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Commissioners approve GMA compliance proposal

Two Sequim men are feeling the impacts of Clallam County's efforts to become compliant with the state's Growth Management Act in two very different ways.

While nothing has changed on the ground at either Jim Funero's or Craig Houghtaling's land this year, each has seen fluctuations in their land's potential as a result of recent temporary and permanent rezones.

Clallam County has been fighting for years to support its zoning in different areas of the county that were challenged by growth watchdogs in the state. The county won on a few fronts while arguing to the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board, but lost a few as well.

As a result, the county received labels of either invalidity or noncompliance on some of its zoning in April because the board decided it was not in line with the growth law.

The ruling essentially halted future land use in the zones until the county reached compliance. In an effort to skirt a moratorium, the county instituted some temporary zones, which often didn't allow as much land use as before but freed up the land from the ruling while planners developed a way to reach compliance.

Both Funero and Houghtaling saw the potential use of their land change from one dwelling unit per acre to one unit per five acres.

On Oct. 21 the Clallam County commissioners adopted a compliance plan that made its way through more than a dozen public forums and the Clallam County Planning Commission.

It causes some of the interim zones to become permanent, returns some to the way they were and alters others to something entirely different.



LAMIRDs

Funero and Houghtaling live off Lotzgesell Road. Their land used to be in the Dungeness Bay limited area of more intense rural development, or LAMIRD, which is a geographic boundary where higher densities are allowed outside of urban settings.

The LAMIRD was one of 20 the growth board found to be out of compliance in the county. Planners went through each of the LAMIRDs, resizing some and eliminating others.

Funero is in a new, smaller LAMIRD, which means he will be able to subdivide some of his land. Houghtaling was not as fortunate.

"I bought this property based on its zoning and now that has gone away," he said during a public meeting on the plan Oct. 14 in Sequim. "Where is the compensation? It's not my fault this land was improperly zoned, but I'm the one who's impacted."

The Clallam County commissioners sympathized with Houghtaling, indicating the battle for county residents' property rights had gone on for years and does not end with Tuesday's decision.

"The growth board made it clear lands like yours do not fit into the LAMIRD," Commissioner Mike Chapman, I-Port Angeles, said to Houghtaling. "But we are creating a rural lands study that's obliged to look at every rural area that was down-zoned as a result of the decision."



Rural, urban lands

Not only LAMIRDs were found out of compliance. The board indicated some land inside the Sequim urban growth area needed a higher density, while rural lands outside the growth area needed to have less density.

The plan permanently changes zoning on some land inside the Sequim growth area from two units per acre to up to five if they attach to city utilities.

Blyn was found out of compliance because the county allowed urban-style development in an area that was not designated as an urban growth area or LAMIRD.

The compliance plan creates a LAMIRD in Blyn, but some acreage that was in the former Blyn rural center zone, especially on the south side of the highway, has been down-zoned to one unit per five acres.

The Carlsborg growth area was found out of compliance because services, such as sewer, were not set up for the urban designation.

The plan asks for a deadline extension for the county to reach compliance in rural lands and Carlsborg. The county hopes to get a sewer facilities plan in place within the next year as well as a rural lands study that could provide more flexibility than the one-unit-per-five-acre designation currently in effect.

The county had until Oct. 23 to submit a plan for compliance. The growth board will have an official hearing on the compliance plan Dec. 15.

"I hope the county continues to fight for my property," Houghtaling said. "It's my retirement or something I'd like to pass down to my children."



Next steps

For now the county will continue to research ways to reach compliance in Carlsborg and in zoning on rural lands while the growth board reviews its compliance plan for Blyn, the Sequim growth area, its 20 LAMIRDs and its request for a deadline extension for rural lands and Carlsborg.

Funero asked the county what it was doing to make sure these changes will not be successfully challenged by growth watchdogs.

"We have hired consultants to help with the rural lands study and we have submitted our proposal for compliance to Futurewise to gauge their reaction to the changes," said Doug Jensen, with the prosecuting attorney's office.

Jensen also elaborated on the county's formal appeals of the rural lands and Carlsborg rulings, which are in Clallam County Superior Court awaiting a court date, which Jensen estimated to come next spring, possibly April.

Funero said he was happy to see his land included in the LAMIRD but expressed hope for a better designation for Houghtaling after the rural lands study comes out.





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