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Critical areas are the foundation of visions
I attended the Critical Area Committee work session on Lopez Island last Tuesday and was impressed with the efforts being extended to turn boiler-plate, cover-all-bases language into something manageable for island circumstances.
I was less impressed that the county had assigned the talent assembled to work backward through pages upon pages of jargon to create something understandable and useful. I am convinced that had they been allowed to ask what are our goals and how can those goals best be achieved, they would be a long ways further down the road and a lot less stressed.
Many people tend to forget that our system is essentially based on the consent of the governed. A former commissioner once declared at a hearing, "We were elected to make the hard decisions." Not so. They are elected to represent the governed.
Protection depends upon consent. The governed need to see how compliance benefits their existence. Fears of costs, delays and denials created by regulations may result in any protected flora or fauna being destroyed before those regulations can interfere.
The county would gain by providing the database to facilitate protection. When a citizen or developer proposed a development, the county could then provide the maps, probably including a satellite image of the parcel, and those areas or creatures that might need consideration. The county could probably even provide suggestions of organizations that could assist. There are good models.
The sad truth is that critical area ordinances should have been determined and adopted along with vision statements in the 1990s, critical areas being the foundation of visions.
James Alfred Smith