SHELTON — Mason County will run out of grant funds to update its shoreline master program by June, but officials now think that review of the outdated plan could take all year.
Counties write shoreline master programs using a framework established by the state Department of Ecology. Counties are required to review and update their SMPs every five years, but Mason County hasn’t done an update since 1988. “This is territory the county hasn’t been in for 20 years,” said Jim Sims, chair of the county’s planning advisory committee, at a Feb. 11 workshop critique of the draft SMP. “We’re going to go back to the beginning.”
A citizen advisory group — which includes property owners and state and tribal officials — created the draft SMP after more than two years of work. However, several members on the planning advisory committee feel that the advisory group did not adequately collect public input, and put together a draft program that still needs much review. Some county officials share that opinion.
In a letter to the planning advisory committee dated last month, Eric Schallon of the Green Diamond timber company expressed concern that the citizen advisory process contained too much input from state officials. “In some meetings, multiple employees from the same agency were attending, and I do not believe the level of participation by the state agencies was appropriate for a committee formed to collect the issues and interests of the citizens,” wrote Schallon, a member of the advisory group. “On several occasions, an inappropriate amount of time was wasted on policy squabbles.” Consequently, Schallon continued, the proposed draft SMP was “not based on any consensus of the group.”
“This is really, really important stuff,” Commissioner Randy Neatherlin said. “Doing this wrong could have adverse impacts on people’s property and how they will be able to use it. On the other side, we need to be careful to meet Ecology requirements. The battle is going on.
Neatherlin said he would encourage the county to retain as much local control as it can. “I don’t want to give up whatever we don’t have to give,” he said. “A lot of the concern from the community has been that their comments haven’t been taken under consideration. My job is to make sure these groups are heard and that this allows for protection of personal property rights.”
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