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Blanchard’s appointment questioned

The San Juan County Council appointed Orcas Island's Tim Blanchard to the county planning commission on Jan. 29.

An attorney with Orcas-based Blanchard Manning, he has been an active voice before both the planning commission and the council on local planning-related issues. He is vice-president of the Common Sense Alliance, and a member of the group's board of directors, which on Feb. 4 filed a Petition for Review with the state Growth Management Hearings Board contesting the revised and recently council-approved critical areas ordinance.

In a 6-0 vote, the council backed Blanchard to fill a vacant position on the commission designated for an Orcas representative. Councilman Rich Peterson of North San Juan initiated the vote with a motion, seconded by Councilman Rick Hughes of Orcas West.

There was no discussion of Blanchard's appointment at the council meeting, but San Juan Island’s David Dehlendorf, among others, have circulated letters opposing the appointment.

In a letter to the council, Dehlendorf wrote, "I believe your appointment of Mr. Blanchard was negligent, irresponsible, unethical, and an insult to the citizens of our county. It may also have been illegal."

Prosecutor Attorney Randy Gaylord said he does not think that Blanchard's service on the board of the Common Sense Alliance would disqualify him from the planning commission, but "the lawsuit brought by the CSA is more of an entanglement than I've researched in the past" and "if asked to advise the council on this matter, I will consider the issues."

When later informed that the required appointment process appeared to be different from the process that was followed, Gaylord responded that he would look into it and advise the council if he determined the appointment to be invalid.

The planning commission, a nine-person panel of volunteers, advises and makes recommendations to the county council on matters of land use and planning decisions. Created in accordance with state law, it conducts workshops and public hearings that are, according to the county website, a "public forum where public opinion and advice becomes part of the county’s records and decision making process."

Blanchard was the only applicant seeking to fill the vacant Orcas Island post. The Orcas Island position became vacant on Dec. 31, when Evelyn Fuchser's term ended.

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