BEFORE THE WESTERN WASHINGTON GROWTH
MANAGEMENT HEARINGS BOARD
TOWN OF FRIDAY HARBOR, et al., ) No. 99-2-0010c
Petitioners, ) BRIEF IN OPPOSITION TO
) RESCISSION OF INVALIDITY,
v. ) FOR EXPANSION OF
) INVALIDITY AND IN
SAN JUAN COUNTY, ) OPPOSITION TO
Respondent ) FINDING OF COMPLIANCE ) FOR HEARING ON
) NOVEMBER 14, 2000
Participant Maile Johnson
La Porte Road
Orcas, Washington 98280
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Table of Authorities
The densities established for the rural area establish low density,
sprawling development. 8
The CP fails to provide a variety of densities in the rural area. Only
an order of expanded invalidity will permit conservation of resource lands
and rural character. 13
Densities in rural lands cannot be established to conserve resource
lands when the pattern of resource lands is itself in flux. 14
The redesignation of resource lands should be invalidated. 15
On Orcas Island and Shaw Island the rural element does not provide
a variety of rural densities or buffering to achieve conservation of
resource lands 19
San Juan County made no analysis of what pattern of densities and
uses is consistent with and would preserve rural character. The County
does not know the density its CP would permit. 23
The CP fails to explain how the rural element harmonizes the Acts
planning goals and meets the requirements of the Act. 27
The plan has escaped from its controlling principle, the Vision
San Juan County did not attempt to rectify its noncompliance in the
rural area. 29
There is no basis for rescission of the order of invalidity in the
rural area. An order of continuing and expanded invalidity is
warranted and urgently needed. 31
Site-specific redesignation of resource lands must be approved
according to objective criteria.
Table of Authorities
Notation system for references:
Note: all references in the text of the brief unless otherwise indicated refer to the San Juan County (SJC) Comprehensive Plan (CP). This Table of Authorities references all documents referred to in the brief other than the CP, by index numbers. Index numbers for the CP are not in the Table of Authorities pursuant to the SJC Prosecutors letter to WWGMHB of April 28, 1999, indicating that four complete copies of the CP and UDC have been forwarded to the Board.
Page numbers indicating the location of the reference in the brief follow the document name.
Indexed Documents Index Number
Resolution 103-2000 4 244496-244497
Staff Report May 30, 2000 5, 34 230850
Resolution 103-2000(1)(a) 6 244496
Resolution 104-2000 22 244509
Resolution 104-2000 15 244509
Staff Report September 21, 2000 15 231440
Resolution 104-2000 25 244509
Statutes and Regulations
RCW 36.70A.320(4) 3
RCW 36.70A.302(1) 3
RCW 43.21C.020(2)(c)(f) 5
RCW 36.70A.020 5
RCW 433.21C.020(2)(c) and (f) 5
RCW 36.70A.020(1)(2)(8)(9)(10) and (12) 8
RCW 36.70A.020(1) (2) and .110 8
RCW 36.70A.030(14) 9, 24
RCW 36.70A.030(15) 9, 23, 25
RCW 36.70A.070(5)(b) 13, 21, 23
RCW.36A.070(5)(c ) 23
SJC UDC Sec. 7.1.6. 25
SJC UDC Sec. 3.7.6. 25
RCW 36.70A.070 25
RCW 36.70A.070(5)(a) 27
TABLE OF CASES
Wells v Whatcom County, 97-2-0030c (1/16/98) 2
Wells v. Hearings Board, 100 Wn App 657 (April, 2000) 3
Friends of Skagit and Skagit County, 95-2-0065 (7/14/97) 3, 31, 33
Seaview Coast v Paciific County, 95-2-0076 (5/28/97) 3
Vashon-Maury v King County, 95-3-0008 (10/23/95)1995) 9
Sky Valley v Snohomish County, 95-3-0068c (3/12/96) 9
Smith v Lewis County, 98-2-0011c(July 13, 2000)(4/5/99) 9, 15, 16
Hudson & Huber v Clallam County, 96-2-0031
Achen v Clark County, 95-2-0067 (9/20/95) 10, 21, 22
Cotton v. Jefferson County, 98-2-0017 (4/5/99) 10
Diehl v Mason County, 95-2-0073 (July 12, 2000) 10, 22
Diehl v Mason County, 94 Wa App 654 (March 5, 1999) 10
Butler v Lewis, 99-2-0027c (FDO June 30, 2000) 14, 17, 24, 27
ICCGM v Island County, 98-2-0023c (June 2, 1999) 14, 22
City of Redmond v CPSGMHB, 136 Wn 2d 38 (1998) 21, Addendum at 1
Watcom Environmental Council, 94-2-0009 (3/29/96) 31
Peninsula Neighborhood Association II 95-3-0071(3/20/96) 34
List of Exhibits
Staff Report of September 14,2000 A 4, 7, 8, 11
Declaration of Maile Johnson B 5, 7, 8 (fn), 11
Staff Report of April 14, 2000 C 11
Staff Report of March 6, 2000 D 14
Staff Report of May 25, 2000 E 18, 19
Survey Ballot F and G 19
Planning Commissions Findings H 19, 24
Comment Letter, CTED I 27
I, Maile Johnson, filed briefs as an Amicus Curiae in the petition phase of this case, was recognized October 21, 2000 as a participant in this case, and have standing by virtue of my participation in the San Juan County planning process from its inception some 8 years ago. I most recently participated by writing and testifying to the San Juan County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) regarding numerous specific aspects of proposed revisions of the comprehensive plan, particularly rural density, rural character, the vision statement, resource lands and guest houses. This written testimony to the BOCC was attached as exhibits to my letter to the Board dated October 9, 2000 in which I requested recognition as a participant.
