A portion of land use regulations for Pierce county is written in a little 300-page booklet called “Directions for protecting and restoring habitat,” more commonly known as the Directions package. Directions is the county’s attempt to balance their responsibility to protect critical environmental areas and, at the same time, provide predictable and equitable growth regulations.
The new Directions package is evidence that “we can have both a clean healthy environment and support the growth that we will have in the future,” said County Executive John Ladenburg.
“We need certainty. We need to know the rules,” he said. “We need to put together a proposal that won’t be bounced around in the courts.” Ladenburg acknowledged the remarkable work of Pierce County Councilmen Calvin Goings and Terry Lee in drafting amendments that met the challenge. “In many ways this is going to be a standard, particularly for Western Washington,” he said.
The agonizingly long process was dubbed “as the Direction package turns” by Tiffany Spears of Tacoma-Pierce County Master Builders Association. She expressed relief that the saga was finally coming to a conclusion. It was not 100 percent of what her association was hoping for but they applauded its protection of the pristine attributes of the area.
Representatives from many diverse groups acknowledged the balance of the amendment language. The planning director of 1000 Friends of Washington, Tim Trohimovich, said that the actions of this committee had restored his confidence in government. The council committee showed him that “elected officials do care,” he said. “Thank you for listening to people and thank you for listening to us,” Trohimovich said.
Jeff Thomas from the Puyallup Tribe of Indians said that the “Puyallup Tribe appreciates the council as a co-manager of the water.”
Individual speakers, several from the Key Peninsula, expressed their concerns and questions for the Directions package that ranged from overfishing, ghost nets, wetland buffers, and causes of potential oxygen deprivation.
Two hot buttons in the package for Case and Carr Inlet residents were shoreline ordinances and wetland buffers. The new amendments removed the term shoreline from the definition of “critical areas.” In the new Directions package, critical areas include wetlands, steep slopes, volcanic hazards and seismic soils.
Removal of shorelines from “critical areas” saddened environmental proponent Liz Lathrop of Gig Harbor. But she is happy that they will be addressed two years earlier than was scheduled. “Educate the public,” she advised. The public needs to know “what to do to better protect the shorelines.”
Lee told the KP News, “I sponsored the amendment to clarify that the marine shoreline properties are not included in the ‘critical area ordinance’ of the Growth Management Act. Regulations are already in place for shorelines, and have been since the shoreline management act was passed in 1972. Shoreline property owners are the best stewards of their land.” He said acceptance of this amendment will allow background work to begin three years earlier than the state mandate. “If this occurs in 2008, and I am re-elected to the Council, I will be there to see the process through,” he said.
“Terry Lee says… that he feels the people on the peninsula have been ‘good stewards of their land.’ I totally agree,” said Joyce Tovey of KP Windermere Realty.
“The people I see coming into my office are here because they want the rural atmosphere and the privacy and the beauty of the peninsula. They will, in most cases, take very good care of it. They don’t need rules and regulations to do that—particularly rules that will prohibit them from enjoying their property.”
Reaching a balance in the regulations has not been an easy process, Puyallup Councilman Calvin Goings concurred.
“Everyone has something to like and everyone can find something they don’t like…It’s not by any means perfect but it is better than the alternative,” he said.
After the committee moved the amended regulations forward to the county council with a “do pass recommendation,” Goings said. “Over all I think it’s a good day for Pierce County.” The county council will consider the package Oct. 19.