Ordinance update to expand buffer zones around wetlands

The buffer zones between new developments and their neighboring wetlands and streams are set to expand as a result of a possible update to Oak Harbor’s critical areas ordinance.

Last updated in 2005, the critical areas ordinance is designed to conserve and protect areas deemed critical by state lawmakers.

Dennis Lefevre, senior planner in Oak Harbor’s Development Services, said those areas can be separated into five main categories: wetlands; fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas; geologically hazardous areas; critical aquifer recharge areas; and frequently flooded areas.

The city already requires potential developers to have their land assessed for critical areas, so the update will simply redefine where developers can safely build.

“If anybody had a parcel of land and they wanted to come in and do a development, one of the things that we would ask them to do first is do a critical area study on that property and look for one of those five issues,” Lefevre said, adding that streams and wetlands will see the greatest changes due to extensive research in those areas over the past 12 years.

“If they did have a wetland in their property, for instance…we would ask them to hire a professional to do a complete delineation of that wetland, so we can identify what proper buffer would be necessary,” he added.

The entire update aims to remain consistent with state law, renewing Oak Harbor’s pledge to use the “best available science,” according to Lefevre.

For more information on the proposed draft ordinance and to obtain a copy of the document, visit www.oakharbor.org/news_site_view.cfm?id=238 or email dlefevre@oakharbor.org with questions.

A public hearing on the ordinance will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 5, in the City Hall Council Chambers, 865 SE Barrington Drive.

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