Shoreline permits a top priority for county in 2018

Island County commissioners identified increasing the efficiency of issuing shoreline development permits and updating the economic development element of the comprehensive plan as top priorities for the 2018 work plan.

Updating Oak Harbor’s joint planning area was aksi included in the work plan projects, but commissioners deemed it the lowest priority.

The planning and community development work plan is meant to communicate to the public projects in progress by the department before they are ready to be on the docket, according to senior long range planner Beckye Frey. She said the county’s new policy is for items to only be placed on the docket when they are amendments to the comprehensive plan that are expected to be completed that year, and everything that isn’t ready yet is listed on the work plan.

“The work plan is a really good way for people to be involved,” said Frey.

The item for shoreline permits is part of a process to pursue what’s called a “door 2” approach with FEMA. This approach would use one standardized programmatic biological assessment for 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. The new approach could potentially reduce the cost and application preparation time for applicants by minimizing the need for a parcel-by-parcel individual biological assessment, which can be costly and takes weeks to prepare.

To move forward with the door 2 approach, FEMA must approve the county’s proposed methods of assessment. Planning Director Hiller West is in the process of working with the agency to determine what potential code changes the county will need to make to be approved.

“FEMA is hot, we can get that done and I don’t want to lose it,” Commissioner Jill Johnson at a work session.

The second project will be a longer process that involves more staff members. The economic development element of the Comp Plan is meant to guide goals and policies around the subject in long range planning efforts. Staff estimated this update could take one to two years.

The first steps in an update to the historic preservation element are listed third on the work plan. During 2018, staff will spend time scoping and applying for grants to complete an inventory of historic resources. More changes to this element will take place in future work plans.

The discussion regarding Oak Harbor’s joint planning areas, called JPA boundaries, is a rollover item from last year, but the commissioners agreed it would probably not be addressed in 2018.

“I want to be consistent in the messaging that we are taking a break from that conversation this year, we had it last year,” said Johnson at the meeting.

JPAs are planning areas of mutual interest between the county and the city, and the county recently evaluated them in 2016.

“We have some really pressing issues,” Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said at the meeting while prioritizing the projects.

There are ongoing tasks listed separately on the work plan. Among those projects, commissioners said code cleanup should be the department’s highest priority. Other ongoing projects include preparation for participating in the 2020 census and updating the planning fee schedule.

The 2018 work plan and docket are posted on the Island County Planning and Community Development website. Those interested in tracking the progress of the projects can also subscribe to get email updates from the department.

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