Ludlow laments land use mistakes -Residents say county dropping
the ball on land use violations
Port Ludlow, WA - It's a good thing that Tony Hernandez is well-liked by a large number of Port Ludlow residents.
As Jefferson County's code enforcement officer, Hernandez has been invited to a meeting of the Port Ludlow Village Council at 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 5 at the Bay Club. From all accounts, it sounds as if the former sheriff's deputy could encounter some unhappy campers in the "village in the woods by the sea."
Many residents are fuming over the handling of recent land use issues by the county's Community Development Department. "We've all registered loud protests with the county commissioners," said Carol Saber, village council president. "But it's like closing the barn door after the horse is gone."
In her e-mail inviting Hernandez - whose position as code enforcement officer is within the sheriff's office, not community development - Saber wrote, "Port Ludlow has had several unfortunate incidents lately of violations of county ordinances and state law," adding, "We would prefer that these incidents never happen, that potential violations be caught before they occur."
The village council is an advisory body that has no formal authority over land use issues.
At least one Ludlow resident, developer Bert Loomis, is upset that the county hasn't required the removal of a boat being used as a sign at the corner of Oak Bay Road and Paradise Bay Road.
Quite a few residents feel that the county has been too soft on the developer of three parcels on Ludlow Bay Road known as the "Wedgewood Short Plat," who removed a number of trees from a slope next to a salmon stream to improve views.
And then there's the county-issued permits for three buoys in the inner harbor - a location where buoys were prohibited by the county years ago. Community development staff was unaware of the prohibition until it was documented in a complaint filed about the buoys.
"It's a relatively minor issue that is an icon of a larger issue," said Loomis of his beef about the boat being used to advertised Captain Bry's charter boat service. "They don't do the job correctly up front," he said, asserting that county staff doesn't make people aware early on of laws pertaining to land use and development.
Loomis likened the accumulation of violations to the "broken window syndrome," whereby blight accelerates when small problems are left unchecked.
"I want every business to succeed," said Loomis, but he feels that the ersatz billboard, combined with a couple of vehicles for sale on the same property, does little to enhance the image of the retirement community. He also asserted that the sign is in the public right of way.
"Bert has my phone number. The phone number is on the boat, for goodness sakes," said Bryan Diehl, owner of the boat sign. "Everybody in town thinks it looks good except for Bert," Diehl continued. He suggested that Loomis' property, behind American Marine Bank, has sandwich-board signs in the right of way.
Diehl said he bought the residential property last summer, cleaned it up, and rented it out. He needs the sign to advertise his charter boat business, which operates a sailboat and a 1919 motor launch from Port Ludlow Bay.
Diehl is unhappy that Loomis has sent e-mails about his sign to county officials and other Port Ludlow residents without including him in the distribution.
In an e-mail sent Monday to the Board of Commissioners and staff, Loomis asserts that it's been 127 days since he first complained about the sign. County planner Michelle Farfan sent a reply the same day, noting that the priorities for complaints are life safety and environmental issues. The county wouldn't be able to keep up with permit applications if too much emphasis was given to the backlog of 140 complaints, she responded.
Farfan told the Leader that it's unknown whether Diehl's sign is in the right of way, but it doesn't appear to violate the sign ordinance as it is applied in the residentially zoned areas of MPR, or Master Planned Resort designation, in the county's comprehensive plan.
Richard Rozzell, president of the Bayview Homeowners Association, said that community development staff refused to accept his complaint when he discovered that trees were being cut in a wetland buffer designated on the recorded plat of the Wedgewood development in December.
Rozzell managed to get the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to investigate his concern, and after contacting county staff again on Dec. 5, 2003, the county posted a "stop-work" order on the property.
The county authorized the developer, Joe Klinker, to remove the stop-work order the same day, Rozzell complained. Community Development Director Al Scalf told Klinker that he could take down the notice as long as no further trees were removed until the matter was resolved, Farfan confirmed.
DFW issued a "report of violation" on Dec. 9 followed by a "hydraulic project approval" on Dec. 19; a DFW official on Monday confirmed that Klinker may proceed with his project.
On Jan. 30, Farfan sent a letter to Klinker authorizing him to remove several additional trees as shown on a site plan he submitted provided that he comply with DFW's conditions, which include planting three trees for every tree removed.
Rozzell feels that the county should fine Klinker and require him to plant sufficiently large trees to mitigate the loss of privacy by adjacent owners. He pointed out that the plot plan clearly reads "wetland buffer" in the affected area, where a salmon stream has been officially identified.
Klinker told the Leader that county staff has done a "wonderful job" of accommodating the interests of all parties. He said he was entitled to remove the trees from a designated view corridor.
The plat condition that Klinker relied upon reads, in part, "At its discretion, and subject to any restrictions imposed by Jefferson County or otherwise by law, a lot owner is permitted to cut, remove, prune and limb vegetation, including trees, if it deems that such vegetation is obstructing lot views and if such ... is allowed by all applicable laws, ordinances and regulations."
Klinker said he wants to be a good neighbor, but people in Port Ludlow should "understand that they can't dictate to everyone unless you own the property."
The Community Development Department issued three different permits for mooring buoys in the inner harbor in 2003. After realizing that the permits violated the county's own conditions, staff attempted to rescind the permits. The negligent issuance of permits could create a liability for the county, said County Administrator David Goldsmith, who announced his resignation Feb. 3 (see related story, page A-1).
When the development was approved in 1988, Goldsmith said, the prohibition on buoys there was incorporated in the CC&Rs (codes, covenants and restrictions) for those parcels but was not written on the plat maps. Subsequently, in reviewing the buoy applications, staff checked only the plat maps and didn't realize there was a prohibition, Goldsmith explained.
The matter could end up in court if the county and the buoy owners are unable to come to an agreement, he said. "We are in discussions," Goldsmith noted, and the parties have agreed that there will be no boats moored to the buoys until there is a resolution.
Correspondence on file at the county indicates that several of the affected homeowners associations support removal of the buoys, but the three buoy owners wish to retain their permits. One of those buoy owners is Del Jacobs, who, after receiving his buoy permit, invested $200,000 in a new 33-foot trimaran sailboat that he says is especially well-suited to sailing with his quadriplegic son.
One possible solution is that the buoy owners might be given the equivalent of a "life estate," whereby they could use their buoys until they die or decide to not renew the buoy lease with the Washington Department of Natural Resources, he said.
All three county commissioners were scheduled to be in Olympia on other business on Thursday, Chairman Glen Huntingford said. However, he might change his plans and attend the village council meeting to help address the various concerns, he said.
"Clearly, we made a mistake," Huntingford said of the county issuing the buoy permits. "We have to make it right."
(Contact Barney Burke at email@example.com.)
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