Jefferson County Board Approves Shoreline Master Program for State Review

DONE!??? – Amazing… after years of effort. Thanks to all who participated, no matter what your point of view on this.  And thanks to the Board of County Commissioners for taking on some very dicey positions, like the change to geoduck aquaculture, and establishing 150′ buffers on all marine shoreline and 100′ on lakes. Allowing home building in Natural designations is something I have an issue with,  however, out of all this a tighter framework for shoreline protection has been crafted, albeit it with numerous loopholes, which is the flexibility that so many people who damned the document as it was crafted, wanted to see.  Congratulations for taking the difficult stand you needed to take. Now to get enforcement to back up these rules.

Port Townsend, WA— After a thorough and detailed review, the Board of County Commissioners reached an important milestone in the effort to update the Shoreline Master Program (SMP).  On Monday, December 7, 2009 the Board took formal action by passing a resolution to approve an updated SMP for submittal to the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) for final review and adoption.  The Commissioners considered over 300 written and verbal comments and spent some 30 hours in deliberations to prepare an SMP that strikes a balance between shoreline use and protection.  Next, the Locally Approved SMP (LA-SMP) must be reviewed and approved by Ecology prior to the new shoreline provisions taking effect, anticipated for no sooner than Spring 2010.
The Locally Approved SMP complies with state mandates to provide environmental protection for our freshwater and marine shoreline resources and allow necessary and appropriate shoreline use and development activities to continue.  The new LA-SMP takes a flexible approach to shoreline buffer widths for new use and development by offering six options to allow site-specific tailoring. Single family homes continue to have special standing with allowances to build along Natural shorelines, to build on small lots, and to expand the existing footprint with minimal impacts to shoreline ecology when specific criteria are met.
The LA-SMP also recognizes the importance of the aquaculture industry for our local economy and water quality along our marine shores.  New permitting requirements will allow ongoing and new aquaculture activities to continue providing jobs and bolstering the region’s reputation for quality seafood products while striving to minimize conflict between adjacent land uses.  New permit requirements for mooring buoys will recognize the potential impact that boats can have on shellfish growing areas and ensure aquaculture operations won’t be damaged by vessel discharge.  New vegetation management provisions will help protect natural shoreline functions and processes while minimizing risks to human health and safety.
“I appreciate all the public input and dedicated work by Michelle McConnell and other Department of Community Development staff to shape the SMP into an excellent balance between protecting the environment and individual property rights” said District 3 Commissioner John Austin.  “The thoroughness and openness of the process to develop this Shoreline Master Program has been exemplary,” added Phil Johnson, Commissioner for District 1.
During the Board’s extensive discussions, they weighed scientific and technical analyses to ensure key shoreline functions and values are adequately protected.  Shorelines play an important role in maintaining water quality, wildlife habitat, potable water supplies, sediment erosion, and more that support the quality of life upon which Jefferson County residents and visitors depend.  The Board has crafted an SMP with many ‘flex points’ that tailor performance standards and permit processes to accommodate site conditions and property rights.
Board Chair, David Sullivan, Commissioner for District 2 noted “A lot of the value of our private shoreline properties is due to the fact that they are located along a healthy shoreline environment.  The immense amount of public participation in this three-year process has resulted in an SMP that improves shoreline protections and protects private property values.”
After conducting their own public hearing, the Board accepted many of the provisions proposed by the Planning Commission Final Draft SMP, released in July, and directed staff to make certain changes.  Many edits were in response to specific suggestions from public comments.  Other changes were minor revisions to correct errors, formatting and make the text more readable.  The Board made substantive changes to some policies and regulations to ensure consistency with state requirements, in consideration of legal and procedural requirements, and to attain document consistency.  Key changes the Board made to the Planning Commission Final Draft SMP include:
Buffers – Avoiding a ‘one size fits all’ approach, the Board accepted the Planning Commission’s six proposed buffer adjustment options including 1) buffer reduction; 2) buffer averaging; 3) Critical Area Stewardship Plan (CASP); 4) Non-conforming Lots Standards; 5) Common Line Buffer; and 6) Shoreline Variance.  The Planning Commission proposal for 150’ standard buffer along all streams/rivers and 100’ standard buffer on all lakes was also accepted by the Board.  However, after difficult deliberations to balance property rights, state mandates for ‘no net loss of ecological functions’ and critical area protections, and scientific guidance, they opted to support a 150’ standard buffer for all marine shores, rather than the Planning Commission proposal for only 50’ along Shoreline Residential and High Intensity designated marine shores.

