County hires consultant for compliance track

The county has a good idea of what it will do to counter a state ruling that deemed some of its zoning out of compliance with the state Growth Management Act.

The Clallam County Planning Commission made final recommendations on a compliance track during a public meeting Sept. 3.

The recommendations are similar, if not identical, to those proposed in a series of August public meetings to reach compliance in different areas affected by the state ruling.

But there is one new development. The county will hire two consultants with extensive backgrounds in growth management and compliance issues.

The commission and the county's planning staff will present new information and recommendations during two public hearings, one in Port Angeles at the Clallam County Courthouse on Sept. 17 and one at the Forks City Council Chambers Sept. 18.

The planning commission will accept public comment through the end of the Forks meeting, at which time it will forward the recommendation to the county commissioners for further review and action.

The Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board decided in April that some of the county's zoning was out of compliance with state law. The ruling resulted from an appeal of the county's updated comprehensive plan, which was filed by Seattle-based growth watchdog Futurewise.

One of the growth board rulings deemed nearly 22,000 acres of rurally zoned land out of compliance. The board said 13,730 acres in the Sequim Dungeness area, 4,134 acres near Port Angeles, 1,183 acres along the strait and 2,879 acres on the west end should have been less densely zoned.

The growth board also found nearly 60,000 acres of the challenged rural zoning compliant, leaving the county to concentrate on contentious areas.

The county originally had the lands zoned as rural 2, or one home per 2.4 acres. But, as a result of the ruling, it temporarily zoned the areas as rural 5, or one unit per 4.8 acres.

"The recommendation is to leave the (rural) 5 zone in place temporarily while we look into different compliant strategies for the different areas in those 22,000 acres, as not every neighborhood in those noncompliant rural areas are the same," Clallam County Planning manager Steve Gray said.

"We are in the process of retaining consultants that have vast experience with the (Growth Management Act) and rural compliance issues."

The consultants will help only with the rural land issue.

Michael McCormick, of Olympia, and Roger Wagoner, of Seattle, have met with planning staff and are reviewing materials to get oriented in the case.

McCormick is a planning consultant who once was the assistant director in the state's Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development.

"I have a lot of experience with the (Growth Management Act) and a large part of my work now is bringing communities back into compliance with the law," McCormick said. "One piece of information we wanted was a map of current uses due to several changes in the statute that allow some flexibility when it comes to inventory of size, scale and intensity."

Wagoner is director of community design at BHS Consultants and is recognized for his expertise in land use and growth management plans, according to Gray.

The consultants will be sitting down with planning staff to go through each neighborhood in the rural area looking at each sub area to make sure permanent recommendations fit the local characteristics.

The county is supposed to have a response to the state board by late October. For the most part it is ready to propose permanent changes to reach compliance.

However, the county is likely to request a time extension for the rural lands issue and the state's ruling on Carlsborg, which made the urban growth area invalid mostly due to its lack of a sewer system.

The growth board said zoning for about 450 acres of unincorporated land inside the Sequim growth area was not dense enough. It was previously zoned at Sequim Residential 1, allowing two units per acre. The commission is recommending keeping the interim zoning of Sequim Residential 2, which allows a maximum of five dwelling units per acre.

The commission also said a moratorium on new land divisions should be in place for the Palo Verde subdivisions because the area will be placed on the annual docket for possible removal from the growth area.

The board also found Blyn noncompliant because of its rural center zone. Much of the area has become residentially zoned and may remain that way. However, the county is looking at creating a limited area of more intense rural development on the north side of U.S. Highway 101 to allow some commercial zoning.

For a complete rundown on the growth board's decision, what lands are affected, a more detailed list of the county's plan to reach compliance and maps of everything involved, visit

While planners reach compliance through zoning revisions, the county's prosecuting attorney's office is working on an appeal of parts of the ruling as well, which is likely to take upward of a year in Clallam Superior Court.

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