hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Value of What? And, to Whom?

Okay, so yesterday's bottom line was that the members of the community in attendance at the new Lily Point LLC development didn't want it to happen but figured that the best way to have the development avoided (or at the moment, the only way since the actual hearing on the development itself isn't until June) would be to have the County planning board decide that more work needed to be done on the environmental impact statement that they'd already said didn't need any more work.  However, they left it up to the public to point out where they might be wrong about that.  Thus, the meeting was intended to encourage people to write about that.  It was more a matter of using whatever law was available to slow things down because there is a general concern that the trees are at risk of being cut very soon.

But, here's my other concern.  I certainly share in the general emotional concern of those at the meeting that this is not what I want for Point Roberts, nothing that is likely to improve Point Roberts, nothing that is likely to make it more scenic or more livable.  But there is a very big 'not in my backyard' nature to that concern.

Wayne and Anders have, after all, laid out real money for this property and this is, after all, a country devoted to capitalism, profit-making, and private property and everybody owning a house or two.  So why shouldn't they be allowed to do that here?  Granted, we'd all like it done somewhere else, but so what?  There are plenty of things in the world that I'd like done somewhere else, but I have no evidence that my wishes in such matters carry or should carry any particular weight.  Even when I would like something done somewhere else, it's very likely that some of my neighbors either don't particularly care or in fact value whatever it is being done in our neighborhood. So, I don't know that just not wanting something to happen is much of an argument, even if it's a strong feeling.

Plenty of the people, including plenty of the permanent residents here, probably rarely go down to this property.  I live near the road that heads to it (APA Road) and as far as I can tell, it is a little trafficked road.  And many of those who are driving down it either live that way or are going down to the Lily Point Preserve which is, after all, being maintained as a preserve exactly because it merited protection.  Isn't this next piece of property just a ragged edge, of which there is bound always to be one?  And isn't our concern a tad impersonal in the sense that we are mostly concerned about the idea?

If this property is so extremely valuable to those of us who live here, how come the Point Roberts Foundation (a non-existent non-profit corporation that we could all contribute money to for such purposes if we had one and if we wanted to make such contributions to improve the community's life) doesn't offer to buy it from the bank and Wayne and Anders?  And, more to the point, why isn't there a Point Roberts Foundation to do such things?  A couple of years ago, I was proposing that everybody with a house on the Point donate, say, $500 a year for the community betterment.  If we'd been doing that for a couple of years, we'd be on our way to buying the Butler property's 40 acres and saving ourselves the inconvenience and unaesthetic qualities of this development and its minus trees.  My guess is that the people with houses here, regardless of whether they do or do not have discretionary income, would mostly say, 'Hey, I already pay taxes.  Why should I pay more to live here?'

I suspect that, for the most part, people here would not be willing to put significant amounts of money to this purpose.  They would not, e.g., all give up their vacations next year and put the money they might otherwise spend on the vacation into the buying out Wayne and Anders fund.  Instead; they largely just don't want Wayne and Anders to put their money to their purpose.  The Nature Conservancy, or the Trillium Corporation, or Whatcom Land Trust will be encouraged to reach into their deep pockets, but those of us who live here and care about this?  Well, my guess is not so much.  My guess is that the Point Roberts Conservation Society still exists as a legal entity to donate funds for taking treasured Point Roberts property out of the development arena.  It was started to try to raise money for Lily Point before the Nature Conservancy, Whatcom Land Trust, and the County and State ponied up those funds.  But it was not phenomenally successful in getting contributions from Point Roberts homeowners; not in the millions of dollars, certainly.

But if we really want to preserve this property, maybe we ought to be thinking about what those of us who live her and care about it need to sacrifice for that goal, not just what Wayne and Anders ought to sacrifice.

So, those are the two sides of my conflicting views.  Today is the final day for comment to the County planners on the SEPA plan.  I wrote such a comment, in line with my first post and in particular in light of my attachment to the Point's rapidly disappearing historic houses.  But, in line with this second post, I doubt if it would--or even should--carry much weight in anybody's decision to move on with this project.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Price of Everything

Monday night was the meeting about the Stanton Northwest Properties development at Lily Point, which is now called the Lily Point development.  About 75 people showed up with dour looks to discuss what could be done about the matter.

