Since Washington state decided some of Clallam County's land use plans were not in compliance with the Growth Management Act, county staff has been feverishly planning a response that does not include the word "moratorium."
The state decision identified certain rural zoning as much too dense, such as areas surrounding the
Sequim urban growth area and lands in the Dungeness community. The decision also identified some zones as having densities too loose, such as lands within the Sequim growth area that have not been annexed.
Until the county's zoning plans are approved by the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board or until the county can successfully appeal the decision, it must halt certain land activities, such as approving an application for a new commercial development in Carlsborg received after the decision.
Only those applications received after April 24, 2008, are effected by the state decision.
Other than announcing a moratorium on all building in the questionable zones, Clallam County commissioners adopted interim rules, which will facilitate some land use while giving the county the opportunity to rewrite its zoning or appeal the state decision.
"There is not an easy solution or answer to this state decision," Commissioner Mike Chapman, R-Port Angeles, said. "But this option gives us an opportunity to plan around this decision and shows a great amount of cooperation from staff."
Commissioners approved both a resolution and an ordinance during their May 27 meeting setting the interim rules, which were drafted by the county's planning and prosecuting attorney's office staff.
The state board had several issues with county planning while conducting its review of legal challenges made by two firms, Futurewise and Dry Creek Coalition. However, only a few challenges demanded the county stop and take a look at what emergency measures would maintain some development.
The state found the Carlsborg urban growth area invalid because of the lack of a public sewer system. Now, no new commercial or large-scale development can occur within the area.
Certain applications can be approved, such as those made before April 24, those for single-family homes and certain commercial building improvements or expansions if the building was in place before April 24.
"Carlsborg land use will be restricted and limited, but options will still exist," county planning manager Steve Gray said.
The state board also found certain county residential zoning invalid. Some zoning in rural areas allowed too high of a developed density and some surrounding urban areas didn't push for high enough densities.
In response, the county has changed "rural moderate" zones into "rural low," which means instead of one residence per acre the county will only allow one residence per five acres. The opposite was done for zoning inside the Sequim urban growth area, which saw density increases.
The county also amended densities in Blyn to allow a higher level and reduced some densities on the West End. For a complete zoning map of the county, visit www.clallam.net.
The new zoning designations and development rules are considered temporary until they become permanent or until planning for the area has been approved by the state. The county will call a public hearing to discuss options in going forward within the next two months.
The county argued its case in front of the state board, defending its zoning and plans for land use against allegations from Futurewise and Dry Creek. Although several areas were deemed both invalid and out of compliance, the county did walk away with a majority of its land plans intact.
"We won more challenges than we lost," Commissioner Mike Doherty, D-Port Angeles, said. "A significant portion of the building applications will move forward."
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