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New Island County service to help landowners determine 'critical areas'

For a fee, county may let you know

The Island County Planning Department recently gave the public its first glimpse of a tentative fee schedule for a voluntary service spawned by the wetlands ordinance and dealing specifically with critical areas.

Although landowners have at their disposal a wetlands guide, properties can be home to other critical areas.

Planning Director Jeff Tate told the Board of Island County Commissioners at a recent staff session the service will provide residents a “preliminary critical area determination.”

“It’s completely voluntary,” he said. “The property owner asks us to come out and it’s a great opportunity to planners out there to help with the determination.”

The fee schedule has not been codified, as planning staff must factor in a dramatic increase in the cost of running legal notices in the newspaper. Budget adjustments were last made in 2002.

A landowner interested in the service would first go to the Planning Department counter in the county annex building. Using a $50 fee as an example, Tate said staff would proceed to scrutinize the specific parcel of property, using “every bit of data” to determine if any critical areas exist.

If no critical areas show up, the property owner does not require a site visit.

In the other scenario, the same resident pays the $50 labor fee and his or her property does have other critical areas. In addition to the initial fee, a fee of $150 for the permit would be imposed. Again, Tate stressed the fee schedule has not been finalized.

“This way a person buying a piece of property will know what they have,” the planning director said. “When we’re out there we’ll point out everything we see on the property, not just wetlands.”

Tate said, to the effusive agreement of the triumvirate, that regardless of the adopted fees, the public will be given an itemized list of the costs that went into drafting the ordinance.

“We want to show exactly what the money is paying for,” he said, adding that he will return at a later date to further discuss the fee schedule.

A public hearing has been set for 2:30 p.m., June 23 at the regular commissioners’ meeting.

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