Move by locals to repeal ordinance gains momentum

by Lois Perry

Joyce, WA - March 20, 2001 - "This is not really about water, fish, or trees. It is an assault on individual Americans to own property and to do as he pleases, if he does not injure another individual,” announced Bob Forde, Chair for the Committee to Repeal The Critical Areas Code. The group plans to introduce an Initiative to the Clallam County ballot in November and is positioning petition gatherers in several communities for the endeavor.

Approximately 70 alarmed citizens filled the Joyce Crescent Grange, March, 20th, to voice their concerns about the adopted Critical Areas Code (CAC). Five-week-old baby Jasmine sat trustingly on the laps of family and friends, unaware that the fate of her future was in their hands. “This is just what happened in Germany,” said one elderly lady in the group, as she listened to the comments of those nearby. She said she had lived in Germany before World War II, and the same methods of increasing bureaucratic control were used there, gradually eliminating  the people's independence.

Forde informed  the attendees that the present Code is unconstitutional. He pointed out Article 111, Section 3.10 (Legislation) from the Clallam County Home Rule Charter. “An ordinance shall be limited to one subject,” affirms the charter. The speaker stated that the CAC is also in violation of the Constitution of the United States and the Washington State Constitution.

Buffer areas were of utmost concern to many of the local tax payers present. Several noted that they would not be able to rebuild their homes if there was a disaster, such as fire, under the buffer designations in the Code. “We call that a taking,” shouted one land owner. “It is anti-American,” observed another community member. “Get a summary of their interpretation of what they think it land is mine,” announced Parker Stoops of Joyce.

The Growth Management Act (GMA), of 1990, calls for a critical areas code, but leaves it to the county to determine how restrictive to write it.  Clallam County has one of the most restrictive Codes in the State, and County Commissioner Steve Tharinger proudly stated at a recent meeting that it would be used as a model for other counties.

Clallam County Commissioners adopted the final version of this code in 1999, despite heavy protests by citizens concerning many portions that would favor the environment over people. The Code encompasses roughly half of the county. The areas include the following: aquatic habitat (stream types 1 through 5), critical aquifer recharge, frequently flooded areas, geologically hazardous areas, wetland, and wildlife conservation areas. 200 foot buffer areas adjacent to these critical areas are also often included in the code.

The Department of Community Development or designated representatives are vested with the responsibility of administering the ordinance. Unelected staff have full control over what is or is not allowed. Enforcement of the ordinance provides that any person found to willfully engage in activities within a critical areas or critical area buffer shall be punished by a fine of not less that $100. nor more that $5,000 with fines as high as $25,000. Fines generated from these county employees will produce more income to hire more enforcement officers, and encourage landowners to sell their land or grant conservation easements, some of them going to land trusts.

Two Code Enforcement Officers are already on staff and a County Code Enforcement Attorney has recently been hired.

For more information, to plan meetings for your area, donations, or to request petitions, phone Bob Forde at 360-681-6955. Evening phone 360-681-3023. Write to P.O. Box 3457, Sequim WA 98382..

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