County Sets Tentative Hearing Dates for Shoreline Master Program by Shireene Hale

October 26, 2015 by islandersvoice1


We have a rare opportunity for citizens to comment on proposed legislation that has the potential to affect virtually everyone on these islands. The San Juan County Council has tentatively scheduled dates to take public comment on changes to the local “Shoreline Master Program” (SMP), the regulations governing development on and adjacent to our lakes and marine waters. Effective shoreline regulations help protect the habitat and food web supporting the wildlife we all love. Regulations that are clear, concise, and well organized: prevent disagreements between neighbors, permit applicants and County staff; minimize the time and money spent on appeals; and ensure development is predictable and application of the regulations are fair. Finally, adopting regulations meeting the State requirements will allow the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) to expedite approval and reduce the time, money and tax dollars expended to complete this process.

What can you do? Pick a section of the regulations that interests you, and review it for clarity. If you see a section you don’t understand, speak up and ask that it be revised. If writing is your forte, offer suggestions on how to make the language more clear and concise. If you see a proposed requirement you believe is unreasonable or unnecessary, explain your opinion and request a change to address your concern. If you are a shoreline property owner, review the proposed zoning designation and regulations that will apply to your property. Even if you don’t care to provide detailed comments, attend the hearing and encourage the County Council to adopt regulations that will protect shoreline habitats and views, and meet the minimum State requirements.

Though the official notice has not yet been released, the tentative hearing dates are November 30 for public testimony, and December 2, 3, 4 and 15 for completion of the hearing and Council deliberations. The hearing will be held in the Council chambers at 55 Second Street in Friday Harbor.

Work on this State required update of the SMP has been ongoing since 2011. Components of the SMP that are being revised include a zoning map showing shoreline designations, Comprehensive Plan goals and policies, and development code regulations. Several new documents have also been prepared to support this effort including a shoreline inventory and analysis report, a cumulative impact analysis, and a restoration plan. Once the Council adopts the SMP, the next step in the process is review by Ecology to ensure consistency with State laws and regulations. Ecology will likely take additional comment before issuing a decision and the SMP does not go into effect until approved by Ecology.

The County has established an e-mail notification service for this project. To sign up, click on the link at the top of the following web page: If you are on this list you will be e-mailed the official hearing notice along with information on how to obtain copies of the documents that will be considered at the hearing.

If you want to start preparing now, read the most recent staff report and the drafts currently being discussed by the Council which can be downloaded at:

Finally, if you have questions, contact the lead planner on the project, Colin Maycock, at 370-7573 or

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