your copy today!
feel free to click
here to download your own copy of our
summary of the county's draft SMP for your easy
You can use it as a basis for your public
oral and written comments, and as a guide to help
you gain a better understanding of what the county
and Department of Ecology staff are trying to do
to shoreline property owners in Jefferson County.
proposed Jefferson County Shoreline Master Program (SMP)
update, as currently drafted, is a huge expansion of the
shoreline regulatory system. Funded by the Department of
Ecology (DOE) and heavily influenced by government, tribal,
and environmental organization representatives, it unnecessarily
limits future construction of single-family homes – a preferred use
under the Shoreline Management Act (SMA) – and reduces
existing uses to a disfavored status.
If you are a shoreline or riverfront property owner or a taxpayer
in Jefferson County you should be very concerned about these
proposed changes to shoreline use!!! Even in the best of times,
yet more so during a severe budget crisis, the SMP will have
negative economic consequences with no corresponding environmental
The Olympic Stewardship Foundation (OSF) retained attorney
Dennis Reynolds, an expert in environmental and land use law,
to conduct a thorough review of the December 3, 2008 SMP draft.
His conclusions, summarized as follows, were submitted to the
County for consideration.
is no evidence the current protection standards are not
preserving Jefferson County shorelines.
draft ignores Jefferson County's unique local circumstances.
The draft SMP does not reflect the SMA intent to
balance protection and use of the shoreline.
Many policies and regulations in the proposed changes
exceed the legal requirements of the SMA.
The new SMP delegates too much local control to DOE.
By incorporating the Growth Management Act (GMA)-based
Critical Areas Ordinance into the SMP, the draft clashes
with a state Supreme Court decision that shorelines are to
be regulated exclusively under the SMA.
The draft SMP designates every inch of shoreline
as a critical area, an action which is over-inclusive and
not supported by the record.
The shoreline protection standards are based on biased
state agency science which has not been independently reviewed.
OSF has asked if the County has performed or requested a similar
legal appraisal of the draft SMP, but they have not responded.
The most consequential change in regulation of our shoreline
is a five-fold increase in buffers, from 30 feet to 160 feet.
This change means 80% of the shoreline jurisdiction is now
a buffer zone. Not only that, but even with the 160 foot
buffers, the applicant may still have to supply special reports
that prove no harm will result from the proposal! By comparison,
Port Townsend setbacks for residential use are 50 feet. It
of new homes will be subject to the new buffers. Options
to reduce the buffers to (112’ maximum)
are costly and time-consuming.
Despite assurances that existing uses are generally
not affected, alterations to existing homes are subject to
conditions, including compliance with strict GMA critical area
buffers. This particular requirement flouts the Futurewise
v. Anacortes Supreme Court decision to regulate critical areas
within the shoreline only under the more balanced SMA.
Likely devaluation of shoreline properties will result
in a county-wide shifting of the tax burden to include all
By limiting the opportunity to thin trees and vegetation
for view enhancement, the County is attempting to legislate
Roughly 70% of the shoreline will be made a non-conforming
use. Some legal opinions advise these otherwise legitimate
uses are meant to be restricted and eventually phased out.
Residential development on non-conforming lots is
subject to eleven conditions, including size restrictions.
of an old cabin or mobile with a new home may be subject
to new 160’ buffers.
Replacement of a home destroyed by fire or other
catastrophe may mean the landowner is not able to rebuild
within the same footprint. There is no law to support this
increased percentage of the shoreline designated “Natural” from
11% to 41% is another dramatic change. The shoreline designations
are the heart of the SMP, as they determine which uses are
allowed and at what intensities. Most uses in the Natural designation
are prohibited or require a conditional use permit that must
be approved by DOE, including single-family residences. There
is no scientific justification for this increase beyond aerial
photographs that do not account for currently existing uses.
of common accessories to single-family residential use – beach access, docks, armoring, etc. – are
made more difficult or even prohibited under the proposed changes.
Although these shoreline “modifications” are currently
a minor presence, the county is predicting they will increase
significantly above historic trends as the remaining 30% of
the shoreline is developed, resulting in ecological harm. The
County presents no data supporting these assertions.. Lawfully
allowed armoring to protect homes from erosion is discouraged
or prohibited in the new SMP.
science used by the County and DOE to justify extreme buffers
on modest development is selectively cherry-picked from preferred
sources and ignores other reputable science that concludes
much smaller buffers can achieve the same purpose. Environmental
science is meaningless unless it also measures what it is
protecting against. For all the attention paid to protecting
the shoreline environment, the draft SMP contains no corresponding
evaluation of the extent of development which needs to be
regulated. In reality, Jefferson County is sparsely populated
and developed. Predictions of future increased “development
pressures” must be verified with the same scrutiny as
the ecological science. Single family homes are the primary
use and those most affected by the new SMP. The mere presumption
that this activity will proliferate into a harmful domino effect
is prejudice, not science.
science is also arbitrarily applied. It allows 30 foot buffers
for non-conforming lots and 50 foot buffers for exceptions
called “common line setbacks,” but insist 160 foot
buffers are necessary for those parcels that don’t fall
into either category. The 160 foot buffers are either environmentally
necessary or they aren’t.
While the SMP contains options for relief from standard buffers,
the process will be expensive and time-consuming for the permit
applicant. As it currently stands, the County is already having
difficulty processing permits in a timely manner. The administration
of a complex regulatory scheme like the SMP will cause further
delays, making the feasibility of buffer options untenable
for homeowners or prospective buyers. Allowances for variances
and conditional use permits require DOE approval, creating
more delay and uncertainty.
Finally, the burden of proof is placed on the applicant throughout
the draft SMP to demonstrate no harm is occurring as a result
of a proposed permit for development. This improperly contradicts
the time- honored principle of presumption of innocence unless
proven guilty. In some cases, such as measuring the cumulative
impacts related to an individual permit, the county is asking
the permit applicant to supply information the County itself
is unable to produce. A fundamental principle of the Olympic
Stewardship Foundation is that it is the responsibility of
the regulating agency to demonstrate a showing of harm before