Clallam County citizen speaks out
June 25, 2001
Here is an
extremely detailed presentation of a situation that I feel should be
brought to the attention of the public here in Clallam County. To
paraphrase Mark Twain, please forgive the length of this letter but I did
not have the time or the temperament to write a short one.
I also feel that the issue is too critical and complex to be
handled in a short “Letter to the Editor”.
On the morning of 13 June 2001, at my request, I was granted a meeting with Mr. Bob Martin, Director of the Clallam County Department of Community Development (DCD) and members of his staff to discuss a problem dealing with the Clallam County Critical Areas Code (c.c.c.27.12.). At this meeting I was shocked to be blatantly informed by the department’s staff that any property owner in Clallam County who owns land that has on it a critical area or critical area buffer is responsible to restore that land to a pre-mankind condition. No matter what has happened to that land over the years, they claim the current owner is responsible for any and all alterations that have taken place since the arrival of man here on the peninsula at the end of the Ice Age.
It was stated that the current owner is responsible for all the
alterations that have taken place over the centuries and he can, at the
whim of the department, be required to restore the land who what the
staff of the department determine a post glacier condition to be.
This restoration will be accomplished even if it requires tons of
topsoil to be imported into the area.
It was further stated that the staff has the power and they would
be the ones who determine just what the pre-mankind condition is and
they have the final word on how its restoration is to be accomplished.
This was not the final word on how its restoration is to be
accomplished. This was not
just the staff’s position; it was all agreed to by the Department
Director, Bob Martin, who joined in the statement that it is the
objective of the department to return all critical areas and their
buffers here in Clallam County to a pre-mankind condition.
I was flabbergasted and asked them to think of what they were
saying! Did they really
think that they had been given the authority to declare that all
property owners in the country that have what they have or in the future
might to be critical areas or buffers are now guilty of breaking the
county’s laws and there fore are required to restore their private
property to a pre-mankind condition? At the end of the meeting I returned home and immediately
mailed a “memorandum for the record” of the meeting to Director
Now 12 days later, I
have yet to receive a response or any other indication that my
interpretation is incorrect, therefore, I can only conclude that Mr.
Martin and his staff concur with my understanding of the meeting, the
claims they made, and that they intend to act accordingly.
I find it shocking
that in a nation where a fundamental principle of both the state and
federal constitutions provides us, as citizens, equal protection under
the law and gives us the ability to expect equal enforcement of the law,
that our county non elected officials feel that they have the power to
define the code and the right to, at will, pick and chose where and how
they will enforce their view of this current C.C.C. 27.12.
[Critical Areas Code]
[Critical Areas Code]
Within a short
distance of my current home, I can view 20 pieces of property where the
owners are now unknowingly in violation of the code as interpreted by
the department. Throughout
the county there are thousands of property owners who are unaware that
they own property considered by the county planners to be critical areas
or buffer areas. These taxpayers do not realize that they are now responsible for any change that
has taken place since the arrival of man in the area and that the county
now claims the power to make them spend thousands of dollars to restore
their property to a pre-mankind condition as determined by the staff of
the Department of Community Development.
In view of the
above our elected officials have two choices:
If they concur with the staff's position, they are duty bound by
their oath of office to insure that the enforcement of Clallam County
Code 27.12. is applied equally to all owners of land that have critical
areas or buffers. By the
staff’s definition, all of these property owners are now in violation
of county law. The
commissioners must enforce that law and at once insure that all of these
owners are made to understand that even though they have done nothing to
their property they are now required to restore their land to its
pre-mankind condition regardless of cost, existing condition or the need
to import tons of soil to accomplish restoration.
If the commissioners do not agree with the staff’s position,
they should declare a moratorium on all staff actions being directed
under the current interpretation of the code until they can correct the
staff and come up with a logical ad workable solution. This might
require a recension or rescission of the current code and the
development of a new and logical approach to the question of restoration
and maintenance of critical areas and their buffers.
The staff should be restrained until the commissioners act to
correct the problems the staff is and has been creating.
So that you are
fully aware of the background of my 13th of June meeting with
Director Martin and members of the staff of the Department of Community
Development, the following is a detailed explanation of the events that
led up to this meeting.
On the 27th
of April 2001 I was issued a Cease and Desist Order on the work being
done for the placement of my manufactured home on our property at 441
Nisbet Rd. in Sequim. The
order said that before I could continue completion of my new home I
would have to hire, from a county approved list, an expert and have him
prepare a mitigation plan for the restoration of a buffer area (and
wetland) that had been cleared and graded in preparation of the site for
the placement of my home.