San Juan County has recently enacted resolutions and ordinances in response to the Final Decision and Order (FDO) that found its comprehensive plan out of compliance and invalidated portions of it. Countywide, we hope for an illuminating light from the Board so that this county can comply with the law that calls upon it to preserve effectively a forested and rural archipelago. Occasionally it looks as though it will take not just illumination but a bolt of Olympian lightening to galvanize us, grazing deer, into a purposeful herd trotting away from the sea cliffs . There on the cliffy hills we dawdle, searching out the sweet forbs, uncomprehending of the wildfire we see sweeping towards us up the slopes. In a heartbeat nothing will remain for us but the fire or the sea.
Confident that this community will promptly adjust and with all its good sense prosper in that future, with its lingering luminous Olympian aura, finding life not so different than it was the day before, this brief respectfully requests an order that the San Juan County comprehensive plan ("CP"), Official Maps ("OM") and Uniform Development Code ("UDC" ) as amended October 2, 2000 are not in compliance with the FDO in this case and the Growth Management Act ("GMA" or "the Act"). It requests an order continuing and expanding invalidity to include all density designations in the rural and resource land density designations on the OM, the provisions which allow each residence to build a guest house, the provisions which allow short term rental of guest houses in designated resource lands and rural designationed lands, the spot redesignation of resource lands and the dramatic inconsistency between all density designations on the OM and the CPs guiding document, the Vision Statement.
The County has responded to the Boards FDO and findings of invalidity by enacting maximum densities for new subdivision of one dwelling unit (1du) per 5 acres in rural, of 1du/10 acres in agricultural resource lands and of 1du/20 acres in forest resource lands. (Official Maps or "OM"), made applicable by CP section2.1.C which provides that "[r]esidential density is established on the Countys Official Maps for each area of the County.") These densities are increased in the amendments of October 2, 2000 by the allowance of residential density bonuses for tenants in common and for affordable housing clusters in certain designations. Further density increase is included in CP 2.2.A(10) sets forth a policy of awarding additional residential density bonuses in return for protection of open space resources.
The amendments include redesignating approximately 1000 acres of resource lands to higher densities and continue the provisions, based on illogical analysis, that two houses are one when one of the two is a guesthouse.
Standard of Review
In its Brief in Support of Rescinding Findings of Invalidity the County cites Wells v. Whatcom County, 97-2-0030C (January 16, 1998). In Wells v. Hearing Board, 100 Wn App 657, 668 (April, 2000) the appellate court stated:
The Statute [RCW 36.70A.320] clearly states that comprehensive plans are valid upon adoption, and subsection (4) shifts the burden of proof to the local government only under certain circumstances. Contrary to the CTEDs argument, these provisions are not mutually exclusive. Subsection (4) creates an exception to subsection (2). Together they place the burden of proof on the petitioner where there is no prior determination of invalidity. Where there has been an invalidity determination concerning issues that are also included in the new plan, the exception found in subsection (4) shifts the burden, on those provisions only, to the local government. This scheme does not conflict with the presumption of validity.
Here, the Board could properly find that Whatcom County adopted portions of its plan and regulations in response to the earlier determination of invalidity. That finding, if supported by the record, would invoke the burden-shifting provision of RCW 36.70A.320(4) as to those portions of the plan which the Board found were adopted in response to the determination of invalidity.
