PORT TOWNSEND — The Board of Jefferson County Commissioners is closer to finalizing its critical areas ordinance and may take action next week.
Eleven people attended a public hearing Monday night during a special meeting at the superior courtroom. Seven provided comment, including Ron Rimple of Nordland, who was concerned about his ability to enhance habitat on private property.
The hearing was conducted by county commissioners following a presentation from Community Development Director Patty Charnas.
“I think there are some significant shortfalls,” Rimple said. “No. 1 is that there is nothing in there that will allow you to enhance your habitat on your property without having to go talk to [Charnas] or her staff about what you want to do, how you’re going to do it.”
While the commissioners didn’t respond, they plan to deliberate and could take action on the ordinance during the morning session of their weekly meeting on Monday.
Extended written submissions will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. today. It can be submitted by email at [email protected] or at the commissioners’ office on the bottom floor of the Jefferson County Courthouse, 1820 Jefferson St., Port Townsend.
Changes to the ordinance include updated purpose statements, clarifications to the general exemptions of the Administrative Provisions, consolidation of seawater-intrusion protection zones and added consultations with Environmental Public Health for critical aquifer recharge areas.
It also includes updated protection standards for frequently flooded areas, and definitions and standards regarding landslide, erosion and seismic hazards to geologically hazardous areas.
There are no substantive changes to protective standards for wetlands or fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas, and there is an added agricultural code that allows producers options between performance approaches or a prescriptive approach.
The full ordinance can be viewed at www.tinyurl.com/PDN-CriticalAreas.
“This is a distinct improvement over what we have currently,” Charnas said.
The drafting of the critical areas ordinance started in 2014. County commissioners agreed two years ago to separate the planning for the comprehensive plan and the ordinance so the comprehensive plan could move forward in December 2018.
“It’s been a long and hard, arduous process,” said Lorna Smith, a district 2 planning commissioner. “It’s not perfect, I don’t think perfect is a goal we could get, but it is good.
“I think it’s a job well done.”
The commission created a Critical Areas Regulatory Reform Task Force last July as a way to further discuss the needed changes and recommend refinements to the policy that would be given to the planning commission, Charnas said.
The task force completed its recommendations and passed them along to the planning commission, which hosted a public hearing before it finalized the recommendations to the county’s Department for Community Development, which incorporated additional changes, Charnas said.
“I’m really happy to be seeing it happening,” Brenda Johnson said. “I think it is well worth spending a lot of time rethinking the ordinance wording and intent.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].