Thursday, June 21, 2007

Planners tour wetlands before vote

The following article was published in the June 21, 2007 Jefferson County edition of the Peninsula Daily News.

Planners tour wetlands before vote

By Evan Cael
Peninsula Daily News

CHIMACUMBefore Jefferson County Planning Commission members issue a recommendation for wetlands buffer zones, they want to see what they are talking about.

So, on Wednesday, they donned rubber boots for a field trip to view some fo the county's streams and wetlands.

The nine members of the Planning Commission were joined by Department of Community Development staff and members of a critical area ordinance advisory committee.

The advisory committee has issued its proposals for revisions the county's critical areas ordinance, which include recommendations for buffers around wetlands.

The Planning Commission is considering those recommendations.

It has until Aug. 22 to decide on its recommendation to the three county commissioners, who will make the final decision by Oct. 15.

The ordinance is meant to protect streams, wetlands and wildlife habitats through setting up buffer zones between the critical environmental area and dvelopment.

The first stop on the field trip was a wetland on Port of Port Townsend land near Jefferson County International Airport.

Next, the group of about 20 headed to H.J. Carroll Park in Chimacum to look at Chimacum Creek, which runs through a wooded area of the park.

Community Development staff had positioned wooden stakes in the ground at various locations near the creek to show differing buffer width recommendations.

One stake was positioned 90 feet from the creek, representing the critical area ordinance committee majority opinion.

Another stake was at the 100-foot mark, representing the committee minority recommendation.

Committee member Jill Silver — who has spearheaded the minority opinion — announced during the field trip that, after consulting with her "constituents," she was changing the minority recommendation to 150-foot buffers for streams smiliar to Chimacum Creek.

When fellow committee member Norm MacLeod asked Silver who her contituents are, she replied, "Norm, that's not your business."

A third stake was stuck in the ground 150 feet from the creek bank, reperesenting the current requirement in the Jefferson County critical areas ordinance.

That is the buffer width included in a revision to the ordinance that was drafted May 17, 2006.

The revision came about through an agreement between Jefferson County and the Seattle-based Washington Environmental Council.

The revision has sparked controversy in Jefferson County over wetlands buffer widths.

The Planning Commission plans to have public hearings on the proposed ordinance before it makes its recommendation.

Public outcry

The May 17 draft update to the ordinance was met with public outcry.

That lead to an extension of the agreement terms and the formation of an 18-member Planning Commission committee — coined the crtical areas ordinance committee and citizen advisory group — that met weekly from August to April to deliberate possible revisions of the county's critical areas ordinance.

The committee presented a majority view to the Planning Commission outlining buffer widths between 7.5 feet and 180 feet and a minority view included buffers between 25 feet and 300 feet.

The Planning Commission also recently heard a presentation from state Department of Ecology representatives who also recommended buffer widths that fall between 25 and 300 feet.

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


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