(Testimony given on March 23, 1998 at a SJC Comprehensive Plan Hearing before Commissioners Evans, Miller, and Neilsen)

by Fred Klein

Thank you for this final opportunity for public comment on the Comp Plan revisions... some of my thoughts you have heard before, but I repeat them from a place of deep conviction.

I note the detailed and nuanced language regarding guest houses which has been added since the last hearing; it demonstrates how responsive local government can be. I only wish the same level of attention had been given to what I feel are more fundemental issues with enormous consequences which we will face together in the years ahead.

Overall, I sense that the proposed revisions to our Comp Plan represent our collective best efforts to plan and deal with the pressures for anticipated growth and development during the years ahead...but only to the degree to which we have been willing to confront them.

I wish...that collectively, and with a sense of honesty...we had been more willing than we have been, to face the fact that the rate of population growth is twice that upon which the plan is based. Understating the growth rate at 2.5% per year instead of the almost 5% growth rate which we have experienced for the past twenty years... convenient as it may be...allows us to remain comfortably complaisant in the face of development trends and patterns which undermine our reasons for being here, the rural character of the islands, and the precious property values so dear to our hearts.

The efforts at revising our Plan ignore the development potential of the residential densities imbedded it...those same 1979 densities set largely in ignorance of current notions of land's carrying capacity and environmental concerns. Throughout this six year planning effort, I have never once heard anyone suggest that those densities are consistent with our Vision Statement. We have...collectively...been unwilling to acknowledge the consequences of ignoring this inconsistency.

Personally, I have been more concerned with the patterns of the development potential of our residential densities than the absolute numbers of dwellings permitted, for it is the current patterns of development which threaten the beloved rural character. I continue to believe that...even within the context of the widely held belief that some reduction of development potential should be mandated...such an effort would have to include thoughtful and selective instances of raising development potential on specific parcels in order to achieve the other commendable goals consistent with the Vision Statement.

I find no discernable evidence that the Plan contains any language which will reduce the current trends which convert rural lands into low density sprawl, or regulatory measures designed to encourage the concentration of future growth within Activity Centers...this is, perhaps, the fundamental thrust of the Growth Management Act, and I believe it deserves to be addressed in a comprehensive way...now...not with a single genuflective sentence which alludes to some illusive action in the future.

For these three reasons...the understating of the real growth rate, no changes from the 1979 residential densities, and no measures to reduce low density sprawl and concentrate growth within certain areas...it is my opinion that the Plan is akin to a fraud. I do not mean to suggest that anyone has acted fraudulantly. I mean simply that the Plan purports to be something which it is not. The Plan purports to honor the Vision Statement, comply with GMA, and to manage growth in a manner consistent with them...in my opinion, it does none of these things.

So why bring up issues so basic in this final hour? It's not as though they haven't been raised before, by others as well as myself. Well...just think of my statement as a reminder...of what I believe to be...fundamental and bedrock issues which must be grappled with, however unpleasant, when we set about attempting to shape our future.

To anyone who is sighing with relief that this Comp Plan revision is drawing to a close, and to everyone who cares about the future of these islands...I say the planning work is just beginning, and I for one am willing to stay engaged with the process.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Fred R. Klein