"Letter from Steve Enoch, former SJISD Superintendent
I have read with interest some recent letters to the editor regarding the land that was purchased as part of the school district bond measure that was approved by the voters when I was superintendent. I have attempted to stay out of the fray as I believe once a superintendent leaves a district their involvement should only be at the request of the district if they need assistance.
Because the recent letters have included derogatory and hurtful comments about what occurred and what did not occur, I have decided to try to shed some light on the matter. I?ve also decided to write this letter because no one has had the courtesy to just call me up and talk with me about the matter.
1. There was no secret agreement with anyone regarding access to the land. Indeed, I believe you should be able to still find maps that were widely distributed at several Board meetings, study sessions and many public presentations, created by our architects that showed several access points and a possible footprint of where the school and fields were to be situated on the land.
2. There were indeed several meetings that included an acknowledgment that Larson Street is of such poor quality and narrow width that the off-site improvement costs made it impractical for it to become a major access route for buses and cars. These meetings sometimes included Board members and sometimes did not. We always acknowledged that this was an issue for the Town of Friday Harbor. They have been seemingly unwilling to make the road the arterial that it is slated to become. It is a Catch 22 for the school district----until the Town improves the road, it is basically impossible to use it as a major access route for the school property, unless the school district is prepared to pay for the improvements.
3. I do not remember the same level of concern regarding Carter Street. (Although it seems that no matter where an access point was proposed there was most likely some local resistance.) There may have some concern about access off Carter because of the location of the retention pond, but I am not certain. As I recall, this street has been improved near the apartment complex, while other sections are still quite narrow without sidewalks. Am I correct?
4. A few Village Grove folks expressed some concern about access through their development, but I believe every map still showed us using one or both of their access points to get onto the land. These maps were developed by an engineering and land development firm that was contracted by the school district. They should still exist somewhere. What I do know is that the district attempted to be good neighbors by granting these homeowners a buffer of 50 feet (or was it 75 feet?) of land between their homes and the school property. To hear about plat restrictions is interesting. I was always under the impression that these were public roads. Who granted the plat restrictions? Are these restrictions legal?
5. I do not recall any specific discussions with Mr. Galt or the few residents of Foxhall regarding limiting access through his development. (There were very few people who lived in the development at that time.) Don and I met often, but that had to do with the purchase of his land. Again, I believe we assumed that these are public streets and that they could be used for access if needed.
It seems that San Juan Island is not immune to the ?not in my back yard? phenomena that so many communities struggle with. It appears that is what happened with the gravel pit park project and now is happening with this project as well. Quite frankly, I would not blame the school district for basically saying, "forget it?" They are in the education business, not the recreation business. (Remember, this land was primarily for a future school site.)
Perhaps the district should consider selling the land to a home developer, which is what the land is zoned for. Interest from the revenue of the sale could create a capital improvement income stream for the school district. Perhaps the city or the developer would step forward and include playing fields or a park as part of development?
I hope this information is helpful as the community works to resolve issues and to meet the needs of students. I have confidence that the community of San Juan Island can come together and make decisions that support their public schools, while also supporting kids, their families, and the quality of island life by providing needed athletic fields
Former Superintendent of Schools, SJISD"