PORT LUDLOW — After months of negotiations, Jefferson County and Port Ludlow Associates have approved a settlement agreement for contested timber harvests inside the Port Ludlow Master Planned Resort.
The agreement is the culmination of a mediation between county officials and the Port Ludlow Associates (PLA) concerning tree harvests in 2015.
County commissioners unanimously approved it Monday. Diana Smeland, the PLA president, also signed the agreement, according to County Administrator Philip Morley. She was not available for comment Tuesday.
Residents of Port Ludlow, who have been eagerly awaiting progress on the issue, are happy with much of the agreement but feel the PLA should do more to rectify the damage done by the 2015 harvests.
“Like all settlements it doesn’t give everyone what they want,” said Port Ludlow resident William Dean. “It’s just one of those solutions where you can’t satisfy everyone.”
In 2015, residents reported that the PLA was clear-cutting large sections of forested areas within the master planned resort. In April 2015, the county issued a stop-work order to the PLA.
When the harvesting didn’t stop the county sent an enforcement letter in May and mediation began five months later when no agreement could be reached.
The letter of enforcement sent in May 2015 has been withdrawn in the spirit of resolving conflict, Morley said.
“The county is thankful that this issue has been mutually settled,” said Commissioner Kathleen Kler in a news release.
“We are pleased that both parties have come to an agreement.”
According to Morley, the 14-page agreement is meant to not only resolve the dispute over the 2015 timber harvests but also to outline what is acceptable for future harvests.
The approved settlement protects 368 acres of a designated open space reserve within the master planned resort.
“That’s the overarching result we worked so hard for from the residents’ standpoint,” Dean said. “That is definitely a positive.”
That leaves 442 acres of undeveloped land owned by PLA subject to future harvest. The settlement outlines that future harvest must be for development, such as expanding the golf course.
Another 227 acres of developed land also is addressed in the settlement. Trees on that land can be cut for maintenance, development or improvements to the current structures but cannot be used for commercial forestry.
Under the rules of the settlement, the PLA must also give 30 days notice before any large harvests, which is defined as anything over 200 trees with diameters of 9 inches or greater.
The county can put a stop to any cutting it deems inconsistent with the terms of the settlement and negotiations with the PLA will be revisited.
The settlement says that the PLA has replanted enough trees to be consistent with state Department of Natural Resources standards on the areas that were harvested in 2015.
“I would’ve like to have seen more done to handle the damage already done,” Dean said. “I’m not sure what could’ve been done but that’s just my feeling.”
Dean is one of a group of Port Ludlow residents that have been consistently showing up at county meetings and occasionally protesting at new PLA developments since this issue began last year.
Dean was also one of three residents allowed to attend the negotiations between the county and PLA as representatives of the community.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at [email protected].