PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES
Wednesday, January 19, 2005 5:30 – 9:00 PM
Yakima Convention Center

Planning  Commission held a public meeting on January 19, 2005 at 5:30 p.m. at the Yakima Convention Center.

Members Present:  All Members

Zella:  Ryan will give us an overview of the public participation process.

Ryan:  In June of last year, we held three public meetings throughout the valley, Naches, Yakima & Zillah to provide the public the draft update strategy document.  Solicitated comments on that document.  From those meetings, the county distributed those documents throughout the county and started meeting with interest groups.  Held a public meeting in August to finalize that document, received comments, compiled comments and made changes to that document.  We now have the draft 2 Update Strategy.  Been meeting with anyone who will meet with us.  It’s been a very open process.    As to why we are having a public meeting one night and a public hearing the next night, tonight receiving comments on the Draft 2 Update Strategy and tomorrow night public hearing to receive public testimony on the Proposed Changes to Shoreline Critical Areas Comp Plan 2015 Goals and Policies. 

Public participation process has been broad.  As to where we are going with this, we will receive public comments,  receive final guidance from the PC to draft the ordinance.  Hoping to have a final ordinance presented to the PC in June. 

Dean:  This allows the Planning Commission to hear the comments we’ve been getting amongst the interest groups.  A lot of the comments we’ve heard are of a more general nature.  The comments are fundamental to us working with people because they tell us whether or not we have to do this at all, and what requirements have to be followed.  Been real specific comments on buffers because that’s where the rubber hits the road for a lot of people.  Tonight we are reviewing this update strategy, a very large document.  Trying to break up public testimony into sections relating to the update strategy.  Talking about the administration section first. 

Zella: We are not going to take it section by section.  Gave general rules for the audience.  We’re not here tonight to answer questions, we’re here to listen to what you have to say and do a reality check on if we are heading in the right direction.

Gene Jenkins (Representing the Farm Bureau and himself):  Ag in Yakima County is eight hundred million dollars, we employ 16,000 people, the largest industry and backbone for this county.  Speaking on Draft 2, little difference from Draft 1.  Requirement of GMA (major) is the protection of Agriculture.  Appears in Draft 2, not the philosophy that Yakima County supports.  Problems with the BAS document, number of citations given to the County after this document came out, none of those citations have been reviewed; none of those citations have been incorporated into the BAS document.  When the Farm Bureau was approached about the Science Advisory Panel, told that our representative had to have a degree in Science in order to participate.  Have written comments will present to the Board, cover a couple of those comments now.  Big thing I see is existing stream typing systems.  Document states the County is now going to be looking at classifying streams as being fish bearing  even though they don’t know if there are any fish in the streams.   Area in this that regulates private property that is within the conservancy/natural environmental designation.  They were going to require low intensity grazing.  Grazing on private property is the realm of the individual, not the County’s business.  Grazing on state or federal lands, is between the leaser and the lessee.  Wildlife habitat area also, this sections penalizes those of us that live next to state and federal lands. 

Preston Shepherd: I represent a large group of people that are here tonight.  These people represent growth in Yakima County.  Read Draft 2 Update and attended most of the meetings, made comments and find ourselves going down a different road than the County staff has been.  There are so many changes we wanted to see made to the document, that we wrote the Ordinance ourselves to present to the Commission.  It complies with GMA, federal and state laws, BAS applicable to Yakima County – complete and functional document.  Gave document to the Commission.  Presenting this in the best interest of Yakima County. 

Gary Kisseling:  Here to support Preston Shepherd in his presentation of an alternative to the Ordinance.  This Ordinance is not intended to derail the process that you are involved in.  We encourage you all take a look at this and consider it.

David Taylor (Representing Yakima County Commodities Coalition): Request that all public comment submitted tonight be made part of the record.  My packet includes basic executive summary breaking our comments into four general areas:  procedural errors, discretionary policy, misinterpretation of statutory requirements and BAS.  Under discretionary policy, whether or not you are required to use the Shoreline guidelines is of particular issue.  The statute requires that a SMP be measured against those guidelines, it doesn’t say you have to use them.  Using those guidelines, removes all innovation, flexibility.  Suggest the document can meet the guidelines, but not necessarily follow those guidelines.  GMA includes 13 goals.  Gave you 17 pages of comments in your packet.  One of the issues with the Commodity Organization is the mandatory buffers.  Think there are ways to achieve protection buffers provide, they can be voluntary.  Under BAS, the problem staff has had is there is very little science that isn’t related to forested buffers and no science related to areas that have less than 15” of precipitation each year.  Items that we believe constitute BAS are in your packet.  Economics of riparian areas, talks about what is the biggest benefit we can get through functioning buffers at the lowest cost to our landowners, etc.  Documents from WSU, discussing pesticide trapping by buffers, and maintenance, how critical it is to maintain these buffers, especially in agricultural lands. 

