Frequently Asked Questions

Outright, about 3,100 acres.  We also lease 400 acres on Lopez Hill from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Public land is a huge benefit for the county in that it:

  1. Preserves the island’s character, and gives us places to go.
  2. Plays a key role in keeping us competitive in the real estate market.
  3. Helps maintain our property values.
  4. Is the underlying driver of our tourism/service businesses.
  5. Does not create a need for additional taxes as does development (EMS/hospital/schools/roads/library/fire district).

If we added the assessed value of our purchases back into the tax base it would hardly reduce taxes at all – maybe $10 on a $500k property. There’s really plenty of private land left to tax. Of the roughly 20,000 tax parcels in the county, about 570 (less than 3%) are publicly owned.

Also, over 75% of properties purchased by the Land Bank were in preferred tax categories. For example, 1,575-acre Turtleback Mountain was in Designated Forest Land (DFL) and the previous owners paid less than $1,000/year in property taxes.

The obvious answer is when the public decides not to renew the Land Bank real estate excise tax (REET). Beyond that though there are many ways to look at it. We are about saving special places, keeping the islands rural, giving people the chance to climb a mountain or visit a beach – or just provide a public space where people want it. As long as we have the funding there will be opportunities to continue doing these things. And as population continues to grow, and new houses are built, the demand will continue to grow.

No. The Land Bank operates under state enabling legislation which requires the revenues to be spent on conservation. Other community projects, while they may be equally important, must have a different source of revenue.

A conservation easement is a restriction on private property, usually to limit how many houses might be built or how many times it can be divided. Think of the view of a favorite farm across a valley. Imagine it with 10 or 20 houses added. The goal of a CE is to limit this and preserve agricultural or open space areas in perpetuity.

The citizens of San Juan County voted to establish the Land Bank real estate excise tax (REET) in 1990, after helping to create the state enabling legislation. Citizens have renewed it twice, in 1999 and 2011.

Absolutely not. Of the Land Banks 31 Preserves, 21 are open to the public, 7 on Lopez, 7 on Orcas, and 7 on San Juan. Soon to be 22!  Over 70 percent of the area of Land Bank Preserves is open.

The Land Bank and the San Juan Preservation Trust (SJPT) work closely with each other and there tends to be confusion about who does what. The Land Bank is public and the 1% real estate excise tax comprises most of its revenue. SJPT is a private land trust and derives the vast majority of its revenue from private sources.

The Land Bank allows deer hunting on Lopez Hill, a property leased from the state Department of Natural Resouces (DNR). DNR allowed hunting on the property for many decades prior to the lease. The Land Bank is also looking at allowing limited duck hunting on its False Bay Creek Preserve.