After 20 plus years of participating in County government, starting a long time ago as Chairman of the Fair Board, then 12 years as a County Commissioner, and lately as a member of the Citizen Advisory Committee on the draft Critical Areas Ordinance, I didn't think there was much that could come out of the Friday Harbor Court House that would surprise me.
The County Council, on a 5-1 vote, has preliminarily passed the Draft CAO General Section. Approval comes when the wetlands and wildlife sections of the CAO are finished in the next month or two.
If you think that “Evans has finally lost his mind,” I invite you to go to the Common Sense Alliance web site which has a more detailed explanation of what this is all about. There is also a YouTube link to a video of the County Council testimony on the subject. In the General Section(.pdf 558\k file), the written material on stating the requirements is on pages 28 and 29. Beyond pages 28 and 29 the whole Ordinance should get folks attention.
The General Section of the CAO includes a requirement that any property-owner activity, that will disturb any dirt or vegetation on their property, first get the approval of the County's Community Development and Planning Department. The County wants to be sure that any such activity is beyond 300 feet from any of their designated wetlands, streams or 200 feet from other Critical Areas.
After the County has checked their maps -and maybe stopped by for a site visit- and if you are beyond the 200/300 foot regulatory "trip wire," they will give you the go-ahead.
If, on the other hand, you are closer than 300 feet you will need to participate in the County's Critical Areas Review process.
The process may include hiring an expert to do a wetlands or stream delineation, a biologist to assess any presence of flora and fauna species of concern, a surveyor to measure distances for the prescribed critical area buffers; and mitigation performance bonds posted, and conditions attached to the legal title of the property.
This requirement is not just for someone trying to build a home on bare land. This is for all property owners. The final Ordinance will designate Critical Area buffer overlays on many of the islands already developed parcels.
It seems to me that the ability to cut firewood, trim vegetation, plant a garden or even plant some fruit trees is part of what living in San Juan County is all about. Being required to get the County's permission to do even the most modest activities on one's property is crazy.
Even crazier is granting local government officials, (or any government officials) such authority over the daily lives of citizens, their homes and families.
(John B Evans is a columnist for the Guardian, farmer and nurseryman in Doe Bay; a County Commissioner for 12 years; past Chairman of the San Juan County Republican Party; Executive Director of SJC Builders Association, and one of the founding members of Citizens For Responsible Government, a not-for-profit & a non-partisan corporation)