Friday's planning commission hearing on CAO wetlands postponed

On the heels of an outpouring of public comment, county officials have postponed the planning commission's hearing on proposed changes to the wetland section of San Juan County's critical areas ordinance.

The planning commission was scheduled to begin deliberations on the CAO wetland section Friday. Those deliberations will be rescheduled for January, the date of which has yet to be determined.

According to Shireene Hale, deputy director of the Community Development and Planning Department, the department last week received a "considerable amount" of testimony regarding the latest set of proposed regulatory changes on the wetland portion of the CAO. By postponing the hearing, county officials will have time to "take a step back", evaluate assorted public comments and to discuss pending changes to the wetland section with its consultants and with local biologists, engineers and hydrologists. Those discussion will likely generate new or added changes to those that already are under consideration.

"Crafting an accurate, site specific, scientifically supported approach to sizing wetland buffers, which can also be understood by the general public, has prove to be a challenge," Hale said as part a press release announcing postponement of the hearing.

Under state law, counties whose long range planning is dictated by the state Growth Management Act are required to update their critical areas ordinance and to do so through the use of "best available science". Critical areas include wetlands, frequently flooded and geologically hazards, aquifer recharge areas and fish and wildlife habitat.

Following discussion with its consultants and local experts, Hale said that a revised draft of the proposed changes will be released, notice will be given of the time and date of the January meeting, and that the planning commission will take testimony on the revisions.


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