To Our Elected Commissioners:
It is time for our elected BOCC to consider the needs not only of the low income population of Jefferson County but of the approximately 25,000 parcel owners who elected them.
Foremost: calling the low income housing shortage in our county an “emergency” is an inappropriate exercise of the BoCC’s discretionary authority. I am appalled that the Commissioners would even consider putting the measure to a vote. A problem that has been years in the making due to economic and demographic circumstances, that has not been otherwise addressed by the Board and County action and, by the very proposal, that would take 7 years to even attempt to correct cannot be called an emergency. Also consider this: to label it as an emergency subjects the County, and therefore, the taxpaying citizens to legal challenges for which we will all pay.
Beyond that fundamental problem with the proposal, my purpose is not to dispute the rationale for needing more affordable housing in our county, but to urge the Commissioners to recognize that: 1) the County government has not taken the first steps to alleviate policies, zoning and high development fees that may stand in the way of developing more affordable housing units; 2) the tax paying property owners of Jefferson County are under attack by all government sectors in Washington; 3) instituting another property tax increase only serves to undermine affordable housing, because owners of rental properties will have to pass the additional cost onto renters; 4) by increasing property taxes you are making it harder for the residential property owners of our county, especially those on fixed incomes, to remain in our homes. The Home Opportunity Fund is not the solution.
(Tri-Area Times) The Homes Now Campaign is holding an event Tuesday, September 5th, from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at Finnriver Cidery in Chimacum. Event organizers are inviting you to come and share stories and visions for the affordable housing movement in Jefferson County and to pick up campaign signs in support of Prop 1, the Affordable Housing Levy to be on Jefferson County's November ballot.
If passed, the levy would create the Jefferson County Home Opportunity Fund. According to their website, "This fund will give grants and loans to organizations that can build and preserve housing throughout Jefferson County, housing that will remain affordable to low- and very low-income households for forty years or more."
Information related to the Homes Now organization can be seen at www.homesnowjefferson.org. Created in response to the growing crisis in Jefferson County for affordable housing for low and very low income households, the Homes Now Organization is behind the effort for Prop 1. Modeled after a similar solution in Bellingham, the campaign is hoping to garner enough county wide support in the next 10 weeks to have the levy pass voter approval.
Details of Prop 1 include that it is a seven year property tax to be levied 2018-2024 and would be set at 36 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation in the 2018 tax year. The levy would be expected to raise approximately $13 million dollars over the 7 year period. More detailed explanations of the plan can be seen at: www.homesnowjefferson.org/The-Plan.
At the recent County Commissioners special session meeting held on July 24th at 6:00 p.m to decide if the levy should be placed on the ballot, the courtroom was packed and support of the levy was approximately 50% of all public comments made.
Opponents of the levy cite various reasons to Vote NO on Prop 1 this November including concerns that there are no clear plans of how this money will be used and by whom the funds would be administered, in addition to the issue of levying property owners with more of a tax burden.
According to tax-rates.org, Jefferson County, WA already has one of the highest tax rates in the United States. They ranked our county 270th of the 3,143 counties as a percentage of the median income. We already pay almost 4% of our income on property taxes.
Still, our county commissioners are proposing a $0.36/per thousand increase, but what is more disturbing to me is the proposal has no plan to define what benefits the tax-payers will see. I find this an insult to the tax-payers. They appear to think we would allow someone to spend our money without a plan, that is, to write a blank check.
If one of my engineers or program managers had ever come to me and asked me to approach such an expenditure I would have laughed them out of my office.
The proposal is to provide low-income housing. Port Townsend and Jefferson County is supposedly the city and county with the second highest median age in the entire state. So, is the housing for seniors or for our youth? If for seniors: are they proposing more assisted living facilities managed by a business which will want to make a profit? So the seniors are paying for the facility? With what income? Government taxes? If for young people: they need an income. Or are they expecting us the tax-payers to pay their rent as well?
