Blyn residents advocate for property rights
County to look at resizing LAMIRDs, accept public inputBy EVAN McLEAN
Sequim Gazette Staff writer
8/27/08 - Sequim, WA - Greg Mottis and Bruce Seton each own land on Zaccardo Road and have seen the parcels rezoned from commercial to low-density residential, significantly cutting the worth of their properties.
Clallam County planners never intended to make their land residential but are in a position that has forced them to consider making the temporary change permanent.
The Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board made a decision in April identifying some of the county’s planning as noncompliant with the state’s Growth Management Act, a law created to control urban sprawl.
The decision would have essentially caused a moratorium on land use in the noncompliant areas, which include areas near Sequim, Blyn and in Carlsborg, had the county not instituted temporary zoning while it sought ways to become compliant with the state law.
The temporary zoning caused much of the Blyn area and other limited areas of more intense rural development to become rural residential, allowing only one home per five acres.
In an effort to reach compliance with the state law, planners will look at designating a limited area of more intense rural development in Blyn while resizing other LAMIRDs throughout the county.
The state disagreed with Blyn’s rural center zone, which allowed some urban and commercial development, stating it was neither an urban growth area, like what surrounds Sequim, nor a limited area of more intense rural development, like SunLand.
The staff’s proposal for Blyn is to create a LAMIRD. But the boundaries must be in line with what was on the ground in 1990, meaning all areas south of the highway may not be included.
“If I wanted residential land, I would have bought residential land,” Mottis said at an Aug. 20 Clallam County Planning Commission workshop on the topic. “I’m strongly opposed to keeping rural center activities only on the north side of (U.S. Highway 101).”
Aerial photos taken in 1990 show no commercial land use on the south side of the highway. Yet, Mottis and Seton said commercial uses existed prior to 1990 that are no longer there.
“There was a tavern, a hotel and a you-cut tree farm there decades ago, but they were not there in 1990,” Mottis said. “I think my land, which was very busy during those times, should be included in this LAMIRD.”
Seton’s real estate attorney said the LAMIRD could be expanded to include his client’s land as well.
“We are working with the historical society to have proof of these pre-existing commercial uses,” said Craig Jones, with Pinnacle Real Estate Law Group.
Clallam County senior planner Selinda Barkhuis indicated the information would be very valuable to the planning process.
“We were not allowed to use historical zoning or current conditions for LAMIRD designation,” she said. “But providing us with pre-existing commercial uses in this area will help us better define a correct boundary for the LAMIRD.”
Mottis also pointed out that most land use north of the highway is bound by critical area regulations so it would not make sense to put commercial zoning there. Planners indicated the potential uses did not hold up against the growth board, which looks rather at historic uses.
The Planning Commission directed staff to define the limited area of more intense rural development’s boundaries while considering the neighborhood’s concerns.
While Blyn was not designated as a LAMIRD by the county, other areas were.
Those on the east end of the county include southwest Carlsborg, the Dungeness village, one off East Anderson Road, two off Kitchen-Dick Road near Lotzgesell Road and one off Dryke Road on U.S. Highway 101.
LAMIRDs were challenged in the central and western part of the county as well. A LAMIRD is not an urban area but the designation allows infill development to occur in an area that experienced some development up through 1990.
The growth board indicated most of the east-county LAMIRDs were too large after looking at 1990 aerial photos.
“A photo really is worth a thousand words in this case,” said Doug Jensen, Clallam County deputy civil prosecuting attorney.
In order to reach compliance, the county will redraw the boundaries of the LAMIRDs to better reflect what was on the ground in 1990 and in the case of southwest Carlsborg, remove the LAMIRD designation entirely.
“This is not the end all nor is it a stagnant process,” Jensen said.
The county is appealing some of the state board’s decisions in court; while none of the appeals deal with LAMIRDs or Blyn, the outcome could give planners a tool to allow infill in areas that became developed after 1990.
The appeals process is expected to take up to a year in Clallam County Superior Court alone.
The county has until October to become compliant in these and other areas. The commission held workshops the past two Wednesdays on Sequim, Blyn, LAMIRDS and Carlsborg and will conduct one final workshop on rural moderate zoning Aug. 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St. in Port Angeles.
Then, on Sept. 17 planners will take recommendations from the Planning Commission to a public hearing at the courthouse for vetting before making a final recommendation. The Clallam County commissioners may take action on Sept. 24.
Detailed information regarding the growth board’s decision, noncompliant lands and county plans to make those areas compliant, including maps, are available online at www.clallam.net.
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