Interpretation and enforcement of Critical Areas Code creates a burden upon the people
Commentary by John C. Kaufmann
County, WA - 7/8/01 - There is a wolf at our door, and he is wearing a
disguise as a public servant! Most
of you are fully aware of the Washington State’s Growth Management Act,
under which Clallam County has crafted the “Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO)”.
When I sat in on one of the citizen committees (years ago), it
sounded like we were on the right track.
I have always had a deep appreciation for all creation and do take
stewardship of my land VERY seriously.
did you know that interpretation and enforcement of the increasingly
burdensome and complex CAO is up to unelected officials?
their stance has been, not only may you not touch or use your land (even in
current existing HISTORICAL usage!!) that they have determined contains
“critical” areas (usually they have not even set foot on said areas!
– they go by topo maps, old aerial photos, etc.)
now, the county wants all critical areas restored to “PRE-MAN”
condition! You may not even
know you have such areas on your land – you may even be paying
“highest and best” tax use, and yet are unable to use the land.
Such “discretionary” power can be easily abused, and at best,
is very, very dangerous. What
all this means, is that you may not even be aware that activities, and
usage patterns by even previous owners, may affect YOU!
may, by current interpretation and enforcement of the law, be liable to
“restore” the land to the “pre-man” condition that THEY DETERMINE!
you scared yet? Several years
ago, I was working with the Clallam County Conservation District to work
up a “Best Management Plan” for my 18 acres (only several thousand
feet from the city boundary). I
found that the County had designated about half of my land as
“critical”, and that it had been that way for three years, all the
while I had been charged “highest and best” tax use – and of course,
no refund for me.
was outraged! I was
overcharged, uninformed, and out of luck.
I was told that to maintain the mandatory buffer, I would need the
County’s written consent to do any “significant” activity within the
critical area AND the buffer. This
included mowing the pasture, or even pruning the branches on the trees. So I told the planner they would see me every January for
their permission to prune my apple trees.
I turned to the State, I was
told that this was nonsense, and if I wanted to thin the timber, all I
needed to do was to apply for a Forest Practice Application (FPA) through
the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which I did.
The DNR gave me a “determination of non-significance” and took
“lead agency status.” As
a part of the process, DNR mailed out copies of my FPA to ALL the
entities, tribes and departments. The
county’s response was to tell me they would fine me if I proceeded!
The DNR could not believe what the planning division was trying to
pull!!! The state forester
told me, “They are bluffing. Follow
our rules, and KEEP a copy of the permit and you will be all right.”
The county gave up after several more tries to scare me.
it stands now, my family of six lives in a tiny two-bedroom house on 18
beautiful acres, on which we desperately want to build a new house.
I am scare to even START the process!
Please, Please Help! This
land was bought with my blood from a terrible car accident when I was a
very young man. I have plans for it that would benefit far more people than
my family or myself. I
desperately want to make it a place of community resource for food
production and as a place of learning.
must repeal this flawed, complex and cumbersome ordinance that affects ALL
of us! Let’s put the rights
and responsibilities back in the hands of those with a real vested
interest in what happens to the land our Creator has loaned us.
C. Kaufmann lives in Port Angeles, WA