However, the real issue from my limited perspective is you are addressing a symptom, the the real issues. We don't as a county or state provide adequate training to our younger generations to enable them to earn a livable income. Where are the technical training programs? By that, I mean the training for plumbers, mechanical drafts people, machinists, welders, electricians or electronic technicians. We as a county don't appear to want to create an attractive environment for businesses.
When a company begins looking for a place establish a new location to produce a product it looks for infrastructure. That includes adequate roads, local securities, utilities and training programs. It also looks for an encouraging local culture and economic climate. That is what the Chinese have been doing for the past 35 years. In the 1980's, those who were in production operations could easily see the writing on the wall. The Chinese told us their future goal was to have 80% of global production done in their country.
The Chinese have built roads, dams for electricity and buildings as well as starting new training programs to provide a trained work force for future businesses. They knew if they didn't produce products that could be sold on the world market they could never have an economically viable nation. We in the USA have forgotten that lesson. Producing real tangible products is the fundamental basis of any real economy. Services are necessary, but if we can't sell a tangible product we don't really have an economy.
If we want to have a livable wage environment for our youth we have to make that same type of decision. We need to attract businesses that provide viable incomes for our future generations. I am not attempting to define what that looks like, but there are businesses that have viable products that could be attracted to our community given an attractive culture and economic climate.
Providing low-income housing may be at best a 'band-aid' fix, but it doesn't in my opinion address the real issues. Not everyone can be a computer programmer or engineer. We need to empower our youth to be more productive members of society. They need help in finding a way to earn a livable income. That is our job as elders of the community.
The state legislature has just approved a $0.81 increase to pay for schools in our state. As much as I don't want to pay more taxes, that makes sense to me. We need our children to have a good education to have a viable country. We need to pay our teachers a livable income so they will provide a good education to the students. We need to provide proper facilities for education programs.
If they want to increase my property taxes, then they need to show me a plan that is something more than providing low-income housing. The only ones who really benefit from that are the property owners - they get an income stream that provides them a future capital gains at my expense.
If they increase taxes, I guarantee you that rental property owners will increase the rents to compensate. Is that what you really want? How do I know? I know because we used to be landlords and have seen the process up close. What is proposed is not, in my opinion, a good long-term solution for the community.
Port Townsend, WA
[Editor's note: The Tri-Area Community Development Plan was written in 1982 nearly 35 years ago. Read about the rate of growth and development then, the growth struggles that the people of the Tri-Area faced, and then compare it to now nearly four decades later and see how similar the current times are.]
(Tri-Area Times) The Tri-Area of Jefferson County, including the semi-rural communities of Hadlock, Irondale, and Chimacum, is an area of unique qualities. It is located on the Quimper Peninsula near to the county's major population center, Port Townsend. The Tri-Area's topographic characteristics (varying from the beaches and cliffs along the bay to the inland valleys and ridges), its abundant natural resources (including forest and marine resources), its astounding beauty and tranquility, and the enthusiasm of those sturdy individuals and families who settled in the Tri-Area to maintain a chosen lifestyle have all contributed to the area's desirability as a community.
The communities of Hadlock, Irondale, and Chimacum have a colorful history of economic prosperity and decline. Enthusiastic business ventures brought many individuals and families to the area; however, during times of economic decline, many migrated away. Throughout the years the Tri-Area has primarily maintained a rural character. It is apparent, however, that as the population continues to grow and development pressures increase, the beauty and charm of the area may be lost to uncontrolled growth.
An uncharted course for the Tri-Area's growth and development could jeopardize the lifestyle that many have come to enjoy. Recognizing this, the citizens of the Tri-Area communities of Hadlock, Irondale, and Chimacum asked the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners to assist with a planning program to address future growth and development of the area. This community development plan is a product of that program. It serves as a written expression of the thoughts of the people of the Tri-Area about the future of the area and their lifestyles.
Please leave your comments below!
(Tri-Area Times) Placing a property tax levy on the November ballot to fund "affordable" housing, without fixing the causes of this problem, is shear folly. Declaring a housing emergency so the one percent limit on property taxes can be exceeded to "solve" problems caused by the County is totally unacceptable. Subsidizing housing does not make it affordable. It just shifts the bill to the taxpayers.
