Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Letter to the editor

The letter to the editor following our remarks appeared in the August 30, 2006 edition of the Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader.

It's been noted in the media on several occasions that there is considerable confusion as to the provisions of the draft proposed update to Jefferson County's Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO). This can lead to some heated conversations and public testimony about the specific provisions, strengths, and weaknesses of the update.

Another challenge is that column inches in newspapers are too few to do the topic justice. Given the brevity that reporters must digest complex information into, incomplete understanding of the issues can lead to reactions that produce unfortunate confrontations.

To say that any political party has lied to the public is perhaps a bit strong, and may lead to further divisiveness. That would be a shame, because the natural resource and human rights issues we face transcend partisan political considerations. We are talking about the opportunities for our children, grandchildren, and their future generations will enjoy . . . or not. We don't wish their ability to live and work in Jefferson County to be regulated beyond their reach.

Yes, there is an agricultural exemption within the draft CAO update for agricultural operations. Commissioner Sullivan is correct in saying that it needs to be expanded to support greater levels of food production, and he has mentioned this in public on more than one occasion. As drafted, the agricultural exemption is far too narrow to allow for that. In order to qualify, a landowner has to meet the exempt activities requirements of paragraph 18.15.335 (e):

"Existing and ongoing agricultural activities on lands enrolled in the open space tax program for agriculture or on lands designated as agricultural lands of long-term significance on the official map of Comprehensive Plan Land Use Designations. For the purpose of this section, "existing and ongoing" means that agricultural activities have been conducted within the five-year period leading up to the adoption of Ordinance 5-03 on April 28, 3003;"

This means that the property in question would be required to have been actively farmed in the five year period prior to April 28, 2003, and would have to be further qualified under one of the two specified special programs. Newcomers to agriculture in Jefferson County, as well as long-standing farmlands that were not actively farmed during the specified period would not be exempt.

Commissioner Sullivan is also correct in noting that the 450-foot buffer is the "waiver buffer" for Wetland Categories I and II, for those people who do not wish to have a wetland typing and delineation performed. That is a benefit to some landowners. However, there's quite a bit more to understand where these particular buffers are concerned.

Table 3-3 in the draft ordinance update is where 450 foot buffers are mentioned, and they are specified for Wetland Categories I and II. Note 3 to Table 3-3 says:

"Uncategorized wetlands shall be presumed to be Wetland Category I with wetland characteristics that require the largest buffer width in the respective wetland category, unless an assessment is made of the wetland in order to determine its category and classify the wetland according to its wetland characteristics in Table 3-4B of this section. The applicant shall be responsible for determining the wetland category and characteristics, and that determination must be made by a qualified professional."

The largest buffer width in Category I is 450 feet, which according to Note 3 is the default . . . or mandatory . . . buffer until such time as the property owner hires a professional to categorize and characterize the wetland to determine what buffer widths should actually be required for the wetland. Under the proposal, the landowner would be required to foot the bill for this work, which would amount to thousands of dollars.

So, the 450-foot buffer is both a waiver buffer and a default buffer. That's what the fuss is about on this point. As a waiver buffer, there's the potential for problems with the landowner's neighbors. What if a landowner wants to go with the 450-foot waiver buffer, and a significant portion of that buffer happens to extend onto a neighbor's land? The current draft is pretty quiet on that kind of situation.

Commissioner Sullivan's note regarding the expense of the delineation process is good to see. Perhaps this can lead to a shifting of the financial burden of professional delineation from the landowner to the public at large. When the goal is to obtain a public benefit, the entire public should share the cost equally.

While people may understand that the draft update proposal that came out on May 17, 2006 is not a final product, there was every chance that it would have been legislatively approved prior to the settlement agreement deadline of July 18, 2006. Routine public comment during one Planning Commission meeting in June would not have been likely to result in significant changes to that draft before it became final. At this point, it is correct to say that the original draft is not a threat to anyone, but that's primarily because a sizeable portion of the public spoke up in opposition to the original draft.

The public at large now has significant representation on the committee working on the critical areas ordinance update draft. The expertise assembled on the behalf of all of our citizens is extensive, and includes internationally recognized natural resource scientists, among many other highly experienced professionals.

