PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners have tabled code amendments to regulate agricultural uses in critical areas.
Commissioners postponed action on a draft ordinance for new and existing agriculture in environmentally and geologically sensitive areas after a public hearing Tuesday.
Critical areas include wetlands, areas with a recharging effect on aquifers used for potable water, fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas, flood zones and geologically hazardous areas.
Commissioners are expected to consider adopting the code changes Nov. 22.
Community development staff requested the two-week delay after making minor revisions to the proposal, which would end 15 years of court challenges and appeals.
“I’m anxious to adopt this because it has been such a long time coming, but I do want to make sure that the public has had a chance to review the minor changes in the chart,” Commissioner Mark Ozias said of a revised table for risk assessment criteria.
“I’d like to do the same myself.”
The draft ordinance is available on the Department of Community Development website, www. clallam.net/DCD. Click on the “Agriculture in Critical Areas Update” link.
The county planning commission voted 6-1 to recommend the ordinance after a public hearing Sept. 21.
The substance of the draft has not changed since it was vetted by the planning commission, Planning Manager Steve Gray said.
“Whether we put it off a week or two weeks or three weeks, it doesn’t matter a whole lot to me,” Ozias said.
“This is not a sufficiently substantive change that I think we need a long time to absorb it.”
Commissioner Bill Peach suggested that the planning commission review the final version of the ordinance at its next meeting Wednesday.
County staff has sought feedback from the board on whether to use footnotes in the risk assessment table.
Commissioner Mike Chapman said the format should be consistent with the rest of the code.
“The table should be easy for people to read and understand,” Ozias said.
Clallam County’s critical areas code was initially challenged in 2001, Gray said.
“There’s been starts and stops with court appeals and decisions, some in favor of the county and some not,” Gray said.
A state Growth Management Act hearings board eventually dismissed the challenge.
That dismissal was appealed by Protect the Peninsula’s Future, a nonprofit environmental protection group.
A court found that the hearings board had erred because Clallam County did not enter into a voluntary stewardship program that was offered to counties in 2011, Gray said.
“That made the county go back to the drawing board, which we did,” Gray told commissioners.
“And we’ve been working from that point through a number of settlement time extensions with Protect the Peninsula’s Future to try to address to substance of how we want to regulate existing and ongoing agriculture within the critical areas jurisdiction. And that’s the draft ordinance that’s before you today.”
Provisions in the draft would allow qualifying, existing and ongoing agriculture to continue to occur in critical areas.
“If agriculture was occurring along streams or within wetlands prior to 1991, which is when we initially adopted our critical areas code, they can continue to farm without having to go through a burdensome permit process, if they meet standards being proposed in Section 2,” Gray said.
Four speakers testified in support for the draft ordinance at Tuesday’s hearing, including representatives of Protect the Peninsula’s Future.
“I hope it would be approved soon so we don’t have to drag this on,” said Darlene Schanfald, an environmental activist.
“I’m really pleased that it’s gotten this far. The language looks good, and I hope you’ll approve it.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsula dailynews.com.