Sullivan deals with hot questions during Farm Bureau meeting
June 30, 2006
Port Townsend Leader
Jefferson & Clallam Counties, WA - County Commissioner David Sullivan took the
North Olympic Farm Bureau President Roger Short (left) and Jefferson County Commissioner David Sullivan on June 28.
- Photo by Kelly Joines
heat from about 80 people at a North Olympic Farm Bureau meeting June 28 in Gardiner.
The meeting was supposed to be a formal inauguration of the Washington Farm Bureau's 24th and newest chapter.
The agenda changed a bit when Sullivan, county commissioner (D-Cape George) representing District 2, walked in shortly before the meeting began. After a few opening speeches and a presentation on county buffers given by state Rep. Jim Buck (R-Joyce), Sullivan was given the podium and took the brunt of audience members' questions.
Audience members heatedly voiced their opposition to proposed regulations on buffer rezoning and an in-stream flow ruling.
Two messages were heard loud and clear, said Sullivan - a need for an organized rewritten version of the critical areas ordinance, and a need for it fast.
“I realize we have to get information out in a better way. We just couldn't do it that fast. Not by July 5,” Sullivan said in regards to the canceled question and answer forum proposed by the planning commission. “There is no sense in calling a public information meeting and not be prepared.”
Sullivan said county staff is presently working on a rewrite. He tried to reassure the audience that the ordinance is still in the beginning stage, not something set in stone.
Also present at the meeting was Jim Hagen, chairman of the county planning commission, who said due to the cancellation of a question and answer forum July 5, the commission could do nothing about the public process regarding the CAO until September when they would review the rewrite.
The draft ordinance now under consideration has been in the works since January, when a legal challenge filed by the Washington Environmental Council against Jefferson County came to a settlement.
The agreement was reached in an effort to avoid an expensive legal battle that the county thought it would lose. County officials have said they entered into the settlement as a way of preserving language that allowed agriculture to be exempt from new wetland buffer requirements.
Through negotiations with the WEC, the county agreed to more precisely define “existing and ongoing agriculture,” thereby limiting the exemption to land that has been committed to agriculture for the long term.
Under county development laws, new agricultural uses are not eligible for the exemption.
Many of the people protesting the critical areas ordinance are concerned not only with existing use but with how rule changes could reduce future use, and how landowners would be forced to pay for expensive consultants when seeking land use changes.
The county commissioners have extended the public comment period to Monday, Oct. 23. County officials intend to spend the next few months hosting public meetings to explain and build consensus on the proposal. The first step, commissioners said, is to develop a question-and-answer sheet to explain in plain English what the ordinance says.
North Olympic Farm Bureau officers elected May 17 and installed June 28 were President Roger Short, Vice President Steve Marble and Secretary/Treasurer Sue Forde. Board members include Larry Hess, James Fritz, Jim Story, Bob Forde and Steve Johnson. The bureau still needs two chairmen, one for a legislative committee and one for policy development. Position applications will be considered Oct. 25 during a regular North Olympic Farm Bureau meeting, 6:30 p.m. the fourth Wednesday of each month on the first floor of the Gardiner Community Center.
More than 100 members already transferred to the North Olympic Farm Bureau and 11 new members signed up June 28.
Short said he expects about 50 new members by the end of next month.
Each county Farm Bureau is affiliated with the 35,000 member Washington Farm Bureau, a grassroots advocacy organization representing the social and economic interests of Washington farmers and ranchers at the local, state and national level. The national organization is the American Farm Bureau.
“I felt we did need a broader organization,” Short said during his opening speech. “I felt this is the time to band together. I know some of the things the Farm Bureau has done and I have been behind them the whole time.”