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?

Posted on June 2, 2020 at 8:35 am by

Categories: Community, Letters, Opinion, People, Real Estate


  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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