Comment on staff presentation in regards to Skagit County.  We have been pushing Skagit County Ordinance-type provisions.  They recently went through changes and did adopt a zero-based buffer for agricultural lands.  We believe there are cases where the staff has misinformed the public.  Notice of tonight’s meeting indicates the GMA and Shoreline Management Act requires all cities and counties to review and update the CA Ordinance and SMP.  There is nothing in the GMA that requires you to update your CA Ordinance.  Says you have to review it and determine if an update is necessary.  There is a document that discusses BAS.  Our Commission asks that you fully review the strategy before you provide any recommendations to the Planning Department for drafting the CA Ordinance; continue to accept public input throughout this process; and, if you review Shepherd’s Ordinance, which I have, if you accept his proposed ordinance, ask you direct staff tonight to issue a notice of availability for public comment and a notice of public hearing on March 9th to consider that in an open public hearing to be forwarded to BOCC for decision.

Stephen George (Works for Hop and Dairy industry): We hired a consultant to address buffer issues, and have information on that.  Steve read through his comments.  Our perception of the new strategy is that there is needless government intervention.  Conclude that riparian buffers often exceed what is required to protect water quality and ecological function of aquatic habitat on agricultural land.  The industries he represents rely on irrigation water supply, distressed over the issues brought on by the Roza Sunnyside Board of Joint control  in their letter to the PC dated January 2005.  He read.  How Concerned we are about the type of actions that the County is taking against the irrigation districts on drainage ditches.  Our perspective is that this process is still agency driven. 

The Commission took a 5-minute break.

Clarence Barnett:  Update strategy, provisions of the update impost a strict standard rather than a protection standard.  The GMA requires a protection not the restoration of the functions and values of critical areas.  Buffer widths:  Any increase in the buffer width means that some currently permitted land uses and properties are likely to become nonconforming.  Nonconformity may reduce the value of the property. 

Jamey Carmody:  Urge your consideration of Shepherd’s proposal.  Urge you to review that document.  Believe it to be legally sound, support Dave Taylor’s request also to take that proposal and issue a notice of availability and secure public comment on that alternative. 

Cathy Reed, DOE:  Ecology has participated in this process.  Hearing concerns about standard buffers put forth.  Our three tiered approach that we’ve been recommending.  It’s a matrix in which buffer widths vary according to the kind of land use.  It provides a little more flexibility while still providing predictability for landowners.  Based on BAS regarding the wetland buffers and provides for wider buffers around the more valuable and more sensitive wetlands and narrower buffers around wetlands that are less valuable.  Recommend as you look at new subdivision locations in shoreline areas, plans should include lots sizes along the shoreline, allow shoreline structural densities should be consistent with environmental designations.  Right now since you have a very simplified buffer requirements that are based on moderate impacts, it’s imperative you look at how that one size would fit all.  Shoreline assessment, looked at how many areas in the county might have high impact developments.  Some reasons why these developments won’t happen in the shoreline environment.  Introductory section of buffer section county acknowledge that many wetland buffers within the county have been degraded and that degraded buffers provide lesser protection for existing wetland functions.  Offer her assistance with understanding the three tiered approach methodology that DOE is recommending.

Tom Durant:  Something in the update I think is a real concern.  According to these documents, the Planning Department is considering extending the shoreline management jurisdiction to include all of the 100-year floodplain.  Recommend that you do not consider doing that.  Practicality where you have a situation where the floodplain extends some distance beyond the 200’ from the floodway. There are areas in the county where the 100-year floodplain extends much further than that.  Gleed community, East Selah and part of the Wapato and Toppenish area are a good example.  Imposing regulations in these areas that were designed for shoreline riparian areas on areas that are a substantial distance away.  It’s almost a separate zoning ordinance.  Want to emphasize, I’m not trying to keep you from regulating the floodplain, don’t need shoreline regulations to regulate flood hazards.  This will have the biggest impact on urban growth areas that are in the floodplain.  This will have a substantial impact on the Toppenish and Wapato UGA’s.  Recommend, if you need to deal with the shoreline jurisdiction, don’t include the entire 100-yer floodplain.

Frank Hendrix: (WSU Member Faculty resides in Selah):  Looked at BAS, decided to help Planning boost their actual science in the subject and help them get documentation on this.  Three things important to get straight in the new ordinance:  recommend having a paragraph in the ordinance that says “managed moderate grazing is of benefit to upland, wetland & riparian areas.”  That is scientifically documented in many articles the county has.  Secondly, in doing research in riparian function to agriculture in this County & with our rainfall, the riparian buffer width should be below 30’ in Type 1 situations, and 15’ in Type 2, 3 & 4  and 0’ in Type 5.  No scientific documentation for this rainfall area that would approve any wider than that.  In BAS, someone has put Cottonwood Tree as a native species in this county, that is not true.  Sagebrush is our woody species in this area.  Thirdly, important to private property owners in this county is that a paragraph should be included to clarify that no introduced species of wildlife will ever be included in the C.A. or have a habitat. 

