­fit our com­mu­ni­ty and to end it after one year would be wrong. 

    Also, it is wrong to say that the REET for the Land Bank is not its sin­gle most impor­tant fund­ing source. End­ing this fund­ing source would be an unfor­tu­nate loss of future oppor­tu­ni­ties for San Juan Coun­ty citizens.

    Comment by Nancy DeVaux on June 2, 2020 at 5:33 pm
  4. It is very dif­fi­cult to under­stand just who besides Ron Whalen is pro­mot­ing Ini­tia­tive 2020-10 to try to sun­set the REET by bal­lot that has been the pri­ma­ry fund source for the Land Bank since its inception.

    Actu­al­ly that is not very impor­tant for I am sure the core group includes the usu­al sus­pects who have been clam­or­ing to dump the Land Bank and to defeat the Afford­able Hous­ing REET. I do not sup­port all tax­es but weigh each based upon the demon­stra­ble needs of our com­mu­ni­ty. (I vocal­ly opposed the first two levy increas­es for the EMS because of obvi­ous fuzzy think­ing and a lack of trans­paren­cy, but rec­og­nized the essen­tial need for the service).
    Ron Whalen et al alter their decon­struc­tion argu­ments based upon what they think will fly. Pret­ty fuzzy most­ly. No sur­pris­es here. Rea­gan conservative/libertarian Ayne Ran­dish­ness; indi­vid­ual free­dom from con­straints is far more impor­tant than the pub­lic good in a cap­i­tal­ist economy.
    The sim­ple truth is, as oth­ers have point­ed out, the Land Bank rev­enue to cre­ate pub­lic con­ser­va­tion lands for­ev­er and the Afford­able Hous­ing Fund only exist because of the REET that is of min­i­mal neg­a­tive impact to indi­vid­ual buy­ers but max­i­mum ben­e­fi­cial impact for com­mu­ni­ty. The rea­son that gen­er­ous pri­vate donors give and that addi­tion­al govt grants are avail­able is pre­cise­ly because the pro­grams exist, are effec­tive and are build­ing a bet­ter com­mu­ni­ty future every day for the major­i­ty of us who are not wealthy.
    At some point both pro­grams will need to sun­set but we are nowhere near that date as yet.
    Ron Whalen et al speak of tak­ing impor­tant acreage off the Coun­ty tax roles which is most­ly blar­ney as the larg­er parcels were near­ly all in very low tax sta­tus (ag and forestry) before pur­chase. Now the LB locks those lands open to all of us and the Hous­ing Fund pro­vides ade­quate hous­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for the fam­i­lies who work hard here to make our entire econ­o­my tick.

    Good dis­cus­sion!

    Comment by Steve Ulvi on June 3, 2020 at 12:01 pm
  5. My hus­band & I walk on Land Bank trails almost every day all year. We’ve noticed dur­ing the lock­down that a lot more peo­ple are appre­ci­at­ing them now too. Land Bank is vital to the health of our community.

    Comment by Robin Blair on June 4, 2020 at 11:49 am

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