We'd like to invite you to use these links to download the Second Settlement Agreement between the Washington Environmental Council and Jefferson County and the proposed critical areas update that was released for public review on May 17, 2006. If you spend some time reading and studying it, you will gain a greater understanding of the reasons for our concerns.

Commissioner Sullivan is also correct when he says that county commissioners from both parties supported more local control over water use. Jefferson County Resolution 68-05 provides specific guidelines for the implementation of the Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 17 watershed plan, and provides for distinction between that process and the development of the WRIA 17 instream flow rule.

The instream flow rule-making process is a separate discussion that is being held with the Department of Ecology, who proposed an instream flow rule that would have taken an extraordinary water right to be assigned to instream flows in line of seniority. This would have effectively made 72% of all surface and groundwater unavailable to the residents of WRIA 17.

It is appropriate to ask that candidates for county office from all participating political parties state their positions on these very important issues that will affect the lives of all county residents. These land use and water access issues are of very high importance to everyone in both the rural and urbanized areas of Jefferson County.

Because these issues are so very important to how Jefferson County's future is shaped, citizens need to know how each candidate and current office holder feels about them.

At the same time, these issues rise far above politics, and we all need to be involved in building solutions to any problems that are identified. While each party is free to take positions on their goals for the issues, we really hope that our politicians will focus on the needs of the people they serve.

Please visit these fine websites to learn more about these issues and to gain access to the documents pertaining to them:

Local GOP twists truth

Editor, Leader

The Jefferson County Republican Party has deliberately lied to the people of Jefferson County.

They know the Draft Critical Areas Ordinance has an exemption for agriculture. They know I've spoken in favor of expanding it to support local food production.

They know that wetland buffers are proposed to decrease in many situations and they range from 25 to 300 feet. They know the draft ordinance has no mandatory 450-foot buffers proposed. They misrepresent the voluntary waiver option (1.5 times the 25- to 300-foot buffer, maximum 450 feet) that exists in the present ordinance as a benefit to property owners. Waivers needn't require expensive wetlands delineation.

The Jefferson County Republican Party knows the Draft Critical Areas Ordinance is just an initial draft and as such is no threat to anyone. Republicans have significant representation on teh planning commission and the subcommittee reviewing this draft right now.

Their ad in the Aug. 23 Leader questioned where Democrats stand on restricting the use of water from private wells. They know the Democrat and Republican county commissioners worked together to adopt the current policy advocating voluntary measures. Why does the local Republican Party leadership want to mislead you to think otherwise?

The people of Jefferson County deserve the truth. Ask the leadership of the Jefferson County Republican Party why they think otherwise. Ethical Republicans need to assert themselves and stand up to the local party leadership when they don't tell the truth.

county commissioner
District 2
Cape George

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I-933's message: 'Pay up or back off'

The following commentary appeared in the August 29 Jefferson County edition of the Peninsula Daily News.

I-933's message: 'Pay up or back off'

Adele Ferguson

Well, I've made up my mind.

It wasn't a tough decision to make.

I voted for a similar version of it in 1995 when it arrived in Olympia in the form of an initiative to the Legislature.

Signed by 230,000 people, it expanded the constitutional mandate that people have to be paid when government takes property for public use.

The initiative limited by regulation what could be done on portions of land and called for filing of economic impact statements on any proposed regulation affecting private property.

The Legislature passed it, as is, in a Republican House and a Democratic Senate, but opponents were waiting in the bushes and got it on the fall ballot as Referendum 48.

Those impact statements would cost the taxpayers millions, they cried.

Well, not necessarily.

They could avoid the cost of the statement entirely by not putting so many restrictions on private property to satisfy the whims of environmentalists and other anti-growth types.

R-48 was declared the greatest danger to our way of life since World War II because it put the rights of private property owners ahead of the demands of government.

I wrote at the time that R-48 was a dose of "think before you act" medicine for governments that were too quick to make decisions ostensibly for the public good but without regard for the rights of the people.

There was a media blitz against R-48, with wide use of a last minute University of Washington study warning of billions (instead of millions) it would cost if government were forced to pay citizens when it made their property unusable by regulation.

The fiscal part was done by someone at The Evergreen State College, but saying University of Washington made it more impressive.

Voters were sufficiently scared and took a powder.

R-48 went down, 59.39 percent to 40.61 percent, 796,869 votes to 544,888 votes.

I'm telling you this because I expect the same tactics again this year.