Wayne Kalbfleisch (Central Pre Mix):  Trying to coordinate and integrate the CA Ordinance and the SMP into one document is a formidable task.  After reviewing it all, not sure how we will know what we have until we see a draft proposal.  Not convinced this combined document is in the best interest of the people of Yakima County.  It’s getting more complicated to get permits for projects.  Looking at the maps around the room, looks like there won’t be a lot of land left that doesn’t fall within one of these areas that are on the CA’s.  Believe the current strategy will stop development in Yakima County.  In relation to BAS, I strongly urge you not to consider BAS as the driving force or for it to be used in isolation from all the other planning goals specified in Growth Management.  The information in that document has no relevance to Yakima County.  I couldn’t find any references to private studies in any of the six chapters as listed in the bibliography.  I know these studies have been done.  Need to include a provision in the ordinance to accept current, new, future and on the ground proven private material.  Don’t adopt the list, it’s a guideline and reference.  Suggest the PC critically examine the applicability of the published materials, make sure recommendations presented under the guides of BAS are truly appropriate for land use and local conditions. 

When you overlay all the different components of the proposed CA’s, appears there isn’t much land left that wouldn’t be subject to increased regulations between channel migration zone, critical aquifer recharge area, frequently flooded and flood prone soils, wildlife and conservation area…   Urge you to either leave the buffers alone or reduce them as you’ve just heard.  No need to significantly revise the existing CA Ordinance just because some State agency believe more needs to be done to protect wetlands, fish & wildlife habitat.  PC needs to examine what is really needed for regulations.

Concerning Mining:  Under the SMP recently adopted by the State, there is language in that document that adequately addresses the concerns of how mining should be regulated within shorelands.  The strategy of Yakima County should be to adopt that same language.  If the State agreed with it, we feel Yakima County should include this current language in their ordinance.  Mineral resources are a critical area for Yakima County.  Regulations must be structured to make mining compatible not excluded or it will be an economic burden on the residents of Yakima County.  Overshadowed by the need to over-regulate with this document. 

Jack Field (Executive VP of the Cattlemen’s Assoc.):  Echo some of the statements issued earlier, David Taylor in particular regarding mandatory buffer zones.  The Cattlemen’s Assoc. endorses the Equip Programs, and any other restoration-based system that develops an atmosphere conducive to the landowner having control over his own resource.  Ask you take a look at Article 1, Section 16 of the Washington State Constitution that refers to “Takings”.  If the County does impose mandatory buffers or setbacks, they would allow some type of tax breaks or reassess the value on the land that is being taken from the private landowners from the mandatory setbacks. We’re a strong supporter of well managed grazing.  In regards to proper management of riparian streamed corridors, grazing is an outstanding tool that can increase wildlife habitat, distribution, vegetation, fire suppression. 

Frank Wessulius:  Augment the comments of some of the previous speakers.  Support Dave Taylor, Steve George and Gene Jenkins comments.  I live on a wetland area.  Ranch established in 1882, we’ve never flooded and we are in the floodplain.  Floodplains are flawed.  With my stream that you’ve declared a flood area, it’s dry.  The Buckskin Slough is dry today, yet designated a critical area.  Take a good look at the flood areas that are on these maps. 

Doug Maples (City of Yakima):  Important to have definitions, not many definitions in this document that people can understand some of the terms used.  No definition for “no net loss”.  Channel migration zone, within that document the first sentence states it can be defined as a geographical area that a stream has occupied historically.  What extent do we control if we are going to use 1927 aerial photographs?  What is the date that needs to be used, that has not been identified.  There is no definition that is clear under what type of wetland category a Category 1 is vs Category 4.  The same applies to stream type.  Riverine environment is a new term, it can be very convoluted in determining where that boundary is, and who determines where that boundary is. In some of these documents it says “provide where feasible or desirable, restoration of degraded areas along shorelines in Yakima County.”. What is feasible and desirable?  And, who defines the restoration of degraded areas?  Private projects shall provide public access.  What kind of instrument is that that provide public access on private property?  Encouraging the protection and restoration of sites in Yakima County having historical, archaeological or cultural value.  What time period do we restore it to? 

Zella:  Anyone else want to speak that wasn’t on the list?  Your comments tonight have been great, valuable and well thought out.  We conclude our meeting tonight and will take this information under advisement, recommending to staff when they deal with the ordinances.  Specific questions addressed to us tonight:  Will these documents presented to us tonight be made part of the public record, yes.  Copies of Preston’s proposal be made available to those wanting a copy hopefully by Friday of this week.  Take public comment on the document Preston has provided to this group? The PC will take this under advisement and talk it over.  Will get back to you tomorrow night with an answer to that question.  Tomorrow night have a new document to talk about, the Policies of the Plan.  Tomorrow is a public meeting with public testimony.  You will also have the opportunity to speak again before the BOCC.  

Meeting adjourned.

Respectfully submitted,
Michael Kerins
Secretary, Planning Commission

Signed
ZELLA WEST
Planning Commission Chair