Frequently Asked Questions

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Outright, almost 4,800 acres.

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 all Land Bank property were taxed, and the tax rate was lowered as a result, the savings to property owners would be roughly $3 per $100,000 in value. The Land Bank owns roughly 4,800 acres, or approximately 4% of the County’s total land area. Click here for calculations.

Also, over 75% of properties purchased by the Land Bank were already 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 simple 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 provide a public space where people want it. As long as we have funding there will be opportunities to continue doing these things. And as the population continues to grow, and new houses are built, the demand will continue to grow as well.

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

A conservation easement (CE) 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 Land Bank ordinance requires us to try and secure conservation easements when it’s possible to protect the conservation values of a property without owning it. However, many sellers don’t want to retain any ownership in a property once they decide to sell.  Also, “low intensity recreational value” is part of our mandate, and it is usually not possible to secure any kind of public access on easement lands, so the Land Bank often purchases property outright as well.

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 Bank’s 35 Preserves, 24 are open to the public, 7 on Lopez, 8 on Orcas, 8 on San Juan, and 1 on Henry Island. 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. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) allowed hunting on the property for many decades prior to the Land Bank’s acquisition.

Recreational operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (a.k.a drones) from Land Bank Preserves is prohibited. The Land Bank Director may grant permission to non-recreational sUAS operators to use Land Bank Preserves under certain conditions. To learn more about the Land Bank “drone” policy, please click here.