I have explained on several occasions that it is a problem that both the city and the county are piece-mealing the comp. plan update and improperly treating the Critical Area Ordinance as a separate process from the comp. plan.
The GMA specifically requires that the CAO be included in the comp. plan update process, stating that the review and evaluation required by this subsection shall include, but is not limited to, consideration of critical area ordinances. RCW 36.70A.130(1)(c). See also RCW 36.70A.172.
The below email from planning commissioner Natalie McClendon reflects the kinds of problems created through piece mealing. While two committees currently review the CAO, a citizen committee and a technical task force, the planning commission has been left in the dark regarding changes that need to be made to the appropriate provisions of the comp. plan chapter on the environment.
Natalie notes that: “One reason we delayed a final vote was that staff requested changes to the Environment Chapter regarding lahars (those big volcanic slushies that will wipe out everything in it’s path when Baker blows). Turns out the language we adopted would “effectively prohibit the County from applying most rules — including those of the Critical Areas Ordinance — aimed at protecting the public’s health, safety, and welfare from this type of potential natural disaster.” Oops. We’ll be considering how to fix that.”
The planning commission never should have been left in this position because these exact same issues are currently being handled by the committees working on the CAO and should have been coordinated with the planning commission. A coordinated and comprehensive process would allow best available science to inform the comp. plan goals and policies necessary to meet no net loss in the CAO. Instead, the planning commission will be forwarding their recommendation on the comp. plan update to the county council without any review or understanding of the revisions to the CAO.
This type of piece meal, uncoordinated review does ensure the best possible planning, but it is more likely to allow development and growth since the impacts on critical areas are not readily apparent. Coincidence?