Wednesday, February 23, 2005 5:30 – 9:00 PM
Yakima County Courthouse, Room B-33

The Planning Commission held a public meeting on Wednesday, February 23, 2005 in Room B-33 of the Yakima County Courthouse.

Members Present:  Zella West, Ed Burns, Nancy Charron, Chuck Padorr

Staff Present:  John Marvin, Steve Erickson, Ryan Hopkins, Mike Kerins, Terry Austin, Vern Redifer

Public Present:  Gene Jenkins, David Taylor, Doug Maples

Call to Order                                                                                                 

Chair West called the meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. 

Old Business

January 20, Public Hearing Minutes approved.

Approve January 26, Meeting Notes approved with incorporated two page insert entitled, Chuck’s Questions to Terry Austin from the January 26th Meeting.

Sign Findings and Conclusions documents from Feb 9 Hearings:  Findings are read discussion followed concerning the Granger hearing.  Chuck and Mike discuss minor changes to the Granger Findings.  Mike states that he will incorporate the requested changes.  Findings and Conclusions are signed by the members present.

New Business                                                                                                       5:45 PM

Review CAO/SMP legal interpretations - Terry Austin

Terry:  When we met last time you asked a list of questions:

Procedural errors:  The probation of amending the comp plan more than once a year.  The policies presented at the January 19th public hearing were policies regarding the Shoreline Master Program.  There is an exemption for amending shoreline policies more than once a year.

Terry:  We’ve amended the comp plan many times since 1990.  Even though we have made these amendments, this prohibition only counts when the Board of County Commissioners takes action on something.  Yakima County always makes sure there are no procedural errors.

This is something you have to be careful about.  Yakima County has been careful and we will continue to operate appropriately.  The once a year amendment to a Comp Plan is a GMA prohibition.

Terry:  I also looked at the citations of some of the cases presented at the public hearing.  I would encourage you to read these.  Skagit County has been engaged in amending their CAO for ten years and they are still not in compliance.  The three cases presented to you were all presented regarding Skagit County’s attempt to balance the goals of GMA and the protection of critical areas. 

Mitchell vs. Skagit County, WWGMHB No. 01-2-0004c

Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, et al., v. Skagit County and Agriculture for Skagit Conty 02-2-0012c.

Terry:  Reviewed these two case studies and explained how Skagit County has been working on their Critical Areas Ordinance for ten years and they have still been found to be out of compliance.  These cases primarily deal with regulations of existing and ongoing agricultural activities.  These cases demonstrate what levels of regulations on agricultural lands are necessary for the protection of functions and values of critical areas.  Skagit County’s most recent Critical Areas Ordinance worked to protect critical areas through Best Management Practices, Water Course Protection and Do No Harm / Water Quality Standards.  They committed to adaptive management and this was found to not be in compliance with the WWGMHB.  Terry recommended that the Planning Commission look closely at section 120 of Skagit County’s Critical Areas ordinance as this entire section deals with restrictions on ongoing agriculture.  Terry stated, “I cannot imagine farmers in Yakima County would accept these type of regulations”.

Chuck:  It does not sound like these citations fit with a defense for lessening regulations for on going agriculture.

Terry:  The subject was, that you should not restore / replant forested buffers.  These citations also pointed out that municipalities are bound to balance the 13 goals of GMA.  Skagit County argued in earlier rulings that municipalities must protect agricultural lands and this turned out to be a valid argument.

Ed:  It also sounds like Skagit County was told that BMP’s alone are not adequate by them selves to protect critical areas.

Steve:  In the absence of clearly measurable standards presented by Skagit County, the adaptive management type of approach fell because it could not be adequately enforced.

Terry:  There are cases out of other Western Washington Growth Hearing’s Boards which have reviewed agricultural exemptions and the Growth Board said that this is OK.

Steve:  The kernel behind all of this is that your approach has to be defendable in court.  The regulations have to be effectively administered.

Terry:  Explains two cases where Island County allows agricultural uses to be exempted from the Critical Areas requirements.  The Growth Board stated that this is OK.

Zella:  Is it safe to say that Yakima County’s CAO will be appealed to the Growth Board?  Which counties have not been appealed to the Growth Board?

Terry:  There is a high chance of this.  It is our job to make sure that we are well prepared to defend our proposals in front  of the Growth Board.

Zella:  We must make sure that we balance these decisions for the completion of the Comp. Plan Update.