It was an interesting and puzzling experience.  The community members appeared to have  pretty much a single position (This is a very  bad idea.  Why is such a proposal being made again, when the collapse of the real estate market and the banking industry had already defeated it once?  Do we have to have that happen again?).  On the other side of the question was the new developer, or at least half of the new developers.  The pair, let's call them Wayne and Anders, which makes them sound like an old comedy team even though they have nothing to say that is funny, sent Anders to represent their interests.  And their interests appear to be money and perhaps quick profits.

I have taken awhile to write about this because I was very conflicted about the meeting, so the blog is going to have to carry my description over two or three days' entries as I try to explain what was so puzzling.  When the original Stanton proposal came up, with its 100 houses costing a million dollars each and its beach club front and its swimming pool and expansive community center and, for all I know, its polo pony fields, one of the things most people had against it was its over-the-topness.  Now, Wayne and Anders have modified the plan and I was struck with how lacking in vision it was.  Thirty-nine houses for starters, maybe a tennis court, a little meeting place, no curbs and sidewalks.  Stanton wanted something grand, which at least befit the locale.  But W and A want something small, 'cottages' they call them, with piddling amenities, but something that will net them some very big bucks by the time they have disposed of the trees and the lots, letting actual builders move in later to assist the lot buyers.

Way too much of the meeting was devoted to Anders telling us how their plans differed from Stanton's, even though they are still operating off Stanton's plans and environmental impact statement because, he assured us, it was 'so much more efficient to do so,' which is to say 'so much cheaper,' because they don't have to start all over in the process of permits and all that.  I have rarely heard someone talk about a project in this particular manner: nothing seemed to be of import to him other than the financial issues, the 'economic viability.'  I have long known the phrase, but rarely run into someone who, at least to me, so clearly represents someone 'who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.' 

The meeting was largely devoted to a lot of technical explanations: what had the County approved, what was the SEPA statement that they had okayed but could be objected to by the public, what property or properties were actually at issue?  Wayne and Anders, it appeared, like a Junior grade Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein, had been trolling around the bottom as the garbage fell out in the housing/bank crisis and had taken up Stanton's interests for lack of a better word, which included ownership of the closest acreage (called, locally, 'the Butler property'), the plans and permits that Stanton had achieved, options on the additional parcels, and a $3 million dollar mortgage that the bank was still holding. 

The garbage turned out to contain a jewel, of course.  But a jewel with a price.  During the evening's discussion, Anders offered to sell their interests to us for $1.5 million (plus the mortgage).  Which might be a very good deal if you were going to put in a lot of houses and reasonably expected to sell them.  What Wayne and Anders plan initially is 39 lots, 10 or so on the bluff facing the ocean, a bunch more with what he called 'peakaboo' views of the ocean, and the remainder back in what would be left of the 'wooded area' after the trees are taken down for the lots, roads, and all that.  The 'cottages' are to be 2,000 square feet, but that may well be only the footprint, as two stories would be possible under the 25 foot height limit: some cottage!

And what that means, if they actually sold them to the Vancouverites who are their target audience, would be a lot of money.  The 1/4 acre lots in front, facing the ocean would be priced at $500,000 each.  That is the lot, not the lot with a house.  Building a house up here would be in the $150-$200/square foot.  Two or three thousand square feet would get you right up to a million dollars for your cottage with land.  And those little wooded lots in the back would run buyers $150,000 each.  Right away, I'm thinking that the ten lots in front are worth five million total and the other 29 lots would have to bring in 6-8 million (conservatively).  That would be a 12 million dollar return on a $1.5 million dollar (current) investment.  A nice day's (or year's) work.

So, what this certainly seemed like was Wayne and Anders' desire to make many quick bucks off some land that they had grabbed onto in the maelstrom.  Not land they cared about particularly, except for the fact that it had those ocean view lots at the front, way high above the ocean so you wouldn't even have to worry about global warming and rising sea levels.  And after all this discussion and explanation, two of our local real estate sales people, people with long experience in Point Roberts, advised Anders that the chance of selling 39 lots like that in any short term--Anders was talking a year or so--or even in anything but a very long term was very unlikely.  Very unlikely. 

So maybe we are looking at Stanton all over?  Except that, this time, the project could move along far enough before it collapsed so that a lot of trees would already have been logged.  It turns out that the Butler property has the bulk of the big trees, and the optioned property has largely already been cleared.  So by developing the Butler property first, the trees will go first.  But, as Anders pointed out to us, it would be much cheaper to develop the optioned property first, but he and Wayne don't own that property: what they own is the Butler property.

