Frustration with OPAL | Letters

Before I complain, I need to express my appreciation for OPAL making affordable housing available to families on Orcas Island. I applaud their good work and those who donate to make OPAL successful.

However, I have a complaint regarding OPAL’s disregard for my rights, expectations and property values as a property owner who now shares property lines with two OPAL projects. OPAL’s funding ran out on both projects before their promises and assurances to me could be met.

Over the past five years, OPAL acquired the wooded areas adjacent to the south and west of my property. They cut down the trees to move in five houses, which resulted in very nice new neighbors. My complaint, however, targets the hills created by OPAL with steep slopes ending abruptly at our shared property lines. My yard has become their drain field even though OPAL assured me that the landscaping would not negatively impact my property. They assured me they would provide proper drainage for any runoff from the slopes. I was also promised that an attractive 4 1/2-foot tall rock wall would be constructed to minimize the slope and to define the property line. Anticipating the creation of that rock wall I (hesitantly) had my fence removed.

OPAL did NOT provide ANY drainage to protect my property from the runoff of either of their man-made hills. The rock wall turned out to be a single layer of rocks forming a curve around the bottom of the hill looming over my backyard. When I was informed that OPAL had now “completed” these projects I immediately shared my feelings of disappointment, anger and betrayal. After three weeks I was told that, sadly, there were no more funds available for their projects adjacent to my property.

And then I read the front page article in the Sounder about OPAL’s grant award and their successful fundraising of millions of dollars for their next project. I am happy that OPAL continues to provide affordable housing for families, but I strongly encourage any existing property owners destined to become OPAL neighbors to get all promises and assurances in writing. Verbal agreements and handshakes don’t always work with OPAL.

Sharron Mierau


Editor’s note: The Sounder reached out to OPAL Executive Director Lisa Byers. She said the following: “We strive to be a good neighbor and we are sorry that Sharron remains disappointed. We agree that having written agreements in advance would have been wise.”