The new version, I-933, was put together by the Washington State Farm Bureau.

It requires state and local governments to consider in advance what the cost would be to pay the landowner for any lessening of the value or use of his land when proposing a land use regulation rather than passing the regulation first and then pricing it out.

Government must also consider whether voluntary effort could mitigate the cost.

If it can't, then government must choose between paying the owner or excusing the owner from obeying the regulation.

It's pay up or back off.

I-933 is opposed by the usual suspects — environmentalists who want to stop growth anywhere since they already got theirs.

They throw the word developer around like the feds talk about terrorists.

There also are greedy developers, reckless developers and the worst kind — out-of-state developers.

If it helps you make up your mind, Gov. Chris Gregoire doesn't like I-933.

She is sympathetic, she said, but says the measure "is poorly drafted, far too broad."

She promised to work with the Legislature to find a solution to preserving farmland in Washington.

Oh, sure, her promises are good.

Didn't she promise not to raise taxes if elected?

Any time I get a chance to tighten up the rights of property owners, I do it.

Adele Ferguson's weekly columns on statewide issues appears on the opinion page of the Peninsula Daily News every Tuesday. 
Write her at P.O. Box 69, Hansville, WA  98340.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Critical areas questions made public

The article following these comments appeared in the August 23, 2006 Jefferson County edition of the Peninsula Daily News.

Because Al Scalf is interested in obtaining as much comment as possible on the information provided in the FAQ we'd like to ask that you click here to download the draft FAQ PDF file, go through it with a critical eye toward making improvements that more closely address your concerns where necessary.

For instance, the 450 foot buffer is addressed in this draft of the FAQ as a waiver, which is only part of the story.  in Note 3 following the chart on page 14 of the ordinance update draft we see that:

"Uncategorized wetlands shall be assumed to be Wetland Category 1 with wetland characteristics that require the largest buffer width in the respective wetland category, unless an assessment is made of the wetland in order to determine its category and classify the wetland according to the wetland characteristics in Table 3-4B of this section.  The applicant shall be responsible for determining the wetland category and characteristics, and that determination must be made by a qualified professional." 

This changes the philosophy of this being a waiver to its being a default for those who find uncategorized wetlands on their property.  There are a lot of those in Jefferson County.

Question 62 is interesting . . . 

62. Isn’t 30 feet enough to protect a wetland?

No. According to DOE, the first 10 to 50 feet removes the core sediment. Fine sediment is removed between 100 and 300 feet. Nitrogen and phosphorous are removed 30 to 200 feet. Wildlife “screening” occurs between 50 and 150 feet. Wildlife habitat needs 100 to 1200 feet for a buffer.

Buffer filtering varies depending on many factors, including soil types and slope.  The GEI study added to the best available science (BAS) collection on June 21, 2006 indicates that wider buffers don't necessarily add significant levels of function.  We are not bound to the use of the Department of Ecology's BAS collection by the GMA.  We are required to consider it, but we are also allowed to use science from other sources to meet our local conditions.

Now, where did that 1200 foot buffer for wildlife habitat come from?  It wasn't part of the draft updates to our ordinance.  Is that where we are headed at the next review of Jefferson County's CAO?

We need your help in reviewing and responding to the draft FAQ document.  There are several more things that need clarification, of which these are but two examples.  Al Scalf is soliciting our assistance with this, so let's jump in and help make it a better reflection of our understanding.

Critical Areas questions made public

Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — With accurate, and inaccurate, information swirling around the proposed critical areas ordinance, a list of frequently asked questions (with answers) was distributed at the weekly county commissioners meeting Monday.

Al Scalf, director of the Department of Community Development, handed the commissioners and those in the audience copies of the six page, double-sided document containing 96 questions about the proposed ordinance.

"This is not all inclusive," Scalf told the commissioners.

He said the questions were generated mostly from a well-attended June 21 meeting of the county Planning Commission in which the critical areas ordinance was the main topic of discussion.

The questions were also taken from public comments at Planning Commission meetings since June 21, and from e-mailed comments, Scalf said.

Devoid of jargon

The department tried to answer the questions in a manner devoid of bureaucratic jargon, Scalf said.

