Clallam County is accepting public comment on its Shoreline Master Program update until 10:30 a.m. Dec. 12. It is the first major overhaul of the SMP since it was adopted in 1976. (Jesse Major/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Clallam County is accepting public comment on its Shoreline Master Program update until 10:30 a.m. Dec. 12. It is the first major overhaul of the SMP since it was adopted in 1976. (Jesse Major/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Clallam County taking comment on Shoreline Master Program update

Clallam County is accepting comment on the first major overhaul to its Shoreline Master Program — a 258-page document guiding future development along waterways — until Dec. 12.

A public hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Dec. 12 at the Clallam County Courthouse, where the Clallam County commissioners will consider adopting the Planning Commission’s recommended changes to the SMP. Once adopted, the SMP would go to the state Department of Ecology for approval.

“Countywide, 4 percent of the county’s land base is covered under the Shoreline Master Program,” County Planning Manager Steve Gray said.

The program covers narrow bands of land adjacent to all marine water, sections of rivers and streams that average flows of 20 cubic feet per second, and lakes that fall under county jurisdiction.

The SMP was first adopted in 1976 after the state Shoreline Management Act was passed by the state Legislature in 1971 and approved by voters in 1972.

Since then it has been amended once — and that was in 1992.

“It’s basically a 40-plus-year-old plan and the amendments that occurred were pretty minor,” Gray said. “This is really the first comprehensive overhaul of our Shoreline Master Program.”

Among the changes is how rules are applied to critical areas. Areas covered under the SMP also are covered under critical areas regulations required under the Growth Management Act.

That means whichever rule is more restrictive in either the SMP or the critical areas regulations is the one that applies currently.

Critical area regulations apply to areas around streams, rivers, bodies of water, wetlands, slopes and other sensitive or hazardous areas, he said.

Gray said that if adopted as written, the SMP would consolidate regulations into the same document and future development in the overlapping areas would be guided under the SMP.

Among the goals of the SMP are to preserve the scenic, historical and ecological qualities of the shorelines of the county; to provide property owners with guidelines and requirements for future development; to ensure a no net loss of shoreline ecological functions and processes; and to respect the rights of private property owners and the rights of citizens-at-large to use and enjoy shorelines of the state.

The SMP is to discourage development in areas where there is documented risk; to accommodate and give priority to water-dependent uses; to facilitate public access to public waters; and to maintain and protect water quality and quantity.

The Clallam County commissioners could take action directly following the Dec. 12 hearing, but Gray said he anticipates more work sessions following public comment.

To date, the SMP has received hundreds of comments, and he expects more comments to come in.

“This is a very interesting process, not just for shoreline owners, but people who visit our shorelines,” he said.

County officials will hold four public forums in communities across the county to share information about the proposed update, he said.

“The intent of the forums is for the department to provide an overview of the process to date and so the public can comment on this next stage going to the board for the locally approved plan,” Gray said. “Individuals will have enough time to talk to a planner to determine how this affects their shoreline property or where they recreate along those shorelines.”

The four regional public forums for the county Shoreline Master Program are:

• Sekiu Community Center, 42 Rice St., Sekiu, 6 p.m. Nov. 2.

• Rainforest Arts Center, 35 N. Forks Ave., Forks, 6 p.m. Nov. 6.

• Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. 4th St., Port Angeles, 6 p.m. Nov. 8.

• John Wayne Marina, 2577 W. Sequim Bay Rd., Sequim, 6 p.m. Nov. 14.

Jesse Major is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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