Olympic Stewardship Foundation
A Voice for Landowners, Actively Protecting Traditional Rural Values












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 Aerial view over Eaglemount

P.O. Box 1122
Port Hadlock, WA  98339


 OSF's SMP Executive Summary

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Please feel free to click here to download your own copy of our summary of the county's draft SMP for your easy reference.   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.

The 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 benefit.

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.
  • There is no evidence the current protection standards are not preserving Jefferson County shorelines.
  • The 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 also means:

  • Construction 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 property owners.
  • By limiting the opportunity to thin trees and vegetation for view enhancement, the County is attempting to legislate aesthetics.
  • 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.
  • Replacement 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 restriction.

The 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.

Permitting 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.

The 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.

The 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 imposing restrictions