Question 2 asked, "What are 'critical areas?' "

The answer:

" 'Critical areas' is a term found in the GMA [state Growth Management Act] and includes a)wetlands, like swamps, marshes or bogs; b) aquifers, where rock or soils conducts water; c) fish and wildlife habitat, such as creeks, rivers, mudflats, forested areas; d) freque3ntly flooded areas for both fresh and salt water; and e) geologically hazardous areas like landslides, steep slopes and rock falls.

"The GMA requires a county to both designate and protect critical areas."

As soon as he handed out the document, the audience began reading through it, and some immediately wrote notes on it.

During the public comment session of the meeting, Mike Belenski of Port Ludlow took issue with No. 15 in the document:

Q. "Who drafted the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO)?"

A. "The county's Department of Community Development Long Range Planning staff wrote the draft ordinance."

Belenski said the county staff had assistance, or guidelines, from the Washington Environmental Council.

Jefferson County entered into a settlement agreement with Washington Environmental Council in January 200[6] after the county was petitioned by the council for failing to use best available science when protecting critical areas.

"I'm sure [the frequently asked questions] will stimulate a lot of discussion," said Scalf.  "I hope it does."

The document can be viewed at

(click on New Items).

For questions, or to submit comments, e-mail

or phone 360-379-4450.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Critical Areas Committee, August 17, 2006

Thursday, August 17 was the second meeting of the Critical Areas Committee, and the main topic of the evening was the agricultural exemption and related topics concerning farming and its relationship to critical areas.

The Jefferson County Conservation District's Al Latham provided a presentation on the ongoing agricultural best management practices planning process, which recently won a state award.  He also answered several questions from the committee on a wide range of questions about agriculture in the context of critical areas.  

There was broad agreement among the members of the committee that the agricultural exemption as written into the draft ordinance update is too narrow, and that it leaves new agricultural activities, such as subsistence/lifestyle farming without an opportunity to really become viable in Jefferson County.  The ability to purchase locally grown food at the farmers market, the Co-Op, and other venues around the county is seen as one of the values that makes Jefferson County the kind of place that it is, and a quality of life issue for a broad cross-section of the community.

A recent Washington Supreme Court decision concerning what constitutes a change in agricultural practices also appears to further restrict what may be done under the provisions of the ordinance update as currently drafted.

Based on the discussion, staff will prepare information for next meeting that will help the committee move forward with suggested modifications for how agriculture is defined in context with the critical areas ordinance.  The intent is to provide opportunity for new agricultural operations to become viable as soon in their life cycle as possible, and to remain viable for the long term.  There is also a need for better definition of the types of farming that are being conducted in Jefferson County beyond the traditional types of agriculture that were considered in the previous version of the ordinance.

Al Scalf, director of the Department of Community Development, asked that committee members begin sending in recommended findings of fact, so that a list of potential findings can be generated for incorporation with the next draft of the critical areas ordinance update.  These findings will help provide a basis for understanding the provisions of the ordinance when it is approved and published.

The level of expertise and the professional manner in which the discussions are taking place is encouraging.  The people around the table are committed to producing the best product possible, even though the timeline is very short.  Those who have attended as observers have also brought some excellent thoughts into the work being done, and their contributions are much appreciated. 

Meetings take place every Thursday evening at 7 p.m., and all are welcome. 

Monday, August 14, 2006

Court of Appeals will consider growth board decision

On April 19, 2006, the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board granted an appeal filed by the Departments of Ecology and Community, Trade and Economic Development challenging Kent's new Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO).  According to the board, the state's best available science requires bigger wetland buffers than the city adopted, even if the city is providing adequate protection for wetland functions and values through other programs, including stormwater control rules, wetland restoration and enhancement projects, and open space requirements.  The GMHB held that bigger buffers are required, even if there is no evidence that existing buffers are inadequately protecting the environment and even if there is no evidence that existing buffers would produce any environmental benefit.

The Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, Building Industry Association of Washington, Seattle-King County Association of REALTORS® and the Pacific Legal Foundation all intervened on behalf of the City of Kent in the state's appeal to the Hearings Board, arguing that wetland protection can be achieved by methods other than Ecology's increased buffers.

According to the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties' Executive Officer, Sam Anderson, "The Board ruled, in effect, that the Department of Ecology's vision of what constitutes best available science supercedes all other Growth Management Act goals, including affordable housing, reducing sprawl, economic development and protecting private property rights."