On the 1st
of May, after a careful examination of the property and a detailed study
of Clallam County Code 27.12, I sent a “To whom it may concern”
letter to the Dept. of Community Development and told them that I agreed
that on a small portion of the buffer (but not the wetland) the rose
bushes I had planted there 10 years ago had been removed.
I told them that I had ceased work, had hired their expert and
would do what was necessary to restore the area to the condition it was
in prior to the removal of the rose bushes.
In this same letter I pointed out that the area had, according to
past County Commissioner Dick Lotzgesell, a member of the former
owner’s family, for 100 years been a pasture.
I further stated that I could not find any portion of the code
that required me to replant the entire area.
Nor could I find any authority that could require that I plant
trees in an area that had been a hay field for years.
I asked that someone other than a Code Enforcement Officer II
look over the case and tell me to put the area back as it was before my
contractor cleared off the rose bushes.
I stated that if this were the case I would sign a document to
that effect and replant the disturbed area, then we could all get back
A week went by with
no reply so I called and asked for a meeting with Mr. Martin, the
department director. On the
16th of May, at the recommendation of Win Slota, the
enforcement officer for the case, I wrote to Mr. Martin.
My letter reviewed the events and asked that while the problems
of the wetlands buffer were being resolved for the sake of all involved,
I be allowed to continue work and the county would have the final say on
allowing our move into the unit. I
said that in the meantime the issue of the buffer could be resolved as a
separate issue. Mr. Martin
approved the concept.
On the 23rd
of May I received a draft of my mitigation plan prepared by Dr. Shea ( a
department recommended expert) and found that because Dr. Shea felt that
it was what the county wanted he was recommending that I replant the
entire buffer to include the importation of tons of soil and the
planting of trees in the area.
On the 23rd
of May I wrote to Dr. Shea and Director Martin pointing out my
disagreement with parts of the Shea plan.
I again questioned the planting of trees in an area that had been
for over 100 years a pasture. I
also questioned the planting of rose bushes in an area already covered
with hundreds of rose bushes that are rapidly growing to cover the
disturbed area, and are now four feet tall.
I asked for a meeting in an attempt to resolve these and other
The result of my
letter was the 13th of June meeting where I was informed of
the department’s position of returning everything involved back to the
conditions that existed prior to the arrival of man at the end of the
On the 16th
of June I received a letter from Associate Planner Dave Lasora telling
me that he had approved Dr. Shea’s plan and that the only way work
could proceed on my home was for me to complete the work required in Dr.
Shea’s plan before any more work could be done on the home.
At this point I
again contacted my attorney and asked him if he could find a legal basis
for the department’s position.
informed me that he had checked and could not find a legal basis for
their contentions. He also
informed me that he had checked with the county’s attorney and that
she too was unable to find a legal basis but it was her opinion that the
county had the power to interpret the code as they saw fit until a court
On 21 June after
checking my savings account and my current ability to borrow the $20,000
to $25,000 it would require to take the matter to court, I had no
alternative but to write my 23 June letter.
In it I am forced, for the time being, to surrender to the
outlandish dictates of the department, and once they provide me with the
answers to som,e basic but very important questions, I will post a bond
and get on with the work of warning the hundreds of property owners
involved of the danger they face until we can get the courts or the
county commissioners to change this outlandish position taken by
unelected staff people in Clallam County. (Enclosure #7).
The situation has
become even more bizarre as I have attempted to obtain the services of a
qualified nursery person to aid me to obtain and plant the plants
required by the county mandate. One
firm said they would not touch this kind of work the county with a 10
foot pole. One other expert
on local plantings laughed when I told him I wanted 20 one gallon
plantings of horsetails as required gy the plan.
He said that he did not stock them because they can be found
beside any road or trail in the area.
I know he is right because there are hundreds of them currently
in the area where I am required to do the plantings.
He also said that it would cost me more because it looked to him
like he would have to chop down rose bushes in order to find a place to
plant the new rose bushes decreed by the county.
In the meantime, two lawyers tell me that they are sparing no
expense in searching out an English speaking mastodon so that they can
truly ascertain what the conditions were here on the Peninsula prior to
the arrival from the north of the first man.
To end on a more
serious note, I really think that the situation has gotten completely
out of hand. For example,
at the 13 June meeting, I was informed by Dave Lasorsa, an associate
planner, that I was lucky because he had just ordered one old couple to
plant their entire buffer area in trees in order to return it to the
forest area he felt existing there in the pre-mankind era.
I feel that the public should learn just exactly how outlandish
the department’s announced interpretation of county code 27.12 is, and
what a usurpation of power is taking place by the non-elected officials
in that department. I would
appreciate your help in getting out the word!