So, what's to be said in favor of this project?  Next round.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Furniture Redistribution

On Sunday, I got to feeling sorry for the loveseat/chair again on the grounds that it was a nice, sunny day and there it was sitting all alone.  So I took it a wicker basket, a vase of sunflowers in desuetude, and an old coffee cup to keep it company.  The wicker basket, turned upside down, made a passable table, and it was destined for a trip to the dump within a week.  The sunflowers, which had seen better days (and here it is is on one of them) felt like pretty much a match for the chair.  They were contained in an old spaghetti sauce jar.  And the cup?  Well, it's one I like and it had a nice carousel horse on it, but I was willing to leave it there to see what happened to it.

I sat in the chair for a moment, imagining myself drinking out of the cup and looking at the passing parade: another Point Roberts Roadside Attraction.  And then left all the stuff to their own devices for the rest of the day.  After dark, Ed decided he wanted to take some more pictures of the sunflowers and dragged them and their jar back in the house.  And the cup, too.  He liked the cup and felt it had a day's worth of adventures.  The wicker basket remained.

On Monday morning, the wicker basket was still there with the chair.  And on Monday afternoon, it had disappeared, while the chair remained.  Later in the afternoon, friends of mine from ROTUS came by to pick up a sewing machine and, as we delivered it to their car, there in the back seat was the wicker basket.  They have a a small car, so I didn't encourage them to take the chair, too.  But now I'm going to be looking for another temporary table.

Friday, April 23, 2010

We've Been Here Before

You remember that Stanton Northwest Properties was going to build a hundred of million dollar houses back next to Lily Point Preserve, and it was going to have steps down to the beach and everybody rich from ROTUS was going to come and buy the million dollar houses and belong to the Lily Point Beach Club, even though the properties were way, way above the beach, but that's detail.   You do remember?  At the time, it seemed an unlikely development because the problems with real estate housing/development loans made either financing or proposing such a project seem like a very bad business to be in.  And then it actually became a very bad business to be in.  And Stanton, apparently, fell out at/with/through the bottom of the market.

But someone else, apparently, has taken up this burden of building a 100 big houses next to Lily Point Preserve.  It's an appalling idea, but somebody has to do it, apparently, and it is, according to those in a position to know, two companies named Lily Point, LLC, and Cassimar U.S. Inc.  And who would they be?  Googling provided a little Cassimar information but no Lily Point LLC information.  Cassimar is owned by someone named Wayne Knowles, out of the University of Saskatchewan, and now in Bellingham in the real estate world and apparently a Point Roberts resident.  It is surprising to think that someone doing this kind of deal would have so little Google presence.

A recent sheet of information about this appeared at the Point Roberts public library for purposes of providing information to the public.  The public, or at least some subset of it, is in arms or at arms or alarmed.  In any case, there is a public meeting on Monday night at the Community Center, 6 p.m., to discuss what might be done.  There are eagles and eagle nest trees and tree cutting at issue.  Also, the All Point Bulletin has many details from the County level of permits and requirements here

Here are some of the trees:

The area at issue is between Claire Lane and Paul's Road, with APA Road on the north and the beach on the south.  This photo is taken from the bottom of Paul's Road, looking back toward APA Road.  As you can see, lots of this acreage has already been cleared and there are lots of deciduous trees, as well.  But in the back, there's a fair stand of big firs, and as I took the picture, an eagle was larking around from tree to tree quite near me.

Another place we've been before is Sterling Bank.  For unknown (to the public) reasons, Sterling's stock today sky-rocketed, gaining about 60%.  Now that's not much in absolute terms, given that it has been hovering well below a dollar, but it went well up above $1.00, which is a big deal since it was under threat of being de-listed on the exchange.  Anyway, some recent developments suggest that someone may be attempting to buy the bank, which would/could be good for stockholders.  Today's stock sales were in the 16 million range, whereas a normal day is about 1 million.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Chair Stands Alone

When last we met, the couch and the loveseat/chair had moved across the street to be more comfortable, I thought.  Not so much, it turns out.  In a casual local conversation, I was told that three local residents (of this little neighborhood) had felt that 'it was not fair' that our kindly neighbor should be stuck with the couch and loveseat on his easement.  And instead, that it was, presumably, fairer for the owner of the property across the street from our neighbor to have the furniture on his actual property, not just on his easement.  Or maybe they didn't know the owner of that property and, in honor of tribalism, they privileged their tribe member, over the members of some other, unknown/unliked tribe.  In any case, they moved that furniture across that street.