Kent's Critical Areas Ordinance package was negotiated with a diverse group of stakeholders.  The city's elected officials found that the resulting ordinance was effective and had community buy-in, and adopted it.

MBA South King County Manager said, "Kent's city council adopted this ordinance on a unanimous vote, and it includes a flexible approach for land owners, no infringement on property rights and enhancement for degraded wetlands.  Our approach is a better buffer rather than a bigger buffer."

The Court of Appeals recently agreed to hear an appeal of the GMHB's decision, allowing the parties to skip review at the Superior Court level to save time and expense.

Under Washington law, the Growth Management Hearings Boards are required to presume a local ordinance to be valid unless "clearly erroneous."  The Washington Supreme Court has recently admonished the Hearings Boards to defer to local government decisions under the Growth Management Act unless they are in clear violation of a GMA statute.

This case is clearly important to the process now taking place with Jefferson County's critical areas ordinance review and update.  The Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board has demonstrated its reluctance to accept deviations from the Department of Ecology's BAS package, even when those deviations represent an improvement in buffer function over and above that achievable through increased buffer widths.

Their reluctance in the City of Kent's case does not mean that we should accept Ecology's BAS and unquestioningly fully incorporate it into Jefferson County's update.  While Kent may have lost at the Hearings Board level, recent history in the appellate courts indicates that the city may well prevail at the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, if further review is necessary.  It does, however, mean that we need to learn where Kent's strengths and weaknesses in their approach were, so that we can capitalize on their strengths, and improve in those areas where they were vulnerable.

It's good that we are able to learn more about building policy from a local citizen level, whether from our successes or the challenges faced by other localities.  Working together, we can retain our local governance where we still have it, and regain those areas of local governance that have been absorbed into state agency operations.

There's no time like the present!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Panel prepares for wetlands debate

The following article appeared in the August 13, 2006 Jefferson County edition of the Peninsula Daily News.

Panel prepares for wetlands debate
Advisory committee forms, forges meeting schedule

By Evan Cael
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The Critical Areas Committee, a subcommittee of the Jefferson CountyPlanning Commission, met for the first time last week to begin reworking a controversial proposed law.

The committee will meet every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the conference room in the Jefferson County Public Health office, 621 Sheridan Street.

The committee includes 17 residents and four planning commissioners.

Ordinance provisions

The Jefferson County Department of Community Development staff drafted the ordinance and released it on May 17.

The law would change buffers around wetlands areas.

It would increase the buffer from the current 150 feet to a proposed 300 feet for wetlands with wildlife habitat that is on property of high intensity land use.

In some cases, the buffer would decrease, as in a moderate habitat wetlands with moderate intensity land use.

In that case, the current 150-foot buffers would decrease to 110 feet, said Josh Peters, Department of Community Development senior planner who drafted the proposed ordinance.

The committee Thursday agreed to take on the wetland buffer portion of the ordinance during later meetings.

The buffer discussion is expected to get heated.

Many on the committee expressed beliefs that the ordinance, as it's written would take property rights away from landowners.

The members decided to begin with less contentious aspects of the ordinance to give relationships a chance to form and small victories tasted.

Then they will move on to some of the tougher issues, like wetland buffers.

Next week the committee will discuss the portion of the ordinance that makes exempt existing and ongoing agriculture.

Some at the meeting suggested that organic farms also be placed in the exempt category, as well as farms that have not yet started and are looking to use sustainable techniques.

Al Latham, director of Jefferson County Conservation DIstrict, has been invited to give a brief presentation on agriculture at the start of next week's meeting.

The committee is expected to have a report ready of its recommendations to the Planning Commission by Oct. 2, which leaves about nine weekly meetings for the committee.

The Planning Commission will review the recommendations and then give its recommendations to the board of county commissioners, who must act by Jan.18.

Reporter Evan Cael can be reached at 360-385-2335 ir

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Advisory group reviews wetland protection proposal

The following article appeared in the online edition of the Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader on Augist 4, 2006.

Advisory group reviews wetland protection proposal

When the Jefferson County Planning Commission asked for volunteers to help review the county's proposed critical areas ordinance, the response was bigger than expected.

Nineteen people are signed up to take part in the advisory group, including four planning commissioners. The names of the volunteers were presented at the Aug. 2 planning commission meeting.

Planning Commission Chairman Jim Hagen said he had envisioned an advisory group of no more than 12 people.

