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Citizens express concern over aspects of draft shoreline management plan

By Sue Forde and Lois Krafsky-Perry

The public, or at least about 80 of them, showed up for the public hearing at the Board of Clallam County Commissioners’ (BOCC) meeting on Dec. 12, 2017 at 10:30 a.m. at the Clallam County courthouse, to share their thoughts and concerns about the proposed draft Shoreline Management Plan (draft SMP)  under consideration for Clallam County.  Many more citizens and groups have sent in comments by email or mail.

The meeting began with County Planner Steve Gray, reading a synopsis of what has taken place over the course of the past nine years for the plan.  He failed to mention the Seattle environmental firm, ESA Adolfson, who actually put the majority of the plan together for the county. Gray recapped the 9-year process, from the “visioning” aspect to the current draft.  He referred to using the “State guidelines,” which were revised in 2016.  He talked about the 200 foot buffers on each side which is from the high water mark (represented by the most outer vegetation line from the creek or river).  There are more than 50 pages of maps, he said, and over 200 pages of the draft plan.  Then he explained what each chapter covers.

The County Commissioners will review over 700 comments made regarding the shoreline plan, he stated, before making a decision as to how to move forward.  After Gray’s lengthy review, the meeting was opened to the public hearing.

A number of individuals and representatives of groups like Olympic Peninsula Surfrider Foundation, Steve Koehler of Protect the Peninsula’s Future, Puget Sound Advocacy, Washington Environmental Council and Olympic Climate Change, spoke against the portion of the plan that includes fish pens. Also speaking against fish pens and for more restrictive rules for climate change was Darlene Schanfeld from the Olympic Environmental Council. 

Spokane resident Rein Attemann and Puget Sound Advocacy Manager for the WA Environmental County promoted Futurewise, and loves the draft SMP.  He said it should be modified to delete the non-native fish, and take into consideration “rising sea levels”.  He urged passing the draft SMP, stating “You’re one piece of the puzzle.” Also speaking for the WEC was Jim Wesley, who said “water needs to be preserved.”

Several individuals representing Olympic Climate Change, including Brian Braff, Ron Richards and former county commissioner Mike Doherty commented that not enough was written into the plan about climate change, that it is deficient because it doesn’t talk about climate change and the sea level rising, which is a “big issue”, he said.

But more individuals spoke about their concerns for more rules and regulations affecting private property in Clallam County.  Connie Beauvais, a planning commission member, expressed her concerns about setbacks and floodplain zones, especially on the west end of the county.  She asked about the one size fits all methodology in the proposed plan, and wondered who would be liable.  What is the minimum requirement of the law, and how much taking of land do you want to do? She asked.  How will “no net losses” be handled?  She urged the commissioners to “take your time to go through it carefully.”  You’ll need to decide which way, if any, you want to go with this, she added.

Former county commissioner Jim McEntire presented comments on behalf of the Port Angeles Business Association (PABA).  Regarding “no net loss”, he said the legislature has not defined this in any law, and there’s been no adjudication in any court system.  This dictates a prudent and cautious approach, he said.  Ecology won’t pay to defend that term in the county ordinance.  Buffers will increase considerably, as well.  He recommended that the commissioners “dig into the science” – that what science exists applies to Clallam County.  “We all know that other areas aren’t the same as ours,” he said.  “What’s broken about the old buffers that the new buffers will fix?” he asked rhetorically. 

McEntire continued: The 5th amendment (to the Constitution) involves the restriction of regulatory ‘taking’ – if you do adopt the expanded buffers, do an analysis, taking an inventory of all the smaller developable parcels to be sure you won’t create the groundwork for regulatory takings.  “That’s going to cost money.  Do a legal analysis,” he urged.  It’s all about balance.

Ed Bowen, who has attended many meetings and expressed his concern throughout the process, said that the citizens are burdened by the onus of the proposed plan.  The assessor will need to take into consideration the reduced property values; we should really be improving the lives of the people of this county, he said. He spoke a second time at the hearing to say there is a significant difference in the areas of the county, and recommended that the BOCC convene a western county planning commission.    He suggested they consider what is already in the Clallam code, which has a unique component: the beliefs of the region.  The belief I want you to incorporate is that development should be encouraged and easy to facilitate, simple and user-friendly.  The litigation component can be seen with what’s happening in Jefferson County, which is under court review.  It’s before the State Supreme Court, which includes the use of general studies to develop an approach to taking of private property.  That same theme – are we going to face the challenge – of too many “generalized” studies? he wondered.

Marguerite Glover, representing the Sequim Association of Realtors, said the PABA comments were well thought out  The NNL (No Net Loss) is proposed to be measured, but it’s not clearly enough defined, she stated.  There is an extreme liability on homeowners and county government.  The county will need to hire more employees to “interpret” the aspects of the plan.  The buffer requirement greatly exceeds prior ones.  The plan should be based on science, rather than judgement, she asserted.  Section 6.3.2 doesn’t provide for a reasonably priced driveway.  She urged the BOCC not to pass the currently proposed draft plan without these suggestions.

Speaking for herself, Glover suggested quality rather than quantity.  One science does not fit all, she said.  A property owner has enhanced, rather than degraded.  The maps for the west end are not accurate.

Lois Perry expressed concern for the rights of private property owners.  Ecology will share authority with this administration; how will that be done? she asked.  Will local law enforcement be handling any violations, or will Ecology be coming in to enforce?

Jane Vanderhoof said she owns a farm in Joyce, which she has placed into conservation easements.  Public grant money was used for that.  She is against any fish pens anywhere in marine waters.  “They can be put on land,” she said.  The NNL is designed to halt the shoreline functions.  After all the money spent on the Elwha dam removal, why are we going backwards by allowing fish pens? she queried.  “Sent it back to the planning commission,” she urged.

Gil Stockton of Port Angeles wanted to know if he could enlarge his footprint at all if the Draft SMP passes.  “Would I have to rebuild to current floodplain standards” if I had to rebuild, he wanted to know.  Steve Gray responded that he would need more information.

Ron Gilles, a property waterfront owner at Lake Sutherland and a Sequim real estate broker, expressed concern for the rights of private property owners.  “Some waterfront owners haven’t built yet; these changes will affect them from building in the future,” he said.  The NNL cannot be left up to interpretation.  Increased buffers may make some of the lots unbuildable; an assessment should be made regarding the impacts, he said.  “The impervious surface provision in 6.3.2” is a problem.  A lot of the waterfront land with 100 feet in width are 400-500 feet deep; a driveway could be 4,000 sq. feet right there, which would eliminate the size of their home, he said.  Gilles said he has lived in Clallam County for 47 years and has been in real estate for 20 years.  He said he tried to give land to the Olympic Land Trust in Diamond Point, but they would not take them.  Real estate brokers get a bad rap, he said.  “We’re also homeowners and landowners.”

County Commissioner Bill Peach said he had looked at language from other counties.  There aren’t that many, he said.  He would like to see the staff’s comments from the comments made in 2014.  He wonders if comments were made in 2014 about climate change.  He commented about the western region planning commission idea as to whether there is a basis for that – especially relating to the channel migration zone.  “There’s clearly a need for us to find a solution,” he said.

The BOCC will take this issue up at a work session in early January, which will be the next stage of the process.




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