State Agency issues "Model" Critical Areas Ordinance"

Olympia, WA - 4/28/02 - The Office of Community Development (OCD) has released its Draft Model Critical Areas Ordinance, providing guidance on using "best available science" (BAS) as every community throughout the state updates their critical areas ordinances. The BAS guidance essentially requires the use of state agency documents, all of which call for excessive buffers and onerous land restrictions. Although adoption of the model ordinance is not required, cash-strapped local jurisdictions will feel compelled to use the ordinance, as well as agency buffers and restrictions, in order to protect themselves against lawsuits brought by environmentalists under the Endangered Species Act. 

A Clallam County Department of Community Development (DCD) representative  was invited to the meetings to present the Clallam County version of the Critical Areas Code - which citizens attempted to repeal by initiative due to its onerous nature - and which Clallam County Commissioner had earlier stated would be a "model" for the rest of the state. 

Initiative 6 - Repeal of the Critical Areas Code -  was waylaid by County Commissioner Steve Tharinger (D) and Mike Doherty (D) who sued Bob Forde, the citizen who presented the signed initiatives, and the issue is now in the courts, awaiting a hearing at the appellate level. There is a good chance that the courts will protect the constitutional rights of citizens to control both State and local legislative policy, and allow the initiative to go on the ballot.  (See Initiative 6 story) 

The impact of the critical area process may well rival the challenges faced by communities considering the recent shoreline amendments or ESA regulations. Critical areas encompass wetlands; flood hazard areas; aquifer protection; geologic hazard areas, including steep slopes, mine area, tsunami and volcanic hazard areas; and fish and wildlife habitat areas, with particular focus on anadromous fish and endangered species listings. The combinations and permutations in each local area defy simplistic responses and require detailed local efforts. And the end product is the loss or significant devaluation of many presently buildable lands. 
Participation by citizens is critical to the process. Someone must bring to the local government’s attention the economic dislocation and disruption that may result from excessive buffers or other limiting regulation. Local governments must be encouraged to identify and seek viable alternatives to state-wide recommendations that may well at least double current rules when suitable alternatives are appropriate and reasonably available to a given locality.
Support local efforts to provide real options and alternatives to support good planning that provides real critical area protection.  You should be equally critical of proposals that use the guise of “best available science” to impose unnecessary or excessive burdens on the local community and property owners.
OCD will present its Final Model Ordinance in a series of workshops in May. You may wish to attend one of these workshops to find out what the state is telling your local government planners. Following, please find information about these workshops.

Following is the announcement by the state agency:

from the Washington State Office of Community Development (OCD)


Model Critical Areas Ordinance Workshops
The Washington State Office of Community Development (OCD) is sponsoring four regional workshops on developing effective critical areas ordinances. The workshops are designed to assist local governments with understanding their role in designating and protecting critical areas’ functions and values.
Critical areas are important ecological and geological areas that must be designated and protected under the Growth Management Act (GMA) by all cities and counties in Washington State. As part of the required update of growth management plans and development regulations, counties and cities are required to review and revise their critical areas ordinances. A new model critical areas ordinance has been developed to assist local governments with this important effort. The new model ordinance will be featured during the workshop.
The model was designed to offer local governments effective regulatory and non-regulatory options for protecting critical areas’ functions and values. The ordinance references development standards reflective of the best available science currently available, and that can be easily adapted to local conditions.
These workshops will address the legal and administrative responsibilities of local government decision making. Attendees will also hear practical advice from local government planners based on their experience in writing and administering critical areas ordinances.
8:00 a.m.             Registration
8:45 a.m.             Welcome, Introductions, Logistics
9:00 a.m.             Legal Issues for Critical Areas Ordinances
9:30 a.m.             Administrative Section of A Model Ordinance for Critical Areas
10:15 a.m.             Break
10:30 a.m.             Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas – Regional Science, Local Models, Endangered Species Act
11:45 a.m.             Lunch (On Your Own)
1:00 p.m.             Aquifer Recharge Areas
1:30 p.m.             Geologically Hazardous Areas
2:15 p.m.             Break
2:30 p.m.             Wetlands
3:15 p.m.             Frequently Flooded Areas   
The four workshops will be held in the following locations:

· Spokane, May 14, at the West Coast Ridpath Hotel
· Wenatchee, May 15, at the Wenatchee Convention Center
· Lynnwood, May 22, at the Embassy Suites in Lynnwood
· Lacey, May 23, at the Lacey Community Center
There is no registration fee for these workshops, but pre-registration is requested. For registration information, please contact Athena Smith at 360-753-3000. Registrations can be faxed to (360) 753-2950, e-mailed to or sent by mail.  


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