Island County to adopt “Band-Aid” critical areas ordinance

County commissioners are planning to adopt a short-term critical areas ordinance to meet a court-ordered deadline.

County commissioners are planning to adopt a short-term critical areas ordinance to meet a court-ordered deadline.

At their Tuesday, Feb. 17 meeting, the Island County board of commissioners expect to set a public hearing on a temporary critical areas ordinance for 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 24.

This ordinance has been under serious scrutiny since members of the Whidbey Environmental Action Network filed a lawsuit in 2006 saying critical areas, like wetlands and habitats, were not properly protected in agricultural areas.

A Thurston County judge agreed with them last March and ordered that the county update its critical areas ordinance by this year.

The commissioners are instead opting to adopt an interim measure which is allowed under the Growth Management Act, according to Planning Director David Wechner.

“The focus of this effort it to give us a quick fix that is in compliance with the Growth Management Hearings Board that allows us the time to look at things in a more comprehensive fashion,” Wechner said.

Wechner said that this latest incarnation of the critical areas ordinance was adopted in Clallam County and passed muster with the Hearings Board.

Under the temporary ordinance, existing and ongoing agricultural properties zoned as commercial agriculture and rural agriculture will be exempt from the critical areas ordinance, if best management practices are used. In addition, agricultural activities designated as rural will be exempt if they are enrolled in a state agriculture tax program or are subject to a conservation easement.

The exemption will apply to properties that both use best management practices and pre-existed the original 1998 ordinance.

“It’s a Band-Aid,” said Commissioner Jill Johnson. “It’s more specific than what we had before.”

Marianne Edain of WEAN said Thursday the organization is not happy with what appears to be the county’s repeated delays on the ordinance.

“This is the minimum to get off the hot seat and kick it down the line one more time,” Edain said.

Edain said she fears the county has left too many of the more complex issues until the last minute, giving the public little time to consider them properly.

“We’ve been through so many of these processes, the easy ones have been picked out and all the gnarly ones are lumped into the Comprehensive Plan of 2016,” Edain said. “That’s my unhappy prediction.”

The original ordinance was adopted in 1998, and the group challenged the county’s treatment of wetlands on farmland in 2000 and won.

In that case, the Hearings Board agreed in that case that exempting all agriculture from wetland protection without qualification was contrary to the Growth Management Act.

 

More in News

“Rogue Sheep” trespass in yard | Island Scanner

THURSDAY, JULY 9 At 1:07 a.m., a Goss Lake Road resident reported… Continue reading

Council in a jam over sandwich boards

Langley officials decided to temporarily suspend an ordinance prohibiting the display of… Continue reading

New wheels add shine to grooming biz

The newest addition to Oak Harbor’s grooming salon Posh Puppies may have… Continue reading

Baby deer shot, injured by pellet gun in Coupeville

A baby deer was shot and injured by a pellet gun last… Continue reading

Photo by Olivia Vanni/Herald file
                                Cars full of passengers headed to Whidbey Island pull into the ferry lines in Mukilteo on June 26.
Ferry ride isn’t a pleasure cruise in COVID-19 summer of 2020

Fewer boats mean longer waits on weekends. No more frolicking on the boat.

Coupeville woman, 75, injured one-car crash Aug. 2

A 75-year-old Coupeville woman was seriously injured in a crash in Central… Continue reading

Oak Harbor facing vacancies in key positions

The city of Oak Harbor has recently experienced some major staff turnover… Continue reading

Island Drug moves back to Clinton

Nearly a month after closing the doors to its Ken’s Korner location,… Continue reading

Suspect crashes car while trying to flee State Patrol

An Oak Harbor man is accused of leading a Washington state trooper… Continue reading

Most Read