Development moratorium authority now with county

By David Wilkins - Daily World Writer


MONTESANO, WA- After tabling the issue for further study two weeks ago, the Grays Harbor County Commissioners adopted a new ordinance Monday that gives them the final say on lifting development moratoriums on timber lands, an authority that once belonged solely to the state.

"What this does is give us more local control," said Commissioner Al Carter of Hoquiam, who suggested tabling the issue. "All my questions have been answered."

Radical as it may sound, the new ordinance is not an act of rebellion, but rather part of the state Forest Practices Act, which allows local jurisdictions to develop their own regulations regarding what can and can't be done with a piece of property after it's logged.

Before Monday's decision, an automatic six - year development moratorium applied under which nothing except replanting could happen.

The original state law was intended to stop developers from buying recently - logged forest lands and taking them out of timber production, according to Department of Natural Resources Southwest Region Forest Practices supervisor Gary Graves.

The law permits counties and cities to develop their own rules for timberland practices, Graves said, and as long as they meet or exceed DNR and Dept. of Ecology rules, the six - year moratorium doesn't apply. That doesn't mean there's no public process involved, however, as County Planner Suresh Bhagavan pointed out at Monday's meeting.

"This ordinance gives us the authority to lift development moratoriums," said Bhagavan. "We are allowed to do so under the Forest Practices Act, but only after a lengthy and detailed public process involving public meetings and opportunities for the public to comment on each proposal."

On May 19, the commissioners tabled the proposal over the objections of Commissioner Bob Beerbower of Elma, the longest - serving current commissioner. Beerbower said he saw no reason to wait, as the county has had the ability to take over timberland regulation from the state for years.

Carter, the newest member of the commission, said he just wanted more time to study the proposal so he could make an informed decision. Carter and Commissioner Dennis Morrisette of Aberdeen then voted to delay the action over Beerbower's objection. The commissioners didn't meet May 26 because of the Memorial Day holiday.

Monday's decision to approve the new ordinance was unanimous.

David Wilkins, a Daily World writer, can be reached at 532 - 4000, ext. 123, or by e - mail at


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