Terry:  Discusses a series of questions regarding restoration requirements.  GMA states that you have to protect critical areas, not restore them.  There is a restoration element in the Shoreline Guidelines.  There has been litigation on these guidelines.  Yakima County and a number of interest groups entered into litigation over this.  Restoration of shorelines was also litigated.  The shoreline hearing board upheld the restoration parts of the guidelines.  From this, there is  restoration in the planning element of the SMP but there is not restoration requirements in the regulations elements of the SMP.

John:  Is everyone on the same page with the Shoreline Guideline?

Terry:  Yes, we can move forward following these guidelines.

Chuck:  Who is responsible for controlling noxious weeds within a buffer?

Terry:  I will have to look into this.

Steve:  When something goes in front of the Growth Hearings Board, can they recommend changes to existing language?  Can they reach past what has not be amended?

Terry:  Yes

Zella:  It sounds like it is all a matter of presentation with a wide scope of variance.

Zella:  Speaking of presentation, I would like to request minutes from the January 19th meeting minutes are typed up and added to paper.

Break                                                                                                                                7:15 PM

Ryan provides an overview / introduction of the three letters provided in the PC Mailing and introduces a fourth letter.

Discussion of Public Participation process:

Zella: Discusses the plan for where the CAO/SMP Update is headed from here.  The plan is to begin review of the ordinance in parts.  This will begin at the first meeting in April, with ha review of one of the three new critical areas sections.  The plan is to have three way round table meetings to include the Planning Commission, Planning Staff, and Potentially Affect Interest Groups.  These meetings will be held twice a month to review sections of the ordinance.  The first meeting of the month will be to hear from the groups.  The second meeting will be to formulize a decision.  We want people to come and be prepared as possible so that consensus can be reached.  Also during this time, staff will be meeting with interest groups to overcome philosophical differences.

Doug:   What happened to adopting the Goals and Policies?  By moving into a review of the ordinance without adopting the goals and policies, aren’t we getting the cart in front of the horse?  The cities have been working with the County and have been expecting to have these goals and policies adopted so that they can begin their comp plan updates.  Without adopting the goals and policies, the cities and towns will be left in the lurch.  The cities are relying on this.

Chuck:  We are not ready to adopt the goals and policies at this point and the cities are going to need to wait.  Once the county adopts all of this, cities should be able to pick this up and move through their adoption on a fast track.

Zella:  What are people’s thoughts on this proposed process?

Dave:  There are parts of the CAO which are interrelated and to pick parts apart and review them might cause this process to be difficult when we try to fit this all back together again.

I am not fond of consensus.  Consensus is an outcome of lack of leadership.  At some point the Planning Commission is going to have to make a recommendation.

Zella:  Time is running out and we are not always going to agree but we need to hear people’s concerns and make some decisions.  In my opinion, we are going to hear from people directly and allow them to voice their opinion and then yes, make some decisions.

Ed:  This process will allow everyone involved a chance to give and take to the development of this ordinance.

Chuck:  The process we are following is the best effort to accomplish a variety of different goals.

We are going the extra mile to reach consensus.  During this process, we need to think about how all of these sections are going to fit together in the end.

Gene:  I am pleased that you are working on the ordinance before you adopt the goals and policies.  I may not always agree on specifics but I will listen and provide alternatives.

Doug:  I think that the regional adoption of this is important in order to ensure there is cohesiveness amongst jurisdictions.  Consistency will benefit everyone involved.

Zella:  Does anyone know of a better way to proceed from here?

Dave:  No, no matter what you do it is going to be difficult.  You could review the ordinance provided by Preston Shepherd rather than drafting something new.

Gene:  By doing the goals and policies along with ordinance together, you will find inconsistencies.  I am very pleased that we are not going about this like we did when we adopted the 2015.  That was bloody.

Nancy:  What are we trying to accomplish at these round table meetings?

Chuck:   We are trying to get to a solution.  A final ordinance.

Nancy:  We should break the meetings into specific review sections:

GMA, Goals and Policies, Definitions, Previous Ordinance, Decisions from past Round Tables, Best Available Science, Mapping Criteria.

CARA’s will be a good place to start.  From there, we should consider if there are themes which run through other parts of the CAO as we review the schedule.

Dave:  If you are going to break this into pieces, I would suggest you first look at definitions and applicability (how it is going to be implemented)  this sets the tone for the rest of the ordinance and allows PAI’s to determine if the other sections will affect them.

Review of the Planning Commission’s Remand Recommendation:

Planning Commission Signed this recommendation.

The meeting adjourned at 9:00 P.M.

Respectfully submitted:
Michael Kerins
Secretary, Planning Commission

Planning Commission Chair