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Guest house ordinance challenges to be discussed at upcoming hearing

On January 4, 2007, the Growth Management Hearings Board will conduct a hearing on challenges to the County’s new accessory dwelling or “guest house” ordinance. The hearing will take place at the Orcas Island Fire Station beginning at 10 a.m.

Eleven citizens from Orcas, San Juan and Lopez Islands are the challengers to San Juan County’s third guest house ordinance, adopted in June 2006. Since filing the appeal, a few of the challengers have decided to abandon the case. “But, with those who remain, virtually all of the issues remain in the case and need to be resolved,” said Prosecutor Randall K. Gaylord.

Together, the challengers have raised 40 issues involving anti-sprawl goals, affordable housing, property rights, permitting, public participation, adoption procedure, procedure, and conflicts with other state laws including the Housing Policy Act, Shoreline Management Act and State Environmental Policy Act.

Prosecutor Gaylord said the hearing is open to the public, but only those people who have filed briefs with the Growth Board will be allowed to participate in the hearing, and then only on the issues they have addressed. Earlier, the Friends of the San Juans were granted status as intervenors and will also be allowed to participate in the hearing.

In August 2006 the Growth Board ruled that the June 2006 ordinance did not “substantially interfere” with the Growth Management Act (GMA). This ruling allowed the June 2006 ordinance to become effective. In October a first-come, first-serve system was used to issue the 2006 allotment of a dozen guest house permits.

The August ruling did not say that the County was compliant with the GMA. “While that first ruling is certainly a step in the right direction,” said Gaylord, “The issues surrounding guest houses will not be over until we are found to be compliant on all issues and all rights to appeal have expired.”

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