Non-conformity – The Board added review criteria thresholds in order to differentiate performance standards and permitting processes for situations when a non-conforming single family residential (SFR) structure increases the total footprint.  Under the Board’s proposal, a non-conforming SFR structure will be able to expand/enlarge up to 10% of the footprint without a conditional use permit or shoreline variance as long as prescriptive criteria are met, or up to 25% when the buffer area is enhanced with native vegetation.  The Planning Commission proposal had allowed for such expansion/enlargement without sufficient criteria or standards, making compliance with the state ‘no net loss’ requirement questionable.
Economic Development –
a.      Aquaculture – The Board gave serious consideration before including an outright prohibition on net pens and a qualified prohibition on all finfish aquaculture that uses/releases harmful materials, in contrast to the Planning Commission proposal to allow such operations when they didn’t have negative effects.  The differentiation between ‘Bottom Aquaculture’ and ‘Floating/Hanging Aquaculture was replaced by addressing ‘Aquaculture Activities’ collectively, with an exception for geoduck aquaculture.  The Board changed the Planning Commission proposed permit requirement for geoduck aquaculture from an Administrative Conditional Use Permit (CUP) only when adjacent to Shoreline Residential environment designation to requiring a Discretionary CUP in the Natural, Conservancy, and Shoreline Residential designations, and a Substantial Development Permit in the High Intensity designation.  This allows local review to ensure aquaculture operations and adjacent uses are compatible.
b.     Industrial/Port – The Board’s concern for adjacent use compatibility also led them to include a provision to control noise, vibration, glare, and odor impacts for industrial and port development.
Residential use –
a.      Beach Access Structures and Boating Facilities – The Board included regulatory differentiation between public and private structures to prefer public structures that serve greater numbers of people and minimize the proliferation of individual structures as per state requirements.
b.     Shore Armor – The Board included a provision to allow shore armoring to protect existing public transportation infrastructure and essential public facilities when otherwise prohibited for other use/development.
c.      SFR & ADUs– The Board removed the Planning Commission’s proposed allowance for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) related to single family residential (SFR) use/development in the Natural shoreline designation in order to meet state requirements for density and intensity of development in sensitive areas.
Mooring buoys –
The Board changed the permit requirement from a Substantial Development Permit (SDP) in all environment designations as proposed by the Planning Commission to an Administrative CUP when adjacent to Natural, Conservancy, and Shoreline Residential designation, and SDP when adjacent to High Intensity.  This change was in response to recent concerns about the potential impacts of moored boats on shellfish growing areas, and to streamline the permitting process for the applicant.  While the County recently enacted a moratorium on new buoys in Mystery Bay, final adoption of the new SMP would repeal that ordinance.  The County is currently working with state agencies, stakeholders, and the public to develop a Mystery Bay Management Plan.
The Locally Approved SMP gives special recognition to single family homes with many provisions not afforded to other types of development:  1) single family homes will be allowed along Natural shorelines as a conditional use, where they are currently prohibited; 2) existing single family homes that don’t meet the new buffer requirements will be considered ‘non-conforming’ but will be allowed to rebuild on the same footprint should natural disaster damage the structure; 3) non-conforming homes will be allowed to expand/enlarge up to 25% of their footprint without conditional use or shoreline variance permits; 4) new single family homes can be built on non-conforming lots that are too small for the standard buffer as long as site-specific criteria are met to minimize shoreline impacts; and 5) new single family homes built adjacent to existing homes which could block views, may be located closer than the standard buffer to ensure shoreline views that are comparable to the neighbors.
The Board’s many changes have resulted in an SMP that allows for reasonable development along Jefferson County’s river, lake and saltwater shores while finding a compromise between environmental protection, private property rights and public access.
Once Ecology receives the County’s locally-approved SMP, they will schedule a comment period and public hearing, and then provide the County with feedback on the document as to its compliance with the state’s Shoreline Management Act and the SMP Guidelines.  After both the County and the State agree on a final version of the SMP, both entities will formally adopt the program, and the new SMP will take effect.  Final adoption is currently anticipated to occur no sooner than Spring 2010.
The purpose of the Shoreline Master Program is to maintain existing shoreline resources, foster shoreline recovery over time, and to balance shoreline use and protection.  Jefferson County is required to update its Shoreline Master Program (SMP) in compliance with the State’s 1971 Shoreline Management Act and the 2003 SMP Guidelines.  All 39 counties and over 200 cities in the State must update their SMPs by 2014. Today, Ecology announced adoption of a new SMP for the City of Kennewick in the Tri-Cities area of the state, joining a list of some 8 other municipalities with new SMPs in place, including City of Port Townsend SMP adopted in 2007.  To date, only two counties have successfully completed such an SMP update – Whatcom County and Douglas County.
For more information or to join the SMP e-mail notification list, contact Associate Planner Michelle McConnell at 360.379.4484, via e-mail at or visit the County’s Web site

2 Responses

  1. Duly noted. Thanks for the clarification Michelle.

  2. Please note the Locally Approved SMP establishes a standard buffer of 150-feet on stream/river and marine shores and 100-feet on lake shores, rather than “150′ buffer on all shoreline” as you mention above.


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