Critical Areas Code gets revamping to make it tougher yet

by Sue Forde

Clallam County, WA - June 7, 2001 - The Critical Areas Code is undergoing another amendment: this time to incorporate the wishes of the Washington State Growth Management Hearings Board.  A couple of environmental groups filed suit with the Board because they didn't feel the Code was strong enough in "helping the environment", and are still not satisfied with the new one, according to local news reports.

Each time the Critical Areas Code has undergone a change, it's been worse for citizens who own land.  At one of the hearings held on Tuesday, June 5, one man who testified wondered whether the commissioners really want people to live here [on the Olympic Peninsula].  "James Sweet Jr. said environmental regulations are too restrictive.  "I'm just fed up," he said.  Individuals across Clallam County are feeling the same way, as the regulations, fees, and enforcement begins to weigh more heavily on landowners.  The Code covers more than 1/2 of the unincorporated area of the county.

One of the main changes to the Code is about Type 5 streams - which are creeks that usually run only seasonally, as when it rains - then are dry for most of the year.  The revision calls for 50 foot buffers on each side of these Type 5 streams - for a total of 100 feet (that's the depth of a standard size city lot).  The owner of the property is not allowed to do anything inside the buffer area - including mowing, trimming, or turning soil.  The owner still pays full taxes on the property, even though he can't use it.  Joel Fruedenthal, county "biologist", said that the value in property doesn't necessarily mean the "use" of a property.

Kip McKeever, another citizen who testified at the afternoon hearing, said the buffers on Type 5 streams don't seem logical.  He said increasing buffer widths add building restrictions on residents who own land in the foothills - the place where most Type 5 streams are located.

At the 7 p.m. hearing, Bob Forde pointed out that the Code contains more than one subject, making it unconstitutional according to the Washington State Constitution and Clallam County Home Rule Charter (the county's constitution).

Corby Somerville reminded the commissioners they were sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and read Amendment 5 of the Bill of Rights, which ends with: "...nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."  This ordinance attempts to "impose the cost of environmental protection disproportionately on those property owners who would have their development rights curtailed," Somerville stated.  

The commissioners have given until Friday, June 8 at 5 p.m. for written comments.

Back to Current Edition Citizen Review Archive LINKS Search This Site