Council to consider county Comp Plan, UDC Docket Nov. 18

The San Juan County Council will act on a year’s worth of proposed changes to the county’s Comprehensive Plan and Unified Development Code (UDC) at its meeting on Nov. 18.

Among the proposed changes is a provision which could affect how often changes to the UDC itself could be considered. All items scheduled for action have already been through the public hearing and discussion process. The proposals to be acted upon are:

Frequency of UDC Amendments
Staff report is available at Click here.

Washington state’s Growth Management Act allows counties to change their Comprehensive Plans – which provide the guiding principals for the development and operation of the county government – just once each year. San Juan County currently goes a step further and allows changes and updates to the code that implements the Comprehensive Plan – the UDC – just once per year.

In its staff report, the Community Development and Planning Department says that there is a backlog of more than 100 changes to the UDC which need to be considered and has asked that the council be allowed to act upon amendments to the UDC more frequently.

Area builders have expressed concern to the council that frequent changes to the UDC could be confusing for property owners and developers. The proposal being considered would allow amendments to be presented three times per year for the next two years.

Essential Public Facilities
Staff report is available at Click here

Establishes a means through which the county can allow essential public facilities to be built in areas which might not allow such facilities under normal zoning and permitting procedures.

The Growth Management Act requires such a provision and two years ago, the lack of such a provision was cited as a factor in the failure of the County’s plan to locate a “trash to treasure” re-use facility on county land near the existing trash transfer station on San Juan Island.

Site Re-designation
Staff report is available at Click here

This involves a swap of adjacent tracts of land between the Washington State Parks Department and the Wilcox/Collingsworth family on Orcas Island. Proposal is to change the designation of the new park land from density of 20 to a density of 0 and to change the allowed density of the property given in exchange from density 0 to density 20.

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Permit Procedure
Staff report is available at Click here

Each year, the county issues a limited number of building permits for ADUs and currently they are allotted on a “first call, first serve” basis. The result has been that the planning department phone lines are jammed on the day the permits are available with applicants frequently engaging several people to call for a single property.

The change in the system will set up a “true lottery” to select candidates for the available ADU permits from all those who enter the lottery by a given date.

Critical Aquifer Recharge Area/Critical Areas Ordinance Amendments
Staff report is available at Click here

Minority report is available at Click here

State regulations require that the county identify areas that are critical for recharging aquifers used for drinking water and irrigation, and take steps to protect them from contamination.

After much study, the majority of the members of the citizens’ advisory committee helping revise the Critical Areas Ordinance concluded that because of the complex geography and hydrology of San Juan County it would be difficult to draw boundaries between recharge areas that are any more or less critical to protecting the county’s aquifers than others. The change requested in this item would declare the entire county to be a “Critical Aquifer Recharge Area.”

Proponents say that this will have no effect on the ability of property owners to develop or use their property and, in fact, other changes in the code would reduce the expense and paperwork required on many types of commercial development.

Others have expressed concern that the use of the word “Critical” in the designation could have unexpected side effects and invite future regulation by the state and federal governments.

The council has already taken oral and written testimony on all of the Comp Plan and UDC-related items. Written testimony only will continue to be accepted until 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 14. (To assure receipt, written testimony should be delivered to the council office at 55 Second St. in Friday Harbor. The mailing address is San Juan County Council, 350 Court St., No. 1, Friday Harbor, WA 98250.)

The items have been placed on the council’s agenda for Nov. 18, beginning in the 1:30 p.m. time slot. All reports and documentation for upcoming council meetings are available online on the Friday prior to the following week’s meeting.

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