Large turnout for Jefferson County SMP feedback to DOE

Over 100 people turned out to give feedback to the Department of Ecology on the Shoreline Master Program update. The turnout was largely anti-SMP in their comments, with county officials, SMP volunteers, and some of aquaculture supporting the document. There was much more heat than light, as much of the anger raised was not accurate assessments of the updated regulations, as pointed out by Mr. Morley, the county administrator, who testified. We urge any of you who did not come out tonight, from either side, to participate in this process by writing comments to DOE. Both written and verbal comments will be accepted, comment period closes May 11.  More details at the state’s webpage <> .

Those leading the anti-SMP have been against it from the beginning,  chose not to participate in the program, and for four years have sat on the side and criticized every aspect of the document. They have issued predictions of doom and gloom that is not borne out by the document. A couple of them took the public testimony time alloted to them to announce their candidacies for elected office from the podium, a particularly cynical use of the overflow crowd’s time.

Apparently there was similar “sky is falling” predictions about the last SMP, and the county has survived it, and prospered until this latest economic downturn, which hardly could be blamed on the SMP currently in place. Shoreline property values are still high, overall. In fact, one anti-SMP realtor placed ads to sell their existing lots by siting fear of the SMP. Talk about blatant self interest!

It’s interesting to note, that when looking at property in Jefferson County in 1999, I purposely chose not to live on the water, though I would have loved to. Why? First, it cost more to live there. Secondly, I understood that owning shoreline property brought a special set of rules for protecting it, that would have limited my choices as to what I could do. That was a known issue even 10 years ago, as it was since the 70s, at least. It is not like management of shorelines emerged from Olympia yesterday.

The shorelines of Puget Sound do have property owners, but the property owners do not have unlimited choice in their use of the land. Neither do those of us in Jefferson county in general. There are zoning laws, and rules for noise, pets, etc. I can’t have farm animals on my lot in PT (due to a covenant on the property), as much as I would like to. I can’t drill for oil here, nor can I open up a quarry. While many people tonight expressed the notion that they have the right to do whatever they want with their land, that is simply not true, and hasn’t been for a long while.

Also, there was a statement about why Port Townsend has 50′ buffers while Jefferson County has 150′. The partial answer is that Port Townsend lots are much smaller than the average county lot, being about 1/8th acre lots. Port Townsend is by and large urban, and has been designated as such in the SMP. Their shoreline usage is more restrictive in general. That fact was recognized in that PT has written their own SMP and the county has a separate one. That was to give the county residents more say in their SMP.

This issue of pitting the ‘urban’ folks against the ‘country’ folks is not new, and is not accurate. I sat on the SMP Policy Advisory Committee, along with about 20 other people. We had many county residents in that group, including shoreline owners, real estate and developer representatives on that committee.  We debated issues, researched issues, did not agree on everything, and had heated discussions at times about choices. I support the results of that multi-year process, because what ultimately came out of it was a consensus document.

I urge people to read the document, and consult with DCD staff if they have any questions. And I urge people here, and in Clallam and Kitsap Counties, who are starting their SMP process,  not wait until the end of a process to get involved. This is our democracy, and that’s how the sausage gets made. Participation in turning the crank handle is part of it. Waiting to say you dislike the taste of the sausage after it’s made is a little late, doesn’t it?  I seem to remember the Little Red Hen encountering something like this in a fairy tale I read my child once.

In the 1970s and 1980’s, the citizens of the State, through initiative and subsequent legislative action, specified that the counties surrounding Puget Sound needed to create shoreline and critical areas protection. The legislature funded the efforts and pushed decision making and regulation crafting to the counties, with oversite and final approval by DOE to make sure that the regulations met general guidelines.  We were given the power to structure our regulations. That’s what we’ve done. Now comes what we all knew was going to happen. The inevitable lawsuits.

4 Responses

  1. Quote
    “Now comes what we all knew was going to happen. The inevitable lawsuits.”

    If I understand your comments through out your post and the quote above , the comities final decision on this , must have known it to stretch the law to the max . Its my opinion if this is in violation of any law or Constitutional issue , the legal actions are a proper way to determine its legality , lest you forget we are a nation of laws — from what seems to be in the SMP there may be some question’[s] .
    Its always amazing how the bureaucracies seem to say — how can you possibly question our decision ? you are so undeserving of any consideration , just pay the bills and leave us to our important work . — this is what your post implies , and a hint of arrogance toward citizens for what ever reason .
    For what is worth , I to, did not know of this action until the eleventh hour .

    • No, I think you are misreading this. The committee’s (meaning the county commissioners, not the planning committee nor the advisory committees that were earlier involved), did not try to ‘stretch the law to the max”. This was about taking the output of the two advisory committees (meaning the technical advisory committee, made up of scientists and other field professionals) and the citizens recommendations that made up the advisory committee, along with the staff recommendations and the planning commission position, and marrying them all up, with the basis being “no net loss” and “best available science”. There is no ‘reason’ for the legal challenges, other than dissatisfaction with the outcome for certain segments of the community. Fine, that, in today’s poisonous political climate is ‘inevitable” as I said. The SMP is *regulation* based on *local input* framed in a statewide built structure. We (and I was on the citizens’ advisory council) used the state framework and crafted locally relevant regulations from it. You can disagree with our decisions, as did the planning commission, but it was locally based regulation. The kind you are seeming to argue for!

      As to you not knowing until the “eleventh hour” yet you seem to be tuned into this web site, let me be clear, there was enormous information published by the county in the local press (including this web site!) on the SMP planning process, and the public’s ability to give input along the way (our advisory council meetings were all publicly open and advertised). I would recommend that if you missed this that you subscribe to one of our fine local papers, like the Leader or the Peninsula Daily News, to get this information in a timely manner, or go to your local library to read up. It’s not ‘their’ fault you didn’t pay attention. Do you expect the county to pay people to come to your house and invite you personally?

  2. Barbara, please review who was on the Shoreline Policy Advisory Committee, which I was on. We had representatives of both the Jefferson County Real Estate and Builders Associations. I find it hard to believe that you didn’t know anything about this until later.

  3. Much of the commentary in this article is just not true. You say we held back and did not participate for four years; the first I even heard of it — and I have been selling waterfront for 20 years — was long after the technical committee had been working on it and not until the Planning Commission had it. The PC did some good work — all of which was thrown out by staff and the commissioners — at the urging of DOE, I am sure. I think the fight is not over in Jefferson County and I hope we can warn other counties of what is coming.

Comments are closed.