Letters to the Editor

Critical Areas Ordinance has some real problems

I have served as one of nine appointed members of the GMA Critical Area Ordinance review committee for two years. A polarizing and contentious issue during this entire process has been whether the committee should address the shorelines.

Critical areas are regulated under the Growth Management Act (GMA) but shorelines are regulated under a completely different state law — the Shorelines Management Act (SMA). It is illegal to regulate the shorelines through GMA. The state Supreme Court issued the Futurewise Anacortes decision in August 2008 which confirmed that it is illegal to regulate the shorelines under GMA.

That’s why we were astounded in early May 2009 when we learned that the director planned to release (without committee review or approval) his own draft of GMA amendments to the shoreline code. The draft includes drastic changes to the shoreline code, including 100-foot setbacks for all structures and landscaping.

The advertisement run by San Juan County under the heading of “Puget Sound Partnership” is misleading. The ad suggests that the county is required to adopt new stringent shoreline rules at this time. That is simply not true. In fact, that statement contravenes the advice given to the County Council by the county prosecutor, who said in a May 15 letter: “An amendment to the critical areas regulations in the SMP at this time is voluntary and not required.”

San Juan County will be updating its shoreline regulations in due course. That process deserves the attention and time necessary for a comprehensive update. New shoreline setbacks and regulations at this time are inappropriate, and will cause nothing but chaos.

We must not allow this to happen.

Stephanie Johnson O’Day
Friday Harbor

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