Lawsuit claims Clallam County violated Growth Management Act

Clallam County officials will discuss mineral resource lands in the coming weeks after property owners filed legal action against the county alleging violations of the Growth Management Act.

George Lane, Michael Shaw and Puget Sounds Surfacers filed the petition for review with the state Growth Management Hearings Board of Western Washington in October, asking the board to order the county to come into compliance with the Growth Management Act.

The lawsuit claims the county did not properly conduct its period review and mandatory update to the county comprehensive plan, as required by the Growth Management Act.

Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias said commissioners heard an update on the lawsuit during an executive session on Nov. 27. Following the session, commissioners decided to dedicate a work session to addressing mineral resource lands, he said.

“The work session discussion will be more broad, not specifically in relation to the lawsuit,” Ozias said.

The Growth Management Hearings Board issued an order Nov. 13 listing the issues in the lawsuit it has jurisdiction over, including issues about whether the county met the public participation requirements, public comment requirements, coordinated planning mandates, mineral lands designations and others.

The lawsuit also alleged violations of the state and United States constitutions. The Growth Management Hearings Board dismissed constitutional issues over lack of jurisdiction.

A hearing on the merits of the petition is set for 9 a.m. Feb. 27, with a location to be determined. A final decision is expected by April 9.

On Aug. 7, the Board of County Commissioners approved a resolution that says the county has adopted 43 ordinances addressing a “wide range of minor and major amendments to its comprehensive plan and development regulations,” according to the executive summary for the resolution.

The county held a public hearing for the resolution Aug. 7 before approving the resolution. Ozias and commissioner Randy Johnson voted in favor of the resolution; commissioner Bill Peach voted against it.

During that hearing, Shaw told commissioners that if they approved the resolution, his only option was to bring it to the Growth Management Hearings Board.

“I think the review process isn’t supposed to review what happened in the last six or seven years, it is supposed to be opened up so the public can have input,” he said. “It’s supposed to be opened up so the public can have input … and I don’t believe that has happened.”

Julie Gardiner, who unsuccessfully ran for director of the Department of Community Development in the general election earlier this month, also addressed the board that day.

“What I have seen, particularly the last 10 years, is that the emphasis on citizen participation is thrown off the cuff,” she said. “When we are not heard, that creates significant political backlash for everybody.”

Ozias said Tuesday that though this wasn’t a substantive update, the public did have an opportunity for input on each of the amendments.

“They have different types of public processes,” he said. “The public process was sort of spread through a variety of individual actions that happened.”

The petitioners allege the county has made no substantive changes to the comprehensive plan and the implementing development regulations for mineral lands or regulations on mining, but instead decided that prior enactments satisfied requirements.

The county previously completed a periodic review in 2007 and is required to periodically take legislative action to review and, if needed, revise its comprehensive plan and development regulations every eight years.

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@peninsuladaily news.com.

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