Changes to Clallam County charter weighed

Public hearings planned in April

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners will conduct a series of public hearings on Charter Review Commission recommendations in April.

The three commissioners voted Tuesday to schedule six public hearings on the recommended addition of a county forester, housing initiatives, ranked-choice voting and 5G requirements.

Commissioners will discuss a fifth recommendation to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Community Development in a work session with DCD officials at 9 a.m. April 12.

The four items subject to public hearings were paired up for scheduling purposes. Three public hearings will be held on each pair of recommendations to provide more opportunity for public comment.

Here are the Charter Review Commission recommendations, with times and dates of the hearings:

• Ensure franchises comply with the National Environmental Protection Act. This recommendation was made in response to citizen concerns about the effects of 5G wireless technology.

Public hearings on the recommendation will be held at 10:30 a.m. April 6, 1 p.m. April 12 and 5 p.m. April 12.

• Ask the state Legislature to allow counties to adopt ranked-choice voting for local elections if they so choose. The ranked-choice voting system could replace the top-two primary in local elections.

Public hearings on the recommendation will be held at 10:30 a.m. April 6, 1 p.m. April 12 and 5 p.m. April 12.

• Increase monitoring of the state Department of Natural Resources’ management of county trust lands by hiring a forester. The county forester would work with DNR to ensure revenue for trust beneficiaries.

Public hearings on the recommendation will be held at 10:30 a.m. April 13, 1 p.m. April 19 and 5 p.m. April 26.

• Meet all housing needs by creating more permanent housing in Clallam County. This recommendation was made in response to the county’s housing crisis.

Public hearings on the recommendation will be held at 10:30 a.m. April 13, 1 p.m. April 19 and 5 p.m. April 26.

“My hope is that once we have the opportunity to hear this testimony, it can help shape our next steps,” Commissioner Mark Ozias said before the vote to schedule the hearings.

Commissioner meetings are held in Room 160 at the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St., Port Angeles.

They also are live-streamed and archived at www.clallam.net/features/meetings.html.

The maximum capacity of the meeting room is 120, but only 50 percent ­­— 60 people — will be allowed to attend the public hearings in person if the state remains in Phase 3 of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan, Clerk of the Board Alanna Gores said Wednesday.

Chairs will be spaced out to provide 6 feet of physical distancing.

Attendees are required to wear masks. They will be encouraged to provide contact information on a sign-in sheet that will be retained for 28 days for contact-tracing purposes, according to recent agendas.

Ozias said he envisioned small community forums held by each commissioner in his respective district after the public hearings.

Clallam County entered Phase 3 on Monday, giving the board more flexibility on how to proceed with the Charter Review recommendations, Ozias said.

County meetings were held virtually during the first year of the pandemic.

“As long as we maintain distancing and whatnot, then we can have meetings with up to 10 people at a time” in meetings after the public hearings, Ozias said of the Phase 3 guidelines.

“If that continues to be the case after this series of hearings, then that will give each of us a little bit more flexibility, potentially, for how we interact with our constituents and have additional conversation about this.

“We don’t all have to do things the same way in our respective districts,” Ozias added, “but I just want to make sure you guys are thinking about how you might like to handle that.”

Ozias said he hoped to schedule forums in Sequim-area District 1 for May and possibly June.

“That should give us enough time to come back together and have some discussion about how we’ll put together our formal response to each of these recommendations,” Ozias said.

“That will give us several months to complete that final bit of our work.”

The full text of the Charter Review Commission recommendations is on the Clallam County website, www.clallam.net.

Written public comments for the hearings can be sent to [email protected] or mailed to Board of Commissioners, 223 E. Fourth Street, Suite 4, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

The 15-member Charter Review Commission was elected in 2019 to propose changes to the county’s home-rule charter.

Clallam County voters approved three of six proposed charter amendments in the 2020 general election.

Approved were charter amendments to make the Prosecuting Attorney a non-partisan position, a housekeeping measure to clarify Article IV, Section 4.10 and an amendment to change the system of electing county commissioners to a system in which they will be nominated by their district and elected by the voters countywide.

Voters last November rejected measures to change frequency of Charter Review elections from five years to eight years, change the office of the director of Community Development from elected to appointed, and lower the number of signatures required to file an initiative petition for repeal of the Clallam County Charter from 35 percent to 20 percent of the number of voters who voted for the office of governor in the last statewide election.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].

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