Shoreline Master Program (SMP) - Another Attempted Land Grab
You are invited to the Jefferson County Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday, January 21, 2009, at 6:30 p.m. at the WSU Community Learning Center, Shold Business Park, 201 W Patison (at Hwy 19/Rhody Dr.), Port Hadlock.
Activist organizations, most of whom are not even based in Jefferson County, are urging their supporters from as far away as Seattle to attend this meeting and speak in favor of the proposed revisions to the Shoreline Master Program, which are inconsistent with the balance of uses the SMP seeks to lawfully achieve.
The Olympic Stewardship Foundation (OSF) has been working hard to protect your property and your rights as Americans to the reasonable use of your property. Now we need you to take just one evening to help yourselves and help OSF in its continuing quest of working for you, your children and their generations to come.
The Planning Commission will be conducting a public hearing on proposed revisions to the county’s SMP. The shorelines are those lands 200 feet from the mean high water mark adjacent to waters of the Puget Sound, many lakes and several streams and rivers.
Our position, at OSF, is that the existing SMP, with a few notable exceptions, is more than adequate to strike a reasonable balance between the needs of people and the needs of the environment. The proposed revisions go far beyond what is required by state law. The value of protecting the shoreline is not in dispute. Our OSF mission of protecting rural properties is consistent with the purpose of the state’s Shoreline Management Act.
Although county representatives will tell you that existing uses are “grandfathered,” this is only partially true. All existing homes along designated shorelines will hereafter be considered as non-conforming uses. In certain cases following destruction of a shoreline home due to fire, flood or other event, reconstruction may not be allowed.
We at OSF also find the ruse of “grandfathering,” that you-have-yours-so-don’t-worry promise, to be distasteful at best. Once the takers have been successful in taking from a few, who do you think will be next? You don’t have shoreline property? If they are successful here, will you be their next target?
Please plan to attend this public hearing in person, at which time you may speak or hand in a written comment. Also invite your friends and neighbors, and ask them to invite their friends and neighbors.
Even if you cannot attend this hearing, there is still something you can do. If you have an attorney, ask him or her to write a letter on your behalf to the Planning Commission. There are several provisions in the proposed SMP that run counter to state law. Only if you protest formally will you have legal standing to challenge any of the illegal provisions that may be enacted.
Don’t have an attorney? Write the letter yourself.
Deadline for public comment is January 30, 2009. Mail letters to: Jefferson County Planning Commission, 621 Sheridan Street, Port Townsend, WA 98368, or fax your letter to 360.379.4451. Letters are better than e-mails, but if you would rather use e-mail, comments may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please help us to help you.
Olympic Stewardship Foundation
Suggested comment ideas:
OSF has done the homework, now we urge you, in your own words, to use one or two of the ideas below:
• The current draft of the revised Jefferson County Shoreline Master Program (SMP) is overly broad, conflicts with the general laws of the state, delegates too much local control to the Department of Ecology, and violates the mandate to regulate shoreline areas exclusively under the Shoreline Management Act.
• Contrary to public statements made by some County officials, that the proposed draft SMP regulates existing uses and relegates the built environment to a disfavored status. Specifically, imposition of the proposed 150 foot generic shoreline buffer would make all existing development within Jefferson County non-conforming, a highly disfavored treatment.
• The public should be informed by Jefferson County that the proposal is a huge expansion of the shoreline regulatory system with severe consequences on shoreline property owners and users.
• The County Final Shoreline Inventory and Characterization Report (Revised) dated June 2008, is incomplete, lacking field verification, and a thorough description and analysis of existing conditions since it is based only upon published and unpublished literature pertaining to Jefferson County. This approach violates the State Guidelines for revision or adoption of a new SMP. WAC 173-26‑201 (37)(c) requires actual specification of the extent of existing structures and development and the effectiveness of the existing shoreline regulatory system in terms of preventing or minimizing impacts associated with shoreline development to date. The Study does not contain such specification.
• The public comment period began the day the Planning Commission received the changes. Most planning commissioners weren't aware of the changes; how can the public be expected to understand them in such a short time, especially over the holidays? During the Critical Areas Ordinance review, the PC discussed the revised draft for months before holding a public hearing.
• For those few who followed the progress of the SMP Committee, last minute changes were made to the working draft that substantively altered the content, yet the record of those changes (minutes) were not released until after the draft was officially made public.
