County hopes to simplify shoreline permit process

Island County Community Development staff members are working to increase the efficiency in issuing shoreline-development permits.

Currently, individuals seeking this type of permit must complete studies under the shoreline master program in addition to different studies under FEMA regulations.

Community development staff sought consent from the county Board of Commissioners last week to explore the possibility of pursuing a “door 2” approach. FEMA would have to approve the county’s proposed methods of assessment. If approved, the county could use one standardized programmatic biological assessment for shoreline development permits.

This approach would potentially reduce the cost and application preparation time for applicants, improve certainty in the review process and reduce application review time, according to Hiller West, director of Community Development.

A goal of the programmatic approach is to minimize the need for a parcel-by-parcel individual biological assessment. For an individual proposing to develop in a floodplain, completing this type of assessment can be costly and take weeks to prepare, said West.

With the approach, the county would use existing regulations on critical areas, floodplain development and shoreline development to assess permits.

The department is in the process of meeting with FEMA, the state Department of Ecology, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies to determine what data is needed to receive approval from FEMA.

Once a scope of work is determined, West said, he will go back to the commissioners to seek their approval for creating the programmatic approach.

Currently, the commissioners consented for the community development department to keep researching, although Chair Jill Johnson described her stance as a “non-no,” until she has more information.

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