Council purchases MacKaye Harbor parcel despite concern from Lopez Council member
San Juan County Council voted 2-1 to purchase tax parcel 141822009000 located at Mackaye Harbor on Lopez Island for $500,000. According to the resolution, The property is necessary for supporting county operations including, but not limited to, office space on Lopez Island. There is a building on the site that was built under an owner/builder permit which will be used for offices.
The council member from Lopez Island, Jane Fuller, voted against the motion saying, "I have heard numerous concerns, as you know, from the residents, neighbors in the area. And so have you. And my fundamental problem with this is the lack of community consultation, the lack of transparency the residents in this area have been afforded in this whole process...I cannot move forward with the resolution to purchase property without deeper community consultation on this, that enables people's voices to be heard in a way that they haven't been adequately yet."
Fuller noted that additional questions have been raised recently. "And as of yesterday, it was brought to the council's attention that there are historic quote unquote Indians..."
She was abruptly hushed by Council Chair Wolf. "There's privacy to be respected here and there is protocol about legal," said Wolf.
"I understand from the email I've seen that there is concern in the community, Wolf said. "There has been a series of louder voices, giving information, that's not correct...There's an interesting question here where we could talk, I think, about should there be a different kind of protocol for communicating with the public when these changes are being made?"
Wolf noted that the Public Works Director had followed the existing county protocols. " I think we are in a time critical situation and for that reason, I will be in support of this resolution."
In 2017, San Juan County completed a county-wide master plan regarding public works. Included in that planning were discussions about how to alleviate the crowding at the Lopez Solid Waste District's transfer facility (the dump) on Fisherman Bay Road. If San Juan County moved its office to another location, that would free up space for the LSWD.
A potential site on Port Stanley was identified. Last year, because there is no water available at Fisherman Bay Road, a new push was on to solve the problem of having staff working in a facility without water and with rotting floor boards. In September, 2022, while the county was looking at other properties, a neighbor of the tax parcel purchased Tuesday, suggested the county purchase it. County Administrator Mike Thomas approved of pursuing the purchase. Purchase and sale agreement was executed in December 2011.
The Public Works Dept was to present more information on how the site would be used before the council would take a final vote. The site plan and map were presented at the February 7, 2023 meeting.
It was emphasized by both the Public Works Director and Council members Minney and Wolf that access to the public dock at MacKaye Harbor would not be impacted.
As to water, since the parcel is on the shoreline, a desalinization plant could potentially be built in the future.
Fuller emphasized her position again as the Council prepared to vote. "In principle, I support the purchase of this property. However, I feel that there needs to be some further exploration of some issues that have come to the surface prior to proceeding."
Wolf said, "I think we should commit to looking at a protocol going to the future for Public Works projects and developing one that satisfies issues of transparency."
This story has been updated. A previous iteration said Council member Minney joined Wolf in cutting off Fuller's comments. She did not.