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County Council workshop Aug. 25 on Critical Areas Ordinance, Shoreline Master Plan

The San Juan County Council has scheduled a three-and-one-half hour workshop on the Critical Areas Ordinance and the Shoreline Master Plan, Aug. 25, 1 p.m., at the San Juan Community Theater.

The workshop is open to the public.

The Critical Areas Ordinance is being revised in compliance with provisions of the Growth Management Act. Work is also beginning on the updated Shoreline Master Plan, due in 2012.

Because wildlife habitat and environmentally sensitive geological areas overlap at the shoreline, public discussion and debate — and the county’s staff work on the two topics — have also overlapped.

The most debated issue is the minimum distance that new development should be set back from the shoreline. State regulations and some scientists have suggested a need to increase setbacks to as much as 150 or 200 feet. Real estate and development interests in San Juan County have suggested that such requirements could cost the county millions of dollars in lost property value and property taxes.

The county is now negotiating the contract for a $400,000 grant from the Washington Department of Ecology to help fund the Shoreline Master Plan updating process. That process will include an effort to create a “tailored” approach to establishing appropriate setbacks based on factors including the topography and composition of the shoreline and the amount of tree and vegetative cover between the development and the shoreline.

Council Chairman Rich Peterson, San Juan North, will moderate the workshop discussion. Participants will include:

— Paul Anderson, wetlands specialist, Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program, Department of Ecology.

— Dr. Kenneth Brooks, Aquatic Environmental Sciences, Inc.

— Bob Fritzen, shoreline planner, Department of Ecology, working with San Juan and Skagit counties and the Town of Friday Harbor.

— John Graves, National Flood Insurance Program specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

— Robert Levinson, Professional Engineer, Earth Solutions NW, LLC.

— Attorney Kyle Loring, staff attorney for the Friends of the San Juans.

— Richard A. Mraz, wetlands specialist, Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program, Department of Ecology.

— Attorney Dennis Reynolds, representing the Common Sense Alliance.

— Tom Sibley, chief, Northern Puget Sound Habitat Branch, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

— Dr. Kathy Taylor, Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program, Department of Ecology.

The participants will answer questions from council members and respond to written questions from the public, as time permits. The council has pledged that all questions submitted by the public will be answered either at the workshop or on the county Web site and additional public outreach meetings, according to the county public information office.

The full agenda, additional information and reference documents produced for the workshop will added to the county’s Web site at http://sanjuanco.com/Council/CAOworkshop.aspx as they become available.

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