That was Monday late afternoon, I believe.  And then, Tuesday, early morning, the couch got up and walked entirely away and threw itself in the ocean in a desperate moment.  Or maybe someone stole the couch.  At least, stole it from the loveseat.  All day Tuesday, all day Wednesday, the beige loveseat/chair has sat at a yet stranger angle and new position on the 'eight-lots-for-sale' entryway.  Somehow, the departure of the couch set the loveseat askew. As the chair pleaded for the couch not to leave?  Askew it remains.  And alone it remains.  The chair stands alone.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chapter IV

The sun rose early Sunday morning, as it does at this time of the year.  The couch and the loveseat awakened with the sun, feeling once again damp and chilly, a little uneasy in their new residence on the easement.  The sheltering trees were nice, but the birds that sat in their branches above the furniture created a kind of problem for the two seats because of the bird emptying activity, given that the two seats did not have the capacity to clean themselves, just as they did not have the capacity to dry themselves.

All day, cars drove by, horses rode by, walkers walked and bikers biked by, but no one looked with longing at the sign-less furniture, though some looked with puzzlement.  When the previous day's visitors had rudely torn the sign from the couch's chest (the upper sign had been affixed with duct tape and it had genuinely hurt when it was removed so brutally), the couch and loveseat had wondered what would become of them, whether they could live like squatters here on a corner of South Beach Road now that they had no names nor mission.  On the other hand, the street led right to the ocean, so it was, in a sense, a very desirable neighborhood. 

Unfortunately, they had been turned away from one another in the process of the sign removal so it was hard to have much conversation between them about anything.  Nevertheless, by evening, the couch and loveseat were tired of the bird droppings, of the closeness of the various kinds of ambulators, of the cars and their fumes.  Not only had they suffered those affronts, but somebody was burning fir branches all day and the smoke didn't help the couch's cleanliness or odor at all. 

So, as darkness descended and after as long a discussion as they could manage, each suite piece lifted a leg with a mighty effort and maneuvered him and herself, respectively, across the street and into an open space in an untenanted area where eight little lots are for sale but no little lots are ever bought.  And there they arranged themselves carefully in the space that might someday be an entry road to those eight lots; arranged themselves so that they could see one another, easily speak to one another, avoid being directly under tree branches.  In addition, they had positioned themselves so as to keep the 'no trespassing' sign out of their vew. 

Another day in the amazing adventures of the cream-colored couch and the beige loveseat.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Real Spring

It's been a strange, strange set of weathers these past six months and now spring has brought us everything at once, it seems.  Normally, the cherry tree, the plum trees, the pear trees, and the apple trees bloom more or less sequentially.  But this year they're all blooming simultaneously.  That's good if you're primarily interested in the aesthetics of blooming fruit trees.  However, if you had in mind the fruits that they will produce some months hence, it's a little dicey because you run the risk of rain for all of them and an absence of bees to do any pollinating. 

It's been kind of off and on overcast these past few days and I haven't seen a lot of bees around (although they were around early in the month).  Well, we will see and if there is little fruit, we will have to sit around in August and think about the glorious blooming season we had, instead of the luscious fruit that we will not have.

Not only are all the fruit trees blooming simultaneously, but so are all the tulips: the earlies, the mid-season, and the lates are all blooming right now, which makes for a nice addition to the fruit bloom.  And there are blue forget-me-nots everywhere, and lunaria (the purple flowers in the center of the picture), and the elder berry flowers at the back.  All the green in the foreground is columbine (blue, blue-violet, mostly, but with some pink) and they will be blooming too within a few weeks.  We are overwhelmed with the sights out of the window.  What good fortune to live amongst all this beauty.

On other news fronts, someone has come along and (rudely?) ripped both previous signs off the drenched couch and its ever-more-soggy companion love seat.  It makes it seem as if this furniture couple has now come to claim residence on the roadside easement.  Nobody is going to take it home as a new possession, nobody is going to reclaim it as an old possession.  If we ever get bus service, the powers that be could make that corner a bus stop and we would all have someplace to sit while waiting to catch the bus. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Real Life

Tom Tomorrow has a challenging cartoon for us here:

Perhaps real life has already become more like the internet than he imagined.  He was making a suggestion, but reality, it turns out, is already there.  This morning, I drove by the afore-pictured couch and love seat, sitting yet on the road, waiting for somebody to adopt them or reclaim them.  The furniture had, however, taken on a new coloration.  Not produced by me, and not produced by my neighbors whose house the couch etc. are sitting in front of as the neighbors are yet away.   Brought by someone else, some other stranger who felt a need to make an intemperate comment, just like on the blogs:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

