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County planning compliance meeting kicks off today

According to Clallam County planning manager Steve Gray, the public is becoming educated on the county's alleged lack of compliance with the state's Growth Management Act and has input on how to move forward.

"People have things to say about how to move forward and we want to hear these ideas," Gray said, "which is why we are having public meetings dedicated to each region affected by the state's ruling."

The Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board, which has jurisdiction over GMA appeals, ruled in April that some of Clallam County's planning was out of compliance with the act or invalid altogether.

The decision came from an appeal made by growth watchdogs Futurewise, of Olympia, and the Dry Creek Coalition, of Port Angeles. Each of the groups challenged different facets of county zoning, urban growth area sizing and designations of limited areas of more intense rural development.

On Aug. 6, the board of Clallam County commissioners and the county's planning commission will have a joint meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the Clallam County Courthouse to receive an overview of the state's decision, impacts to the different areas subject to the ruling and options of how to move forward.

On the following three Wednesdays, planning staff will present findings on each area that is affected by the ruling.

Those living in the Sequim area who are concerned about zoning and potential land-use changes near their homes are encouraged to attend.

"I know people in the Palo Verde subdivision in the northwest corner of the Sequim (urban growth area) will be there because they have announced an interest in the process," Gray said. "They have a suggestion, which is to be removed from the UGA completely. And these are things we want to look at as we try to find a way to become compliant."

The GMA mandates counties to focus development in areas already developed at the time of its inception, in 1990, thereby reducing urban sprawl amid a growing population.

The county's Department of Community Development, or planning, staff has maintained that zoning throughout the county was set up within the confines of the law but it is searching for ways to become compliant with the appointed state board's mandates.

Most of the land affected by the ruling falls east of Port Angeles and in the Sequim and Blyn areas. For instance, the board found zoning inside Sequim's urban growth area was too sparse and required higher densities next to the city's limits.

Then on the other side of the growth area border, the board found zoning to be too dense, adding that the county should have lower densities outside of growth areas.

The board decided many of the county's limited areas of more intense rural development were too large and that boundaries needed to be readjusted.

These decisions resulted in designations of noncompliance, meaning the county had to work toward compliance by rezoning, resizing or realigning planning boundaries.

Some areas received a label of invalidity, which meant planning needed to be changed overall for the area to be in compliance with the GMA. The most notable invalid area is the Carlsborg urban growth area.

In order to gain time to assess the impacts of rezoning areas or resizing their boundaries, the Clallam County commissioners adopted some interim rezones to allow some development to move forward.

Without the interim rules, land use would have been at a near standstill.

While the county seeks compliance in all areas the growth board found issue with, it also is appealing several of the decisions in Clallam County Superior Court.

"It's a dual track response to the board's decision," Gray said. "We will definitely go into it more during the meetings."

A final recommendation from the planning department, which will incorporate directives from the planning commission and public comment, is expected to go to the county commissioners by the end of September.

Resources for learning more about the noncompliance and invalidity orders are available at www.clallam.net.



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