CAO fight enters home stretch

The Kitsap County commissioners on Monday knuckled down to approve a final version of the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO), providing line-by-line scrutiny of a 146-page document that contained a synthesis of all the testimony provided over the past year.

The meeting represented the end of a long deliberative process, including several meetings by the planning commission and the county commissioners — together and apart.

There was no new testimony allowed on Monday. Instead, the discussion was between the three commissioners and five staff members from the Department of Community Development (DCD).

The meeting began at 1:30 p.m. Monday, and was scheduled to continue until 9 p.m. that evening. It was then expected to pick up again at 8 a.m. Tuesday, weather permitting.

The county is required by law to approve the document by Dec. 1, although the final ratification is scheduled for the Dec. 5 meeting.

Each of the 146 pages listed a topic broken into four columns describing the second CAO draft from May 2005, the staff draft from November and two views from the Planning Commission — the majority opinion issued by six members and a minority report issued by the three North Kitsap commissioners.

While there was no column for public input, but all of the testimony was reflected in the various drafts, according to assistant DCD director Jim Bolger.

To decide a certain issue, the board would develop its own consensus using input from all sources. It approved one page at a time, through a motion and a second, with no dissenting voices for the first part of the meeting.

The pages with one point of view were approved quickly, while in other cases they would spend several minutes discussing a single nuance.

For instance, the Planning Commission suggested a change from “rivers and creeks” to “rivers” and then named the rivers, the Tahuya or the Union, which are the only designated rivers in the county.

The board then heard that “stream” was a more proper term than “creek” and then decided to return to that detail after hearing a proper definition.

Fewer than 40 spectators, many of whom attended the series of meetings leading up to this point, were scattered in a room that could hold twice that amount. When asked by County Administrator Cris Gears to raise their voice level in order to be heard throughout the room, they at first complied but made no promises.

“If you’re having trouble hearing, there are plenty of seats in the front of the room,” North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen said. Added South Kitsap’s Jan Angel, “It will be a long afternoon, so we need to conserve our energy.”

The board would approve any uncontested topic if no changes were submitted from the second or staff draft. If so, they would discuss the areas of contention.

In all cases they sought to impose the rules but allow the land owner maximum flexibility within those limits.

With regard to danger tree removal, when a tree within a buffer becomes damaged or destroyed due to natural causes, Central Kitsap Commissioner Patty Lent pushed for language that accommodated the property owner.

“We want the land owners to be able to do some things,” she said. “I want them to have some say. I don’t want us to be dictatorial. Tthe owner should have some choice about the kind of tree they want to use for a replacement. I don’t want the department to be in charge.”

As a result, the clause “property owner” was inserted twice, with input about the action to be taken when a tree is destroyed and the possible type of replacement.

“The problem with this process is we are only getting a biased interpretation,” said Planning Commission member Dean Jenniges. “The planning commission’s intent isn’t represented adequately and it is being filtered through the DCD staff.”

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