Island County planners look to streamline shoreline permit process

Getting a permit to develop on the shoreline may become easier and quicker.

Island County Community Development staff are looking at streamlining the process and sought consent from the commissioners on Wednesday to offer applicants a “door 2” — basically a shortcut — to some of the more strenuous requirements.

Currently, shoreline permits require studies under the shoreline master program in addition to different studies under Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regulations. The proposed shortcut would allow applicants to use one standardized programmatic biological assessment. The approach would potentially reduce the cost and application preparation time for applicants, improve certainty in the review process and reduce application review time, according to Hiller West, director of the community development department.

One goal is to minimize the need for a parcel-by-parcel individual biological assessment. For an individual proposing to develop in a floodplain, completing this type of assessment can cost several thousand dollars and take weeks to prepare, West said.

With the new approach, the county would use existing regulations on critical areas, floodplain development and shoreline development to assess permits.

FEMA would need to sign off on the proposed change. The planning department is in the process of meeting with the federal agency, along with the Department of Ecology, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies to determine what data is needed to secure the OK. Once a scope of work is determined, West said he will go back to the commissioners to seek their approval for creating the programmatic approach.

The commissioners gave the planning department the green light to keep researching, but Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson, chairwoman of the board, voiced reservations. She described her stance as a “non-no,” until she has more information.

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