Durland responds to county lawsuit | Guest column

by Michael Durland

Orcas Island

My name is Michael Durland, a candidate for San Juan County Council.

I feel I must comment on an article in the Orcas paper regarding a lawsuit I have against San Juan County, as this cuts to the heart of my campaign about citizens rights to be heard and trusting your council.

My dispute is not with my neighbors but with county actions. This lawsuit concerns a barn built 17″ from my property line in 1981 converted without permits to a guest house. From 1987 until 2015 the county and all owners of the barn have stated to the courts that the barn had a building permit that required a 10′ setback from property lines. I prevailed in the first Court of Appeals hearing when the county argued that the barn was nonconforming because my boundary line moved and that a private agreement could modify setbacks – both false statements. The COA remanded the case back to the Hearing Examiner (HEX). In 2015 after the Record was closed to him an employee of CD&P submitted a statement to the HEX that said the barn never had, nor was required to have, a building permit nor any setbacks. CD&P Head Sam Gibboney immediately submitted a motion to the HEX stating that the submittal was “unauthorized and inaccurate” and stated that the “Official Position” of San Juan County was that a building permit was issued for the barn requiring a 10′ setback with further proof showing permit information noted in a hand written ledger and a payment receipt for the building permit. The county employee then recanted his submittal and agreed that a building permit had been issued requiring 10′ setbacks. The HEX followed the lead of the unauthorized submittal and stated that the barn may or may not have had a building permit, no permit was needed, and no setbacks were required. Before the courts our Deputy PA agreed with the Hearing Examiner that the barn may or may not have had a building permit nor did it require a building permit nor setbacks – all contrary to the “Official Position” of SJC and previous testimony.

I have asked for reconsideration of the decision and the COA has asked for a reply from San Juan County. I will gladly supply documentation to anyone who wants to follow up on this, building permit files, Sam’s statement, county stamp stating “All structures must be 10′ from adjoining property lines,” and copies of 1981 permits showing setbacks were required for all buildings. I have sent this information on to the current council. In view of all the documents it will be enlightening what the council response to the Court of Appeals will be. Will council continue to direct the Deputy PA to ignore substantial evidence and the county “Official Position” or will the council step up and admit errors were made and direct the PA to argue the “Official Position” of SJC as stated by Head of CD&P?