By Meg Olson
Code enforcement, or the lack of it, took center stage when county elected officials came to the Point for the Point Roberts Registered Voters Association’s annual general meeting.
“If you can’t enforce them, quit making regulations,” said association founder Ruby White at the April 7 meeting, attended by county executive Jack Louws and county councilmembers Barbara Brenner and Rud Browne.
White specifically pointed to rules about recreational vehicles (RVs), which the voters association lobbied to get into the to Point Roberts special district code over a decade ago. The rules limit how long and under what conditions RVs can stay on a lot, and according to White they were meant to limit people buying “party lots” which become littered with “campers and junk.”
“When it was enforced, it worked,” she said, but as enforcement slacked off the problem has crept back. “If two or three people get busted, word gets out,” she said, but word also gets out if people can get away with it.
Louws said that while the county has gone from one code enforcement officer to three, “the enforcement of our nuisance laws is extremely challenging.” Browne added that code enforcement staff are hampered by a lack of “laws to support their efforts unless it is an immediate risk to public safety.”
Arthur Reber brought up several commercial properties that had complaints filed against them for unpermitted development or changes to signage over a year ago. “They just went ahead and did it,” he said, and there has been no resolution of the violations.
‘They’re hiring lawyers and it’s stringing things out,” Louws said. “We’ll work to streamline the process so we can get the timeline down.”
Brenner also wanted to see the county get more aggressive in enforcing the rules, putting liens on properties whose owners ignore fines and requests to correct the problem. “If every fine you give out is uncollectable there’s zero incentive to pay it!” she said.
Several audience members wanted to see the county parks department invest more on the Point, from reopening the Cedar Point trail at Lily Point to improvements at Lighthouse Marine Park, including the proposal to build a lighthouse there, already supported by a local gift of $500,000.
“They seem to be good at taking things away but not so good at improving them,” said Keith Glading
Louws said that with critical funding challenges ahead the county was not in a position to provide capital funds for the lighthouse, which the county estimates will cost $1.2 million to build. “And after it’s built we have another $1.2 million structure to take care of,” he added. “Frankly, the county, the state and the federal government are doing a horrible job of maintaining infrastructure. We don’t have the dollars to keep up with what we have right now.”
With audience members pressuring him for ways the community can get past “no” on the lighthouse project, Louws said they could explore cutting costs with volunteer efforts for design and construction. “Let’s get a community effort together,” said association president Joel Lantz. “This is a tower we do want!”