"It's a little more than I expected, but we'll make it work," he said.

The group plans to review scientific information, recommend revisions to the draft ordinance, and frame those revisions in the context of the requirement in state law to consider "best available science." Members of the public are also invited to comment on proposed changes to the law during the advisory group's weekly meetings.

The first advisory group meeting is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10 at the Jefferson County Department of Public Health office, 615 Sheridan St., Port Townsend. The meetings are held Thursdays through Sept. 28 and are open to the public.

The group is expected to deliver a report to the planning commission, which will then present its own recommendations to the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners. Under the current timeline, the county commissioners are expected to consider the revised law in January.

Information on the critical areas proposal is available online at

Volunteers who signed up for the advisory group are Kenneth Brooks, scientist; Robert Crittenden, scientist; Kathy Dickson, Hoh River Valley farmer; Sandy Hershelman, Jefferson County Home Builders Association; Amy Hiatt, architect; Dianne Bonniver Holman, Jefferson County Association of Realtors; Diane Johnson, farmer and psychologist; Norm MacLeod, Olympic Water Users Association; John Richmond, Hoh River Valley resident and watershed planning volunteer; Roger Short, North Olympic Counties Farm Bureau; Jill Silver, wetland specialist; Jim Tracy, attorney and land-use planner; Fredrick Tuso, Brinnon resident; Bill Wheeler, Olympic Shadow Forest Owners; George Yount, Admiralty Audubon.

Members of the planning commission who are taking part in the group are Chairman Jim Hagen, Peter Downey, Dennis Schultz and Henry Werch.

At the Aug. 2 planning commission meeting, some 70 people turned out to make comments and listen as Department of Community Development Planner Josh Peters tried to clarify some misconceptions about proposed changes to the law.

Herb Beck of Quilcene suggested that an economic impact study of wetland buffers should be done.

Wetland specialist Jill Silver, who mapped the channel migration zones on the Hoh River for the Hoh Indian tribe, said property owners might not be able to afford to hire a specialist to delineate wetlands when they want to make a change in land use. She suggested the county hire a staff person who is qualified to perform wetland delineations, and provide that service to people who apply for land-use changes.

Al Latham of the Jefferson County Conservation District recommended that members of the advisory group take the time to make at least one on-site visit to a wetland so they can get a firsthand look at what they are regulating.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Property rights initiative qualifies

The following article appeared in the August 4, 2006 Jefferson County edition of the Peninsula Daily News.

Property right initiative qualifies
Measure 2nd to make November ballot

By Rachel La Courte
The Assosiated Press

OLYMPIA — A property rights initiative has qualified for the November ballot, election officials said Thursday.

Initiative 933 would require state and local government agencies to either compensate private landowners for regulations that harm the value of private property, or waive the requirements.

It's aimed at land use rules adopted since 1996.

Some farmers say that without such a change, government rules will continue to unfairly remove valuable farms and ranches from production.

"We're looking forward to the voters telling the government that they need to slow down and work with people instead of running over their rights," said Dan Wood, spokesman for the Washington Farm Bureau, which is backing the I-933 campaign.

Different from Oregon

Oregon voters passed a similar measure in 2004, but I-933 differs in part because it does not affect land use and zoning in effect before 1996, Wood said.

"Ours is very limited," he said. "Everybody's rights are protected equally."

Last month, sponsors submitted more than 317,000 voter signatures for I-933, exceeding the 225,000 valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, as well as the cushion that is required to cover duplicate or invalid signatures.

A check of 9,700 randomly selected voter signatures showed an invalidation rate of about 17.1 percent, much less than the error rate threshold of 29 percent that the office had calculated, election officials said.

Opponents of I-933 say the measure is an unnecessary gutting of important environmental rules.

"This initiative boils down to costing taxpayers billions of dollars and allowing irresponsible development in places that were previously protected," said Aisling Kerins, campaign manager for No on I-933.

Washington voters rejected a similar initiative, Referendum 48, in 1995.

Wood said there is a different environment now, and he predicted success.

"The problem has spread and it has gotten more intense," he said. "I don't think enough people had been impacted back in 1995.

I-933 is the second measure to qualify for the ballot.

On Wednesday, election officials announced that I-920, a measure to repeal the state's new estate tax, also secured a spot.

