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Islanders Launch Campaign to Renew Land Bank’s Funding
Jul 9, 2024
By Renew our Landbank
A team of 50 islanders is hard at work ensuring voters say ‘Yes’ in November to renew funding to keep the San Juan County Conservation Land Bank protecting and maintaining conservation areas in the county. If the measure passes at the polls, a separate source of funding for local affordable housing would also be preserved.
Led by former Land Bank Commissioners Christa Campbell from Lopez and Sandi Friel from Orcas, the Renew Our Land Bank committee includes volunteers from a variety of backgrounds. “We have farmers, builders, teachers, affordable housing advocates, business owners, artists, realtors and others working together towards this important cause,” says Campbell, who served as a Land Bank Commissioner from 2013 to 2023.

First approved by voters in 1990 and reauthorized in 1999 and 2011, the 1% Conservation Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) that funds the Land Bank is paid at closing by purchasers of property in San Juan County. With the Conservation REET set to sunset in 2026, and the Home Fund for affordable housing dependent on its continued existence, the County Council has approved placing a 12-year extension of Conservation REET on the November 5th general election ballot.

Friel says the Council’s approval at its July 9th meeting was the catalyst for the committee to kick off its citizen education campaign, starting with an informative website www.RenewOurLandBank.com .

“Many people think the Land Bank’s only function is to preserve trails and pretty views,” says Friel, who was a Land Bank Commissioner from 2018 to 2023. “The website brings to life the stories of how the Land Bank is protecting our drinking water, forests, shorelines, working farms and wildlife habitat, and the efforts underway to prevent big wildfires. It shows how the Land Bank enhances our quality of life and future resilience.”

Campbell says the website also explains the Land Bank’s critical link to local affordable housing. “There’s a rumor going around that the Land Bank is driving up the cost of island housing, and that’s not true. In fact, the Land
Bank supports housing affordability in several ways.”

State law allows counties with a 1% Conservation REET to adopt a 0.5% Housing REET for Affordable Housing. San Juan County voters approved the Housing REET in 2018 and since that time it’s helped raise funds to provide and preserve 132 affordable homes for islanders.

“If the Conservation REET ends in 2026, then the Housing REET ends, too, and with it a big source of funding to keep our housing affordable,” says Campbell.

All local affordable housing organizations are supporting the ballot measure to renew the Land Bank’s funding, as are the family resource centers, Council candidates, many businesses and other non-profits.

Learn more at www.RenewOurLandBank.com
Former Land Bank Commissioners Christa Campbell and Sandi Friel
Turtleback - credit Suzana Roach