• The shoreline technical committee appears to reside largely out of county. While this is allowed by the law, there should be an accounting for exactly who developed the heart of the changes, who they are associated with, and any potential interests they may have in the outcome of the SMP update.
• The chair of the Planning Commission is also involved in the business of geoduck farming. The section on aquaculture has taken more attention than any other section. Should the chair at a minimum disclose his interests before the hearing, or even excuse himself?
• The SMP update is not a general referendum on widely-held environmental values; rather it is a specific exercise intended to balance legally allowed, priority uses by citizens and protection of the shoreline. These two interests do not have to be in conflict with each other nor are they mutually exclusive.
• Why are such drastic changes being made when the condition of our shoreline is described as good? Where is the demonstration of harm?
• While the SMP requires a balance between human uses and ecological preservation, this update is slanted toward the environment beyond the requirements of the law.
• How much will it cost to administer and enforce all of these micro-managed changes? The county Department of Community Development just had to reduce its staff. Now it's talking about raising permit fees by 27%. How much extra are citizens going to have to pay for the administration of increased DCD oversight that hasn't been shown to be necessary?
• Can we get an accounting of where all the public comment is coming from? From rural Jefferson County, Port Townsend, or the I-5 corridor?
• If strict prescriptive regulation is so effective, why do we keep needing more of it?
• The draft is very hard to read and understand. Emphasis must be placed on the importance of a readable, understandable document for permit applicants. DCD complains that permits are delayed in part because of applicant mistakes, yet how much is the ambiguity of codes responsible for that?
• This SMP update is driven on the premise of fear, rather than fact; fear that Jefferson County will be overrun by "development pressures" that haven't been substantiated, while the actual assessment of shoreline conditions are good. The people deserve regulations based on fact, not fear. PEOPLE DESERVE 21st CENTURY LAND USE LAWS, NOT A RETURN TO PRE-EUROPEAN HISTORY.
• How does the county justify increasing the shoreline buffers from 30' to 150' without any corresponding decline in shoreline conditions? The county has repeated stated the shorelines are in good condition.
• While we are given assurances that existing uses are exempt, normal additions and re-models can be subjected to extensive conditions, including critical areas review.
• What is the justification for the dramatic increase in shorelines designated "natural," when the assessment of shoreline conditions remain good? What changes in circumstance justify increasing the natural designation to 41% of shoreline? This results in a number of currently allowed uses that are diminished by either being prohibited or subjected to a conditional use permit.
• How can the county write regulations that are based in part on the existing and cumulative impact of development when the county hasn't even finished the required cumulative impact analysis?
• How can we know what we are protecting the shoreline from when we don't know exactly to what degree or severity those impacts are? Right now the protections are more based on the assumption of what the human impacts are or presumption of large population increases. These assumptions are not consist with Growth Management Act comprehensive planning processes.
• Requirements for conditional use permits have increased dramatically .This draft gives far too much discretion to county staff who have already shown a prejudice against the preferred use under the SMA of single family and other priority shoreline uses.
• The provision to incorporate the CAO section of the development code - 18.22 - by reference, or to regulate shoreline uses through 18.22 performance standards IS IN DEFIANCE OF THE RECENT STATE SUPREME COURT DECISION, FUTUREWISE V. ANACORTES. The explicit language in the decision clearly enunciate the separation of jurisdictions between SMA and GMA: "Critical areas within the jurisdiction of the SMA are governed only by the SMA."
• The conditions placed on non-conforming lots are way too restrictive. This update will have a huge effect on many shoreline parcels in Jefferson County.
• The provisions for making structures totally damaged by fire or some other catastrophe subject to the new regulations are punishing people for the legal right to live on the shoreline.
• Proposed changes turn most of Jefferson's shoreline into non-conforming uses, a practice disfavored by the law.
• The draft doesn't recognize the standards for evaluating priority uses described in RCW.90.58 and WAC 173-26. The qualifying adjective used in the statutes when determining impacts are significant/substantial/minimize insofar as practical.... The draft appears to apply a standard wherein any impact is subject to conditions.
• The draft applies 150' buffers on new agriculture, when much smaller, smarter buffers employing best management practices have proven to be an effective win-win solution for both farming and water quality. The draft contains a policy to this effect but doesn't use it in its regulations.