The Trojan Heron posted on this Orcas Island story, and the Island Guardian just reported on the courtroom proceedings Thursday March 21 with details,
(UPDATED 02-21-13 10:20 A.M.) ~ An Orcas man is in court on a criminal charge, that stems from a civil charge, resulting from construction of a building without permits, that ended up being used for a residence.
Based on the court record it is hard to tell when Errol Speed’s trouble started, but it is clear that when Speed added his complaint in May of 2010 to the County about what he and others believed was land use violations by a commercial enterprise on Orcas, it resulted in the owner of that property making a similar charge against Speed. (more)
This post puts even more perspective on the story, asking the most important questions of all about what community is, and the humanity of the situation:
by Gordy Peterson - Island Guardian
The hard old oak chairs in the Courthouse have held the butts of generations of islanders. Judge Stuart Andrew peered over the huge dark paneled desk down upon the small audience in the oak chairs. Faded historical photos of island characters hang from the courtroom walls. These are the men who sat in judgment of their neighbors, men who handed down rulings according to the laws of the territory. I was here today out of an interest in justice. My neighbor and friend Errol Speed, is on trial, charged with serious crimes.
My butt is in an old oak chair. Errol ‘s butt is in a sling. That’s right, he is charged with the most heinous of crimes (at least in San Juan County), building code violations! OMG!
The district court judge sees a daily parade of substance abusers, domestic violence perpetrators, and people who commit violent crimes against others. Then along comes someone who is slammed up against the wall by jackbooted thugs for a difference of opinion over the size of his barn.
In this case a business competitor turned his butt in to the County Assessor, and the Planning Department for alleged offenses he found by looking at aerial photos of Errol’s farm on Google Earth. Errol was served with a search warrant and the authoritarian enforcers from the County swarmed his private property and busted him because he had no permit for his trailer or wood stove. He didn’t even know he needed one for his trailer. I’ve known Errol for more than 20 years. He is a father of six with ten grandchildren. I was the neighborhood grocer on Orcas where all his kids grew up. I saw Errol and his family in the store almost everyday. He’s a hard worker, a good father, a small business owner, and an organic farmer (why does SJC persecute organic farmers? This is the third one in a row! Charles Dalton, Nick Jones, now Errol Speed?).
Now here is the point of this article; seriously, is this the way we want to treat our neighbors? Have we come to the point in San Juan County where the correct application of the building code is the same as criminal assault? Where a landowner can face fines and jail time for using an unpermitted wood stove to keep warm? Why wouldn’t San Juan County exhaust civil remedies for non-compliance before violating the privacy of its’ citizens and storming the property with a search warrant? Is this the way we want to treat our neighbors?
This case brings some important issues to the forefront:
Can the County use information obtained from magnified aerial photographs as the basis to obtain a search warrant?
Does a private property owner who is doing no harm to his neighbors have a right to privacy?
Have regulations in San Juan County gone too far?
Regulations in this county have done an adequate job in protecting community values. Soon we will see the implementation of the most onerous and unnecessary regulations to ever come down the pike. These regulations are nothing more than tools to use to harass your neighbors for a vendetta of any kind. Is there someone you don’t like? You can stick it to them with the new CAO. If the County gets its’ way you can use aerial surveillance photos to turn in your neighbor. Have we crossed the line here into some kind of fascism? Does the “golden rule” have any meaning in the islands anymore? “Love thy neighbor” or put his butt in jail, that’s our choice. I hope for a better community. I don’t even recognize this one anymore.