The zoning, building codes, regulations and permit processes that Jefferson County has imposed on our business operations, company facilities and housing, are among the most restrictive and costly in Washington State. They must be fixed.
Affordability is a balance between cost and ability to pay. So it is clear that jobs are a major part of the equation. Without well paying jobs, housing will never be affordable.
Those who think subsidized housing will give people "dignity" must think they are living in the land of OZ where the Wizard can pass out certificates or medals and give people "dignity". Real respect and dignity only comes from what an individual has achieved through their own efforts.
Other Fatal Flaws in this Plan
The seven-year limit on the life of this levy is illusionary. Without fixing the underlying problems, housing will never be affordable and some people will be addicted to this handout forever.
An unintended consequence of this tax is to make existing housing less affordable. This will cause elderly people on limited budgets to have to sell their homes. It will also cause renters to face increased rents, as property owners have to pass on the increased tax burden to renters.
We should ask why the Department of Health is being appointed to administer this fund. Are the county commissioners telling us that the Department of Community Development, who has been responsible for regulating all building, is not sufficiently competent to handle housing construction? Are they telling us that they want staff, who are used to having the government take care of people, to handle the redistribution of other peoples money? Or both?
The list of allowed grant recipients includes private profit making companies. Why not fix the underlying problems so the private sector can handle housing without using taxpayers' money?
Other funds likely to be leveraged by these funds are more taxpayer dollars filtered through state and federal agencies.
Almost all of those arguing in favor of passing this levy are either potential grant recipients or subsidy beneficiaries.
No drug testing or plans to help subsidy recipients progress to becoming self-sufficient.
The board administering the fund is to be totally composed of un-elected individuals.
Very loose constrains on this fund make it ripe for kickbacks, graft, waste, fraud, abuse, corruption and political payoffs.
Calling the funds raised a "Home Opportunity Fund", and claiming that this is not "government housing", appear to be attempts to disguise what is clearly taxpayer subsidized housing.
Comments can be submitted below or sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Tri-Area Times) A planned development on the Hood Canal near Brinnon is gaining traction after being on the development planning books for nearly 11 years. The Pleasant Harbor Resort and Marina would sit on 250 acres and include upwards of 890 units and a 9 hole golf course. The current landowner/developer is a Canadian and would likely sell rights.
The site is home to three of the only known kettles in the Olympic Peninsula. Kettles are a shallow, sediment-filled body of water formed by retreating glaciers or draining floodwaters. The kettles are formed as a result of blocks of ice calving from glaciers and becoming submerged in the sediment on the out-wash plain. The developer already plans to back-fill with a million cubic yards the largest one’s which are 12 acres across and 150 feet deep. A pond would be created on the surface to allow for run-off according to the developer. In addition to being unique geological sites, these are also considered to be sacred sites by the S’Klallam Tribe claiming that these areas are “inhabited by spiritual entities known to the S’Klallam Tribe”.
The S’Klallam Tribe has long opposed the development of Pleasant Harbor Resort and Marina. With a history of suggestions to be implemented including 12 action items, there is no current consideration of any of these items by the county although all have been recorded in the official record. Topping concerns is the roughly 140,000 lbs of shellfish that is harvested annually less than a mile from the development. Treated sewage from the resort as well as chemicals used in the maintenance of the golf course could be linked to nutrient contamination proponent’s claim. Environmental impact statements preclude any evidence of this becoming an issue. The County has yet to require a Shellfish Impact Study.
Development is in the final planning stages as of August 2017, with a planned protest at the county courthouse steps at 1:00 p.m. on August 14, 2017.
Updated 8/23/17 (Added Facebook post with comments, photo from protest)
Read even more comments about this post in the group "I've Heard of Quilcene" on Facebook
The Tri-Area Times is your local independent news source for Port Hadlock, Chimacum, Irondale & surrounding communities.
Jefferson County Quick Links