WOSSA Legislation and Public Advocacy
For many of you, what starts out as a fairly innocuous meeting announcement, sent via e-mail and not looked at for a day or two if at all, can have a tremendous impact on service providers in our industry and much of our ability to have any coordinated if any response.
Much of WOSSA’s primary focus and mission is on education of the industry and those closely related like realtors; but our history comes out of our participation and leadership in a legislative initiative and defense that put in place the current designer’s licensing program.
In the current climate, a lot can happen when you’re busy trying to hold your business together and as a small business owner, you may not be real connected with some of the changes behind the scenes that ultimately have a huge impact on your business. It gets even harder when our ability to communicate with each other is overrun by the “process”. There are a lot of industry groups that are participating in local management and rule making that impact our service industries directly, but there is a lot more going on that we need to be vigilant about that affects us all….and finding a way to have a “red-alert” communication to things that affect our industry directly is becoming more obvious.
Here are a couple of real world examples….and some other folks that are pushing back as well as why we should be throwing support into these discussions.
Article #1 - Dateline June 3rd: San Juan County
Planning Coordinator, San Juan County, Community Development & Planning Department correspondence…
San Juan County is resuming work on the review and update of their Critical Area regulations. Next Tuesday the County Council will continue their discussion on a work plan for completing the update. Copies of the meeting agenda and draft work plan are attached. Public comment on the plan is scheduled from 9:05 – 10:00 a.m. Next Thursday beginning at 8:45 a.m. the Council and Planning Commission are holding a joint meeting and workshop on Critical Area issues.
WOSSA Executive Director Comment: It seems that the public notification and response time to meet and discuss important issues that affect us has been significantly shortened as evidenced in the above timeline. The announcement was sent out on a Thursday at 2:45 pm for the meeting the following Tuesday (for all of those retiree’s) and allowance for 55 minutes of public comment…..read on to some impact as outlined by one of the local realtor from Windermere who was paying attention.
Article #2 – Correspondence in Response to the Proceeding Article
At this point in time frankly I am in shock. As you will recall in my last letter I pointed out that the state legislature passed a new law requiring counties to integrate the shoreline amendment, including building setbacks from the shoreline into the Critical Areas Ordinance.
The Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) needs to be done by the end of this year, so now shoreline amendments, including setbacks, will need to be done this year as well. Setbacks from wetlands, streams, ponds, and shorelines could severely impact the value and use of your property. Keep in mind that many of these wetland areas are not always obvious. The draft plan is to be compiled in the next several months with public comments beginning in July and possibly through the end of the year.
If things look bad in July and August I think many of you should consider looking into acquiring building permits ensuring your ability to build in a reasonable location. Keep in mind it is possible to purchase “canned plans” from major hardware stores or online that will suffice. Being vested with a building permit will preclude any new regulations from pushing you further from the shoreline, wetland, etc. but only for two years. After that time your project needs to be complete.
In addition some of you may be required to do archeology studies that cost $3,000-$4,000 and take several months; these sites are undisclosed until you file your building permit. Chances are if you have a beach you could have an archeological site. This entire issue is being compressed into a ridiculously tight timeline and is fairly complex. Please feel free to call to discuss or talk to your county council, planner, permit coordinator, archeologist, surveyor, etc.
WOSSA Executive Director Comment: A local community group organizer followed up to the opponents of the process. good head’s up, and getting “vested” is a legal position determined by building permit application date, but anyone who cares feels a little like sitting at the #43 position at the start of a NASCAR event. A rally call to action, with no consensus and a weak communication infrastructure has little real weight in affecting any change….and with only 55 minutes of public comment, should we expect to have any impact on the outcome of the race?
Article #3 – Dateline Thursday, 08 April 2010 (reprinted from the Common Sense Alliance website)
But homeowners are affected too, and they are the ones that hire and pay us……our clients!
A Freshwater Shoreline Runs Through It
In 2006, Seattleites John Daring and his wife bought a lovely house on a 2.5-acre landlocked parcel on the west side of Orcas Island. Along their western boundary, on a neighbor’s parcel, is a small rocky ravine.
When the County prepared its 2009 draft update for wetlands related to the critical areas ordinance (CAO), it incorporated shorelines into the wetland map, despite there being no “critical area” requirement for shorelines. Shoreline protection is regulated under the Shoreline Management Act (SMA), and it is not clear how SMA requirements found their way into the County’s GMA CAO update, but they did.
When most people think of a “shoreline,” they think of the many of miles of coastal shoreline in the San Juans, and in fact, all the marine shorelines here have been designated as shorelines of statewide significance under the SMA. Few realize, however, that the SMA regulates freshwater shorelines too. Streams are covered along with rivers and lakes.
And that brings us to the rocky ravine next to the Daring property. They didn’t know it but when they purchased their upland view home in 2006, the Darings were buying shorefront. The Darings say that the nearby ravine never has any water in it, and judging by the photos taken in the middle of a wet winter, that appears to be true. But like so many things in San Juan County, truth and fairness have little to do with how we treat our neighbors. The only thing that matters is what the County government believes.
It wasn’t until the Common Sense Alliance(CSA) published the now famous “pink maps” that the Darings realized that their property was affected by the draft CAO update. They asked the County for an explanation, and instead of providing an answer, the County referred the Darings to CSA. We showed them that, under the County’s proposal, their property is affected by a 100-foot buffer on each side of the “stream” in the nearby dry ravine.
The Darings have asked the County to fix the official CAO map so that the dry ravine next to their home is recognized for what it is, but they have received no County response. That is little surprise to CSA given that some county employees erroneously claim that the CSA “pink maps”, notwithstanding their origin in the county data-base, are simply being used to spread hysteria. The County refuses to admit the inaccuracies and other shortcomings of its maps and instead prefers to attack the CSA and refuses to deal forthrightly with property owners’ concerns.
In situations like the above, the County has rejected critical review. This leaves private citizens who must bear the burden of our local government's mistakes, with a justifiably bad impression.
WOSSA Executive Director Comment: Look for some additional info on these kinds of issues, and an opportunity to tell us where and how you want us to impact and participate in these initiatives that affect our business.