County Set to Repeat its Critical Areas Ordinance Mistakes

by Karl M. Duff, Immediate Past President, KAPO

Three years ago, Kitsap’s Commissioners (by a 2-1 vote) agreed to place new severe shoreline buffers in the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO), thereby increasing shoreline set-backs from 35 ft. to 100 feet. In addition, they agreed with environmentalists to designate 100% of Kitsap shorelines as “critical areas”. (This compares with a 12% figure for Pierce County.)

These resulted in nearly all improved shoreline properties being found “non-conforming”, vastly damaging owners’ ability to make reasonable use of their property without extensive permitting problems, variances, hearings, appeals and litigation fees.

The CAO actions were contrary to state law and appear likely to be remanded by the Washington State Court of Appeals, which heard the case last Monday, June 15th.

The two Democrats on the Commission at the time, Chris Endreson and Patty Lent, are now gone, as is the dissenting vote of Jan Angel, but the question remains whether their replacements in office have learned anything or desire to waste another three years repeating the same mistakes in the Shoreline Master Plan (SMP) update.

Actions and statements from Kitsap’s Department of Community Development (DCD) indicate they haven’t learned much. Consider the following:

    In order to obtain grant funding from the State Department of Ecology (DOE), Kitsap has agreed to DOE’s guidelines, a prescription for disaster. DOE’s process establishes its “decisions, policies, regulations and strategies” prior to the end of the first year. However, no public hearings will be held until the end of the third year.

    They plan no attempt to obtain any Kitsap shorelines science, but will accept obsolete and extremist science of DOE, limited almost entirely to terrestrial doctrines (wetlands, aquifer recharge, wildlife conservation areas, geologically hazardous or frequently flooded areas) as defined under RCW 36.70A. These apply to the CAO under the Growth Management Act but not the Shorelines Management Act! This is precisely one of the violations of law likely to be remanded on the 2005 CAO. 

    The words “marine habitat” never appear in the DOE guidelines. Rather called for are wide scale terrestrial studies, including “large drainage areas, geology, soils, topography, climate, vegetation and drainage patterns”, assuming these can somehow be shown to be relevant to shoreline. Results will likely not relate to kelp, eel grass, clam beds, salmon or human use of shoreline, but more likely will be applied to wildlife migration! Futurewise and other extremist groups have already called for these and a 150 waterfront set-backs in the SMP update. 

    “Impact analysis” is not provided until phase 4 in the third year. This is far too late to modify the above decisions and policies made in the first year which impact private property rights. By then we will be approaching the completion deadline likely to produce the same contrived governmental ‘panic’ that occurred with the CAO contrived deadline of the fall of 2005.

Either deliberately or unwittingly, it appears our new county leadership is on the same road to disaster as occurred with the CAO. There should be public objection against more taxpayer financed litigation. Changing the course of events will require development of up-to-date marine science and Kitsap County’s independence from DOE’s dictates.


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