County eyes new building lot regulations

Public hearing set for Monday

PORT TOWNSEND — A new process to determine whether lots in the county were created legally — particularly those smaller than current zoning allows — will be the subject of a public hearing set for 11 a.m. Monday.

The hearing will be in county commissioners’ chambers at the Jefferson County Courthouse, 1820 Jefferson St., in Port Townsend.

Commissioners may take action on the proposal during the meeting, according to a press release from the commissioners’ office.

“That hearing is so everyone can understand it, said Brent Butler, county community development director, on Thursday.

”Then people can comment on it. People can comment after we have explained it and people have asked questions. And sometimes changes are made,” he added.

The Jefferson County Home Builders Association has urged public participation, being concerned that the proposed change could reduce the number of lots available for housing in a county that needs rural housing.

Based upon recommendations from both the Community Development Department and Jefferson County Planning Commission, the new “legal lot of record” legislation would protect landowners by clarifying procedures that determine whether a lot can accommodate a single family residence, according to the county press release.

Examples include when a lot is substandard size and development potentially is restricted by the Shoreline Management Act or Growth Management Act due to critical areas that contain features such as wetlands, streams, rivers, slopes, flooding or aquifer recharge. Lots also may be restricted by septic system requirements.

A “reasonable economic use” process will allow property owners with heavily restricted lots to demonstrate that a home can be built safely on the site, according to the release.

“Reasonable economic use” is based upon the concept that people buy land with the presumption of building a home. The proposed regulations intend to allow construction of new homes where building can be demonstrated to be safe.

When land is bought “as is” and includes defects known and unknown, the proposed regulations seek to protect the county’s natural and environmental resources by better defining lots’ developability, thus providing certain protections and assurances to property owners, according to the release.

The proposed ordinance includes a new upfront site development review process that assesses the ability to build without having to make costly investments typically associated with a building permit or septic system application. This “first stop” review is intended to reduce delays in the building and land use process.

Public comments will be taken virtually during the commissioners meeting or in-person.

Written comments submitted to jeffbocc@co.jefferson.wa.us will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. the day before the meeting and added to the correspondence log.

For information about the agenda, links to the meeting and details of the proposed legislation, see https://www.co.jefferson.wa.us/.

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at brian.gawley@soundpublishing.com.

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