PORT TOWNSEND — Nine members of the public were named to the newly established Critical Areas Regulatory Reform Task Force on Monday by the decision of the county commissioners.
The group is charged with reviewing the Critical Areas ordinances of other Growth Management Act-compliant counties and compare and contrast those development standards to see if, through the lens of regulatory reform, Jefferson Count’s Critical Areas ordinances can be made easier to understand and be successfully implemented.
Those selected include Jean Ball, District 3 citizen; John Bellow, Spring Rain Farms; Al Cairns, Jefferson County Conservation District; Kevin Coker, Jefferson Planning Commission; Craig Durgan, business owner; and Robin Fitch, District 2 citizen.
Donna Frostholm from the Department of Community Development was also selected. Linda Herzog of Quilcene will serve as task force facilitator.
“I consider myself to be totally neutral and have a very narrow role in this process,” Herzog told the commissioners. “[It’s] just to facilitate the thinking and the conversation of the others who have been selected to the committee and not to represent District 3 and any of the various sides of the issue that will come out.”
The task force is not a decision-making body but will make recommendations to the Department of Community Development, with copies to the Planning Commission and the county commissioners.
Commissioner Greg Brotherton said the group will work quickly to set up meetings tentatively to be held at the Tri-Area Community Center in Chimacum.
“The deadline is the end of December for the work, but I hope we will finish the work before then,” Brotherton said.
Brotherton said the composition of the task force was straightforward, with one seat for each of the districts, one ag seat, one seat for the environment or environmental science, one for real estate or business development, and one for the housing industry, and all those positions were filled.
“The only two applicants from District 3 included my campaign manager and my opponent in this past election. Mr. Durgan is a business owner and Jean Ball was my campaign manager.”
He said he wanted to make sure people understood the rationale for the selection.
“I’m confident we will have strong conversations and end up with a stronger product,” he said.
Regarding open public meetings and public discourse, Brotherton said this is a group of citizens brought together to advise the Planning Commission and the county commissioners.
“One of the variables that is still up for debate is whether or not the public has a chance to comment at those meetings,” he said.“We want to keep these meetings as focused as possible,” Brotherton said. “While open to the public, they don’t have a de facto public comment period.”
County Administrator Philip Morley said there is no legal requirement to have a limited free speech period.
“Once the department finalizes a draft update to the Critical Areas ordinance it will go through a robust public involvement process before the Planning Commission and the county commissioners with public hearings.”
Director of Community Development Patty Charnas said the Planning Commission will hold public hearings that will be preceded by open houses, “a great opportunity for the public to ask questions and get answers and to provide testimony in an informed way.
Charnas said by comparing and contrasting other jurisdictions, the county will get a “very valid and legally defensible and legally defendable product.”
Jefferson County Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].