Commissioners act on comprehensive, shoreline plans


March 17, 2022

Wahkiakum County officials on Tuesday acted on a shoreline master plan update and discussed how to proceed with an update of the county comprehensive plan.

State statutes require periodic reviews of shoreline plans, said county Planner David Hicks, and the county's is due this June. The state Department of Ecology has offered a grant of $84,000 for the county to conduct the review and extended the deadline to June, 2023. The review could be conducted simultaneously with final work on the county's Shoreline Management Program (SMP) Comprehensive update--which is different from the periodic review, he said, but that could be confusing to the public.

Chuck Hendrickson and Nick Nikkala, members of the county Real Property Rights Advisory Committee (RPRAC), which developed the final draft of the SMP, commented that the periodic review and the completion of the SMP update should be conducted separately.

Commissioners accepted the recommendation and voted to accept the grant offer and focus on the periodic review.

Later, commissioners, the RPRAC members, planning commission members, and other county officials and visitors discussed the languishing update of the county comprehensive plan.

Planning commission Chair Bob Ward said the planners would like direction from the county commission--should they address the comprehensive plan or work on other issues?

The comprehensive plan was adopted in 1984, Ward said, and an update was created in 2005 but never adopted.

"The 1984 plan doesn't reflect the demographics of our county," Ward commented.

Ward said he would like to seek input from department heads and begin a review by the planning commission.

After a long discussion, the county board agreed with the suggestion.

Discussion covered a range of issues from water rights, development density, limited zoning, conversion of timberland to residential land, whether or not to use a consultant to work on the update and even whether or not the county, by statute, needs to have a comprehensive plan.

One major issue, said county Chair Gene Strong, involves water and water rights. Commissioner Dan Cothren agreed, pointing to residential development tapping into ground water and putting pressure on the water supply of Cathlamet and Puget Island water systems.

"We need to protect our lifestyle," Strong said, "not hamstring property owners but protect our lifestyle."

"These issues will start happening unless we have some control over them," Cothren said, referring to demand for water and timberland conversion that impact revenues for local governmental bodies.

Planning commission member Gene Healy commented that the effort would need to involve the public, not just the planning commission.

"There are other issues in that plan that need public input," he said. "It needs to be realistic. A comp plan is a major undertaking; we probably need some professional help."

Officials should be careful to make sure the comprehensive plan doesn't go too far in regulating private property, Nikkala commented.

"We want to come up with the bare minimum," Strong responded.


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