Sample Letters to be sent to the San Juan County Council, Planning Commission and DCD


As you may know, San Juan County is updating the Comprehensive Plan (CP). The CP describes the look and feel of the county and is the only legal document that specifies how when where the county can "grow". Most citizens do not know that this document exists or would understand it if they read it. Virtually no one knows what growth it permits and will continue to permit. If the CP is to be changed to conform to what the already approved Vision Statement for SJC is, it will only happen if informed citizens ask for this to occur. (see You can learn about the previous CP process at

Since the existing CP is misleading and obscure, the only way a citizen can be informed is if s/he asks for clear information, now, before the process gets underway.

The letters here are samples of what you might write to the County Council (CC) and the Department of Community Development (DCD) to ask for more useful information, such as a "truth in planning" document (see sample letter 1) that clearly states in plain easily understood language what the current CP says regarding our growth: when, where, what, why.

Please choose one of these letters, add to it as you wish, or write your own, and send it off soon! Like the critical line in the marriage ceremony, "speak now or forever hold your peace". Don't miss the train. There won't be another one for 20 years.

The first letter gives a reference to a request for a "truth in planning" document which was made in 2001 and approved unanimously by the Planning Commission in 2001. The Planning Commission's recommendation was ignored. Almost 2 decades later, we still don't know what the CP really says.

In January, 2017, one citizen wrote: "I don't want to gift an illusion to the next seven generations, I want to leave a legacy that is full of bio-diversity, compassion, love and respect of all beings." If you feel similarly, now is the time to speak up.

Sample letter 1


Subject: Update to the 2017-2018 SJC CP

Dear County Council, Planning Commission, Planners and other relevant decision makers

I have read a request made by a SJC citizen on 1/30/2001 located at

and I have read the Planning Commission finding dated October 19, 2001, located at

related to this formal request.

I write to request that you revisit and implement the Planning Commission's finding and make the information produced broadly available to the public prior to any substantive conversations, actions or hearings by DCD or the PC so that the citizens of SJC can, for the first time, have a clear and unambiguous picture of the status of the current CP.

I have perused the material describing the previous update to the CP, located at

and am very concerned about both the fairness of the process by which the current CP has been constructed and the disturbing lack of consistency between the CP and the BOCC approved Vision Statement for SJC.

As the request and the PC findings were made almost 2 decades ago, new data and newer methods of presenting that data, as well as expanded information related to the overall concept of full disclosure, should be included.


(Your Name)

(name of island)

Sample Letter 2

As we are on the dawn of updating the San Juan County Comprehensive Plan, I encourage you to create meaningful public kickoff event to invite the public to describe the look and feel of the county we want in 2036 through the only legal document that specifies how when where the county can "grow".

Most citizens are unaware of how to engage in the Comp Plan. I encourage a public outreach kick off. I encourage establishing a special Comp Plan Advisory committee or using the Planning Commission to provide an analysis and evaluation of the success of the last Comp Plan using the elements described in the Vision Statement as the benchmark, and/or using public interest groups and professionals to help identify the benchmarks and desired conditions for success (e.g. housing, transportation, economics, biodiversity, density, water, farmland, forests, economy, etc).

Sample Letter 3

I don't know anything about a Comprehensive Plan. I looked on the County's web site and found it, but I found it very hard to understand. Can you please create a Comp Plan for Dummies document that explains clearly what it means, for affordable housing, growth of activity centers, wildlife and enviornment, water, taxes and the preservation of why I came here and live here?

Sample Letter 4

I have read the Vision Statement which states "We support a pattern of economic growth and development which serves the needs of our community, and which recognizes the rural, residential, quiet, agricultural, marine and isolated nature of the islands." Other phrases in the vision statement talk about stewardship and preserving pristine environments. I moved here to enjoy what the islands are like now, and I am concerned that they may grow to lose many of these qualities, something that has happened all over the country to beautiful small rural communities. I understand that the comprehensive plan is going to be updated. Please ensure that it supports the Vision Statement.

Sample Letter 5 (Visitors may prefer this one)

I have read the Vision Statement. I chose to visit here to enjoy what the islands are like now, and I am concerned that they may grow to lose many of these qualities, something that has happened all over the country to beautiful small rural communities. If that happens, why would I want to return, or tell my friends and family to come here? Keep it like it is today!

You can email any of these letters in two steps. First, click here to bring up your email program. If you use a browser to access your email, go to the "compose" area in your email and copy/paste the addresses in the "to" section above as well as the "subject" line. (they are shown below)

Second, select the light yellow text from the letter you prefer above, then "copy" and "paste" the letter above into the body of your email. Feel free to add your own words. Speak from your heart.

Be sure to put in your name and the island you live on, or, if you are a visitor, what city or state you are from. Other valuable information for decision makers:

You may want to request that receipt of your email be acknowledged, and separately, that your email be included in the record.

Here's the email addresses and subject line for your email:


Subject: Update to the 2017-2018 SJC CP

For bonus points, put "" in the cc: address field. That way we can learn what you care most about as we all work together to bring wisdom and balance to the future of these special islands.

Who's Who: A guide to decision-makers

County Council CC

Council email address:

District 1-- San Juan: Bill Watson (next election 2020)

District 2--Orcas and Waldron: Rick Hughes (next election 2020)

District 3--Lopez and Shaw: Jamie Stephens (next election 2018)

Department of Community Development DCD

Erika Shook, Director

Linda Kuller, Planner

Adam Zack, Planner

Planning Commission PC

Lynda Guernsey PC administrator

Tim Blanchard chair

Thanks much!

Joe Symons, Former chair, Orcas Committee to rewrite the SJC Comp Plan, 1992-1999 is supported by Island Stewards