State orders tougher land-use rules
Panel says Clallam must scrap reduced buffer zones, 
write new regulations

  By Ken Short
for The Peninsula Daily News

Jan. 7, 2001 - Clallam County, WA - Minor new developments close to salmon-bearing bodies of water will be governed by tougher land-use regulations for the next six months.

The temporary regulations follow a state Growth Hearings Board decision ordering Clallam County to scrap reduced buffer zones in its Critical Areas Ordi­nance.

The hearings board decision, announced Tuesday, said the reduced distances do not comply with the state Growth Management Act (GMA). The board ordered county planning staff to write new rules within 180 days.

Minor new developments include construction of single-family residences, land-clearing of 20,000 square feet or less and agricultural structures less than 4,000 square feet in size.

In the meantime, current stream and river buffer distances some will be replaced by higher distances -  increasing some distances from 35 feet to 150 feet - usually applied to major development.

The hearings board ruled that the county failed to use the “best available science” when it reduced buffer widths.

Buffer zones, undeveloped areas, are required between commercial or residential developments and aquatic habitat.

‘Zero’ distance Invalidated

The ruling also invalidated the part of the ordinance that allows minor building development “zero” distance from small non-salmon bearing streams of 2 feet or less in width.

The county was ordered to establish an adequate small stream buffer within 90 days.

Clallam County Community Development Director Bob Martin said the department will provide more thorough scientific data to support the reductions.

"We will be attempting to develop that record more thoroughly " Martin said. “And, we think we can prove to them that some scientific information supports the buffers.”

 “Except for limited instances.…Clallam County has done an excellent job of recognizing, modifying, synthesizing, and applying best available science to its local conditions,” board members wrote.

The ordinance came under fire last March when environmental groups Protect the Peninsula’s Future and Washington Environmental Council appealed the regulation.

The group alleged parts of the ordinance were scientifically unsound.

Eloise Kailin, president of that group, said she is pleased with the outcome, but doubts Martin can enhance the scientific record enough for the state board to accept reduced buffer distances.

“I’m not quite sure what rock he’s going to pull that out from under,” Kailin said.

The temporary buffer distance increases for minor development not including wetlands, is as follows:

Buffer distances are scaled for Type 1 through Type 5 waters.  Type 1 waters are the highest use areas for fish, wildlife or humans:

Type 1 – Marine, streams and lakes, 150 feet.

Type 2 – 150 feet, up from 65 feet.

Type 3 – 100 feet, up from 50 feet.

Type 4 – 50 feet, up from 35 feet.

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