City -Suburb Infection

Returning to Point Roberts on Sunday evening, we noted that Tsawaassen was celebrating its annual spring 'big trash' roll out.  This is the weekend during which all the residents who care to place their large and unwanted objects out in front of their houses.  Over the weekend, the other residents can poke around in these piles and rescue such furnishings (largely) as appeal to them.  Then, on Monday, the big trash collectors come and take the remains away.  One way of dealing with the too-much-stuff problem.

Despite the fact that I had spent the last week getting rid of smaller versions of such objects and contemplating the possible fates of the bigger versions, I found myself looking at the piles and thinking about whether we should stop and investigate.  Surely we would have some great use for that set of four dining room chairs; or the nice bedside table pair.  Or, the whatever.  So it is with our late-20th-Century and early 21st Century North American habits of having too much and needing even more.  We apparently need some kind of national cure regimen where the entire population goes into rehab.  The news today reports that the level of U.S. household debt is currently equal to 94% of the Gross Domestic Product.  Most of that debt is probably in mortgages, but a bunch of it is in the things that we have and the things that we set out on big trash day, if we have one.

Here in Point Roberts, of course, we don't have big trash day because we are currently fortunate to have any kind of trash collection, let alone special fancy trashpickup arrangements.  Nevertheless, it would appear as if there may have been some cross-border infection.

We were away for a week, and our cross-the-street neighbors were away for that same period and an additional few days.  So, when we returned on Sunday evening, they were still away.  Surprisingly, in front of their house a couch and love seat had come to rest.  With  'for free' sign.  The couch and the love seat were not the property of our neighbors.  Just as over the border in Tsawwaasen, anyone who wanted could pick up that couch and love seat, but if no one did, no big trash truck was going to come and dispose of it on Monday.  Or Tuesday.  And by Wednesday morning, it had collected an additional hundred pounds of rain which would only make it a more alluring find.....not.  Even for those who need more.

People!  What are you thinking?  It's one thing to put something out for free in front of your own house, but it's downright uncivil to leave it in front of someone else's house without getting for their agreement.  Granted, if you have a free object, it's more likely to be seen and taken away if it's on a more heavily traveled road, but if that's your argument, then I suggest you leave it down on Tyee where you're likely to be observed doing such a thing.

Here's the unwanted couch: if you recognize it, call its owners and tell them it wants to come home, RIGHT AWAY.

As an alternative, get acquainted with Point Roberts Interface where you can put a picture of your unwanted objects for sale or for giving away.  You'd need to pay a small fee to get on the interface list, but it would be the civically responsible thing to do.  And the object won't get rained on.  You can reach the interface here:  point-interface@pointroberts.net or, if that doesn't work, try paws@pointroberts.net

Monday, April 5, 2010

Taking Time Off

I've been trying to keep up with blog posting while continuing involvement with the medical world, but this week, I am adding to that getting our B.C. house ready for sale.  And, frankly, I'm calling 'Uncle!'  So, I'll be taking this week off from 'Get the Whole Picture' blogging, while I'm up in the Sunshine Coast choosing, deleting, saving, packing, sending, giving, donating, selling, cleaning up, etcetera.

Next Monday, back on the Point/the point.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Done, Done, Done

Yesterday, I saw the guys taking down the scaffolding around the Community Events Sign, which I think means that it is finally completed.  I thought that the last stage was to put on copper gutters, but it was not apparent to me that there were copper gutters here or any gutters, but maybe I just couldn't see them from my angle.

In any case, it is finally completed, after a long two plus years when I occasionally despaired of it ever getting to this stage.  When I was last actively involved with this project (over a year ago), Judson Meraw and Steve Wolff were the forces behind it.  I know Judson was still at it at the end, but I don't know who else was involved.

In any case, thanks to everyone who made it happen.  Even in the dead of winter, there has almost always been an announcement of something about to happen here in Point Roberts.  The white background of the sign area makes it easy to read as one drives by.  And I am hoping that the solar lighting that was planned for the sign is actually there and working, at least on the days when there's enough sun to power anything.  Certainly not today.

And now we all can wonder if there is some other 'quick and easy' project that we could get behind?  And if there is, how we could have a better chance of its actually being 'quick and easy.'