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SOUNDER THE ISLANDS’ St. Patty’s Day events – Page 11 Serving Orcas, Lopez and San Juan County WEDNESDAY, March 12, 2014  VOL. 47, NO. 11  75¢  Tangled up over farm tax breaks by STEVE WEHRLY Journal reporter Spring sports Amy Masters/contributed photo See what the Vikings have in store for the spring 2014 season, pages 8 and 9. Four property tax breaks for agricultural, timber and “open space” have recently become an issue for voters, the County Council, San Juan County Assessor Charles Zalmanek and the Washington state legislature. The tax breaks are important to the property owners, especially the growing number of small farmers in the county trying to make a living from agriculture and forestry. Both the assessor and the county council have made it clear that they don’t want to make things more difficult for small farmers. The four tax programs reduce the property tax assessment on land from the usual fair market value of the property to the current use value for agricultural, forestry or simple “open space.” These tax preferences were enacted by the people in 1968, when a whopping 68 percent of the voters approved the Open Shakespeare Fest continues to grow by COLLEEN SMITH ARMSTRONG Editor/Publisher Visitors from near and far descend on Orcas every March to share in their love of the Bard. Now in its third year, the chamber-sponsored Shakespeare Festival is from March 19 to 22. There will be live performances, vendors, food and entertainment in the Village Green, a parade through Eastsound and lots of costumes. This year’s festival is directed by Robert Hall with help from a crew of volunteers, actors and artists. “Shakespeare is always considered one of the greatest authors of all time,” Hall said. “His metaphor and imagery is quite beautiful. People don’t have time anymore to stop and listen, let it wash over you. His writing has stood the test of time. It is performed and studied in every country of the world.” The event was originally launched to bring more visitors to the island during the off season. Festival creator Michell Marshall says last year lodging and restaurant owners reported an increase in business. First on the lineup is an “Orcas Tribute to Shakespeare” at Random Howse on Wednesday, March 19 at 6 p.m. Tickets are $12 at the chamber, Office Cupboard or online at Participants can purchase wine and food at the venue. Martin Lund will kick off the evening that includes local musicians presenting period pieces and actors performing works by Shakespeare. “There will be some beautiful performances as well as some fun stuff,” Hall said. On Thursday, March 20, Sazio di Notte is hosting a fundraising dinner from 6 to 9 p.m. with the Seattle Shakespeare Company and Dr. Ayanna Thompson, a worldrenowned Shakespeare expert and professor at George Washington University. Colleen Smith Armstrong photo At left: Paul Freedman making an appearance as Shakespeare at last year’s festival on Orcas. Dinner is $125 and includes wine. The menu is Ceci con gramberi (warm chick peas with prawns), panzanella (Tuscan grilled bread salad, tagliatelle pastore (Shepherd’s pasta), and polenta al forno (baked polenta with cauliflower and gorgonzola), cinghiale (wild boar), tiramisu. To attend, call the chamber at 376- 2273, Sazio at 376-6394 or the Office Cupboard at 376-2378. The festival is partnering with Orcas Crossroads to bring Thompson to the island. She will present “Othello in the 21st Century: To Perform or Not to Perform?” at 7:30 p.m. at Orcas Center on Friday, March 21. “Othello is the best-known black character in Shakespeare’s plays, a traditional role of dignity for black actors,” Thompson said. “But racial stereotypes of the 17th century create some discomfort among 21st century audiences.” The lecture will explore historical and contemporary performances of the play in light of this discomfort. Thompson specializes in Renaissance drama SEE FESTIVAL, PAGE 6 Space Taxation Amendment to Article VII of the Washington Constitution. The constitutional amendment was succinct, self-explanatory and far reaching: “[F]arms, agricultural lands, standing timber and timberlands, and other open space lands used for recreation or enjoyment of their scenic or natural beauty, shall be valued for purposes of taxation on the basis of the use to which such property currently is being applied, rather than on the highest and best use.” The implementing statute, Chapter 84.34 of the Revised Code of Washington, is neither succinct nor self-explanatory, which has resulted in the tension between the assessor and the county council. The “current use” value of agriculture land in San Juan County is only 4.6 percent of the fair market value of that land. The property taxes on land in the timber programs are calculated on an even lower average current use value – only six-tenths of one percent of the fair market value. Of the 110,142 acres of properties in San Juan County, only some 56,000 acres, or under 51 percent, SEE TAX, PAGE 6 Sounder deadlines Display advertising: Friday at noon Classified advertising: Monday at noon Legal advertising: Thursday at noon Press releases, Letters: Friday at 3 p.m. How to reach us Office: 376-4500 Fax: 1-888-562-8818 Advertising: advertising@ Classified: 1-800-388-2527, classifieds@ Editor: editor@

Islands' Sounder, March 12, 2014

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