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Concerns related to recent county actions regarding the Land Bank
Aug 1, 2022
By Peggy Bill
Letter to SJC Council regarding serious concerns .... Council mtg tomorrow, 8/2/22
July 31, 2022

TO: San Juan County Councilmembers

CC:SJC Manager, Mike Thomas
SJC Conservation Land Bank Commission
SJC Conservation Land Bank Director, Lincoln Bormann

Re: Comments regarding SJC Conservation Land Bank

San Juan County Council:

I am writing to express my concerns regarding urgent issues involving the SJC Conservation Land Bank including
1)Recent news that SJCC, together with SJC Manager, with be convening an Executive Session on August 2nd to discuss job performance, potential disciplinary actions, and potential termination of SJC Land Bank Director, Lincoln Bormann,
2)Decisions and actions by SJCC related to the recent Glenwood Inn acquisition on Orcas, and
3)Potential dire implications of these actions for the future of the Land Bank acquisition process, opportunities to continue to partner with the SJ Preservation Trust, and most importantly, potential impacts on reauthorization of the LB in 2026.

First, I want to begin by unequivocally stating that I believe that the SJC Conservation Land Bank is an incredibly visionary and rare asset that offers lasting benefits to our island community. I fervently hope that SJC citizens will re-authorize the Land Bank by 2026, allowing this extraordinary good work to continue.

Second, I want to unequivocally state that I have the utmost respect for Lincoln Bormann and his incredible commitment and skills in negotiating successful acquisitions of so many cherished conservation properties throughout the county.

Lincoln is highly professional, bringing considerable expertise to the art of complex land conservation deals. He has vast local knowledge including valuable connections to the local community, and is highly regarded within the broader state conservation community. He understands how to effectively leverage funding through state and federal grants, all while managing over 10 staff members, encouraging volunteer participation, overseeing a complex budget, coordinating numerous public and private partnerships, and conducting outreach to local citizens. His responsibilities are vast and he performs them with humor and excellence.

I most recently worked directly with Lincoln on the acquisition of the Higgins property, the gateway to Watmough Bight and National Monument Lands on the south end of Lopez. Lincoln was steadfast in his support for the project and found a path to successfully negotiate the purchase of the property. This was not an easy negotiation, and the land could easily have been sold on the private market for a far higher price. While there are still many issues to resolve for the Higgins property, we can now move forward to identify funding that could contribute to the acquisition, and carefully consider future management and ownership. But we do this knowing that this precious property is protected from private development.

Regarding the recent Glenwood Inn acquisition, I commend Lincoln for successfully negotiating this extremely complex transaction. Collaboration with the Trust has been an essential element from the beginning. I greatly appreciate the incredible work of the San Juan Preservation Trust, our local private conservation organization. Successful collaboration between the Land Bank and the Trust has enabled successful conservation of larger, more complex conservation projects by leveraging county funds with private funding from the Trust, adding layers of protection, and expanding support and community engagement. This collaboration has been astoundingly successful. Although there are still details to resolve in the Glenwood Inn acquisition, I am confident that the LB and Preservation Trust will cooperate to fully conserve this incredible conservation property for the lasting enjoyment of many.

It seems there have been numerous mistakes made over the last few months, especially regarding the acquisition of Glenwood Inn. This includes an astounding lack of understanding by the county’s legal team, as well as by Councilmember Wolf, regarding what is allowable and consistent with the Land Bank mandate and ordinance. Acquisition of a portion for the purpose of county worker housing is contrary to the LB mandate. Further, this concept could jeopardize potential grant funding and would erode trust between the Preservation Trust and the county.

It also appears that the county is suddenly applying new oversight over the LB, contrary to the Land Bank ordinance and county policy. These actions could result in setting new precedents for LB acquisition protocol, the role and authority of the LB Commission, and could threaten future collaboration with the Trust. Will the Trust want to negotiate with the county manager and our PA on the terms of a conservation easement? This is the responsibility of the LB and SJPT, and Lincoln is fully capable of managing that task.

I am extremely concerned about the repercussions of these actions on the future of the LB, especially considering that re-authorization must be approved by 2026. Past experience with re-authorization has clearly indicated that upheaval and controversary are not helpful in that process.

From my perspective, the LB is already functioning extremely well under Lincoln’s leadership. I believe that county actions to terminate Lincoln, or change current LB protocol, will greatly jeopardize future success and longevity of our cherished Land Bank.


Peggy Bill
Lopez Island