Secreterary of State Sam Reed's office is still verifying signatures on a measure that would force a renewable energy standard for large utilities.

Time Eyeman's third run at $30 car tabs is in danger after failing a preliminary check of its petition signatures.

Reed is now conducting a full count of Eyeman's petitions, which could take until September to complete.

Earlier this week, Gov. Chris Gregoire vowed to help defeat the estate tax and car tab initiatives if they make the ballot, as well as the property rights issue.

Gregoire said she sympathizes with the concerns behind the property rights measure and will work with the Legislature to find a solution, particularly for preserving farmland in Washington, but that the initiative "is poorly drafted, far too broad."

Jefferson will take hard look at critical areas

The following article appeared in the August 4, 2006 Jefferson County edition of the Peninsula Daily News.

Jefferson will take hard look at critical areas

By Evan Cael
Peninsula Daily News

PORT HADLOCK — A committee has been formed by the Jefferson County Planning Commission to take a hard, close look at the county's proposed critical areas ordinance that has been met with contention since the public found out about it in June.

With about 70 people attending a Planning Commission meeting Wednesday in Port Hadlock, interested parties who represent several "stakeholders" to the proposed ordinance were asked to volunteer for the committee.

As has been the case in the past, the main concern is the portion of the proposed law that would expand wetland buffers by 100 percent — from the current 25-100 feet to 50-300 feet.

Four planning members

The special committee will include four planning commissioners and members of the audience who volunteered.

They are: Kathy Dickson and John Richmond, representing county's west end; Bill Wheeler, forester; Roger Short, Farm Bureau; Dianne Holman, real estate agent; Dianne Johnson, conservationist; Jill Silver, environmentalist; Norm MacLeod, Olympic Water Users Association; Jim Tracy, lawyer; Robert Crittenden, scientist; Amy Hiatt, architect; and George Yount of the Audubon Society.

Planning Commission Chairman Jim Hagen said study committees are usually only comprised of planning commissioners.

"This is frankly a new idea, having a Planning Commission subcommittee that includes members of the public," Hagen said.

The committee members will meet about nine times before they are expected to deliver their findings and recommendations to county commissioners in October.

They will pick apart the proposed ordinance that was drafted by staff of the Department of Community Development on May 17.

The committee will meet every Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Department of Public Health offices, 615 Sheridan St., Port Townsend.

The committee meetings are open to the public.

"There are a lot of 'what if' questions that need to be answered in this whole project," said Planning Commissioner Dennis Schultz.

"Let's see if we can come up with something we can all live with."

Reporter Evan Cael can be reached at 360-385-2335 or

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Letter to the editor

The letter to the editor following our comments was published in the August 2, 2006 edition of the Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader.

When Jefferson County intially reviewed the existing Critical Areas Ordinance, the Department of Ecology's best available science (BAS) package was available in draft form, and had not yet been issued as a final set of documents. At the time, it was deemed inappropriate to committ the county's residents to guidance that was not yet ready for publication. We agree that it would have been very unwise for the county to make substantial changes to its ordinance based on incomplete guidance. The Washington Environmental Council did not agree with the county's approach, and challenged the results of the county's ordinance review.

When we discuss BAS, there's a small factor that's not often brought into the open . . . there is significant disagreement even within Washington's state agencies as to just what that best science is. This leads us to believe that we should be able to locally craft an ordinance update, supported by science, that meets local needs and requirements, and still be able to successfully defend our work at the Growth Management Hearings Board and beyond.

We are in agreement that it's important to protect our natural resources. We are also of the opinion that it's important to consider human needs when we build a regulatory framework designed to protect ecosystems. We also believe in an approach based on education and incentive, with regulation as a last resort, and that we already have enough regulations in place to meet that occasional eventuality. We have a responsibility to the needs of our children, our grandcihldren, and generations to come. We should work together to make sure that we do not regulate their opportunities to live and work in our landscapes out of their reach.

While the intent of the critical areas ordinance and other growth management tools may be noble, we're not as certain as the author that our farmers will ever find that the current update draft was the best choice of action. We should also remember that the draft update's impacts on non-farm landowners are far more substantial than they are for our farm families. The reason that the initial reaction came so predominantly from the agricultural community is that our farmers have their finger far more closely connected to the pulse of regulation than most other landowners do. Regulations are intimately related to their financial bottom lines in ways unfamiliar to most of us.

