Opinion

‘Do nothing’ is a valid option

Once again, the county is faced with a “crisis” in land use planning. This time it’s “too much work and not enough people.” Based on the frequent use of consultants in the past by Department of Community Development, I do not see any basis for the declared concern. Perhaps the real crisis is we don’t have the funds to waste by hiring a consulting firm to complete what should be routine work.

The emergent difficulty appears to be somewhat self-created. Some time back, the county embarked on an effort to “redefine” allowable uses in land zoned as “rural industrial.” No one could identify a particular problem that was related to allowing industrial development in rural areas, but in the background was the conflict of that rural use with the new policies adopted by the Puget Sound Regional Council and applicable to Kitsap. The conflict is exposed by the commissioners’ apparent effort to define “rural,” citing some existing conflict with Growth Management Act provisions. Perhaps if the commissioners were to actually read the GMA at paragraph 36.70A.011, the confusion might be cleared up and no further action would be necessary. Maybe the commissioners might desire to actually identify and define the problem created by the existing rural use zoning before they set forth to fix something. The old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” might just apply and the correct course of action might just be to do nothing. I know doing nothing jeopardizes the perpetual employment program for planners that is supported by land use planning, but that may not be all bad.

Once again, the “interim rural forest” rules are being brought to the front burner. It does not appear we have a solution after 20 years, but the moratorium is about to run out. The planners don’t have an answer, but they understand timely action is required to extend the moratorium. (Has “moratorium” become the standard answer for the more politically difficult land use issues?). Perhaps it is just time to ask the property owners who have been patiently putting up with county non-performance for all this time what they would like to do and then make it happen. It’s not like Kitsap has a major timber industry that would be impacted or the property owners would simply clear-cut the land and develop it overnight. The bottom line of this issue is, and always has been, who gets to control the use of the property; the owner or a bunch of elected and non-elected people who have no vested interest in the land? The commissioners would do well to check Article I, Section 1 of the state Constitution to gain a bit more perspective on what their real duty and responsibility is in this matter.

On a larger scale, the county is about to embark on a major effort to “update and revise” the Shorelines Management Plan. It is difficult to understand why a major effort is necessary since they obviously believe all necessary controls were included in the Critical Areas Ordinance. If not, why are they appealing the CAO decision on that matter to the Supreme Court? What the citizens should know is, although the SMP has been in place since 1979, the county has no documented baseline of conditions to determine success or failure of existing regulation and therefore no basis for instituting corrective revisions. The county has not bothered, and will not bother, to identify the specific problems to be resolved. We have no idea if the existing regulations are working or not, and if not, why not? It is curious that regulations deemed successful by the county on adoption are automatically deemed lacking when time for revision rolls around. Once again we are about to embark on a major effort to “revise” regulation, making it ever more restrictive, without a single shred of evidence that such action is required. Is there any chance we could just “do nothing” until we make sure we really need to “do something?”

Perhaps the commissioners can solve the overload on the planners by simply deleting projects not worthy of further effort — that is, “do nothing.”

Jack Hamilton can be reached at gradiver@wavecable.com.

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