We fully understand that we are well out of the 1800s, and our attitudes do not come from those "Wild West" paradigms the author refers to. We know that what we do on our land can easily have effects on our neighbors, and the vast majority of us are good stewards of our lands, often in ways that are unfamiliar to our more urban friends.

It's difficult to think of Jefferson County as overpopulated. Our county is larger than some states, yet has fewer than 30,000 people living in it. 62% of the county is held in federal ownership, and is not available for development. Nearly another 30% is held in state ownership or is otherwise also unavailable for development. That leaves a bit less than 10% of the county available for our use for farming and homes, and most of that is zoned for one house per five acres at its highest density. This is something that should be taken into account when we are drafting land use ordinances and other growth management tools.

When the author refers to the Farm Bureau and the builders, we apparently shift to the property fairness initiative, I-933. Let's please understand that our concerns with the county's critical areas ordinance update is unrelated to the initiative, although there are several members of our community who are concerned about property rights as an issue of its own. It's not a matter of property rights suddenly being taken away . . . it's a matter of those rights being incrementally diminished to the point where their position as constitutional guarantees are in doubt.

We're disappointed that the author found it necessary to move on to push so hard against those who are concerned about their investments as landowners. We're asking for an opportunity to help build a better approach to protecting our critical areas than the regulatory approach proposed in the draft update. We're closing in on that initial goal. We are not asking the letter's author to compensate us for anything, and we're sorry he feels otherwise.

We are concerned about the incrementally more restrictive regulatory framework we have to work with in Jefferson County and elsewhere. We're not pleased that these regulations come our way with the assumption that we cannot be trusted to provide good stewardship for our lands without government suprevision. That's a reality that we would like to see shifted to a framework based on education and incentives encouraging landowners to improve their stewardship practices.

We're uncertain as to where the author is hearing that over a million new residents will relocate here in the next ten years. That's a highly unlikely scenario for Jefferson County, given the growth management plans that are already on the table. Perhaps he's referring to the Puget Sound region as a whole, in which case our current zoning and land ownership patterns will suffice to prevent high population densities locally.

We're not asking the commissioners to toss out the settlement agreement they made with the Washington Environmental Council. Indeed, we are in a time extension that was agreed to by all parties to the settlement. We are merely working toward an improved approach to protecting our critical areas while also protecting our children's opportunities to have a place in Jefferson County.

That's not so much to ask, is it?

Say yes to planned growth

Editor, Leader:

This letter is written to state my support of the Washington Environmental Council guidelines for Jefferson County to live up to the law of the Growth Management Act ordinance, which strives to protect critical areas that were largely ignored by past boards of county commissioners.

I think the majority of Jefferson County citizens basically agree with the WEC position in regard to critical areas including wetlands. As a citizen I expect my watersheds and wetlands to be identified and protected, as they are cornerstones to our quality of life. I think many Jefferson County residents also want to sustain open areas and farming. Once the rhetoric is over, many farmers will find the intent of the guidelines make sustainable sense.

I think many opposing the ordinance see it in terms of the Wild West of the 1800s, where there were no neighbors and the manifest destiny doctrine entitled you to your plot of perceived Eden where you did as you pleased and could care less about folks downstream. Guess what, many areas of the West are now overpopulated, with natural resources stretched razor-thin. Protecting sensitive areas where we can and planning for the tremendous future growth is tantamount for our future citizens.

The Farm Bureau and Home Builders Association frame their agenda in terms of the 1800 spirit, where now suddenly your property rights are being taken away and your right to milk the cash cow to exploit as you see fit is being taken away.

I say rules change. Just because you bought property in the past expecting to turn a profit in the future doesn't necessarily mean it will happen. The rules from 50 years ago have changed to accommodate for greater densities and protections not even visualized at that time. Why should I have to compensate you for your risk? You made your bed, lie in it. Don't expect more than sympathy for the changed reality of new and ever-changing landu-use rules reflecting our greater densities.

We in Jefferson County are hearing that over a million new residents will relocate here in the next 10 years. the Realtors and builders will still make their fortunes. Is it too much to ask for clean water? I say yes to regulated, planned gorwth that identifies and protects our precious resources. Please, commissioners, uphold the agreement reached with the WEC to protect our "critical areas."

Port Ludlow