Section 2.1.C of San Juan Countys CP states that:
[i]n response to an order from the [WWGMHB], this Plan establishes rural densities that allow fewer dwelling units than permitted by the 1979 plan in a number of areas.
According to Wells, the provisions enacted by San Juan County in response to the order of invalidity, specifically the newly established densities in the rural district and resource lands, invoke the burden-shifting provision of RCW 36.70A.320(4)pursuant to which the County "has the burden of demonstrating that [they] will no longer substantially interfere with the fulfillment of the goals of this chapter under the standard in RCW 36.70A.302(1). The latter section establishes as a measure that the continued validity of part or parts of the plan would substantially interfere with the goals of the Act.
Invalidity is continued, broadened or rescinded after a hearing on compliance. In Friends of Skagit County v. Skagit County, 95-2-0065 (July 14, 1997) the Western Board stated: "[a]s we did in Seaview Coast Conservation Coalition v. Pacific County, 95-2-0076, we have made a facial review of the new ordinances in this proceeding solely for the purpose of determining whether they constitute a valid, good faith attempt to comply with the requirements of the Act. Friends of Skagit and Seaview both involved invalidity rescission hearings subject to the 45-day limitation as does this case.
By virtue of a soft ground under the analysis during remand and a resulting warp in the amendments enacted on that shaky foundation, the CP continues to thwart primary GMA goals. This brief will argue that the CP cannot be found to represent a valid, good-faith effort to comply with the Act and that the County has not met its burden of demonstrating that the densities and uses in rural and resource lands no longer substantially interfere with the goals of the Act.
The planning process should be guided by the Vision Statement, but excluded all consideration of the Vision Statement.
The FDO found that the densities on the OM were "significantly inconsistent with the Vision Statement set forth as the guiding principle of the Act." In remanding the CP the order specified that one of the steps the County must take in order to comply with the Act is to "establish densities outside UGAs, villages, hamlets and activity centers that are consistent with the CP and GMA." FDO. The incantation throughout the legislative findings in Resolution 103-2000 that the provisions of the ordinances amending the CP in response to the FDO "are consistent with GMA and the Vision Statement" seem Kafkaesque after passage of the entire remand period without mention of the Vision Statement in staff reports or proposed revisions.
The record contains no evidence that the County has conducted any public process to quantify the Vision Statement or determine what density of development was consistent with its goals.
The parcel sizes which this Board invalidated have been eliminated, but no other density changes have been made in order to achieve densities consistent with the Vision Statement. Instead the CP contains new provisions to increase density by granting density bonuses for: tenants in common; protection of open space; redesignations of resource lands. These actions should have been guided by "the guiding principle of the CP, the Vision Statement." FDO p 11.
No data was provided to the public on the density or population potential in the CP. After the period for public comment had closed, in response to a clamor for information, Planning Staff developed data which calculated potential population at buildout. Exhibit ("Ex") A-4. The Countys calculation shows a potential population increase from the present 12,846 to 57,559, an increase of 44,713 people or 287%. This number includes no adjustment for guesthouses despite the fact that the Countys study shows 29.6% of existing developed SFR parcels have guesthouses. Staff Report May 30, 2000, #230850 at line 17. However, this data does not treat rural and resource lands separately, although they are subject to differing criteria under GMA.
As of October 16, 2000, nearly two weeks after adoption of the CP, the Planning Department had never determined the average rural parcel size under the CP. Declaration of Maile Johnson, Exhibit B. Without this information the analysis required by GMA cannot possibly have been made that would be necessary to select densities and make policy choices consistent with the Vision Statement and the goals of the Act to preserve rural character and traditional visual rural landscape.
The County does not know how much development is potential in the rural element nor what the average rural parcel size will be. State law requirements have not been met for providing a rational basis for directing development patterns and accommodating change based on designation of lands and evaluation of impacts. RCW 43.21C.020(2)(c), (f) and 36.70A.
RCW 43.21C.030(2)(a) requires that "counties shall (u)tilize a systematic, interdisciplinary approach which will insure the integrated use of the natural and social sciences and the environmental design arts in planning and in decision making which may have an impact on man's environment."
Without adequate analysis to set rational policy planning occurs by default. Taking the path of least resistance - to minimize downzoning - to determine the scope and amount of development not only in the rural element but in the entire planning scheme, is arbitrary. This constitutes a clear violation of the requirement for a systematic and interdisciplinary approach to the task of developing a rational and comprehensive land use plan. RCW 43.21C.020(2)(c) and (f). That this has occurred on remand after final decision and order finding that "almost none of the rural designations are truly rural and in many cases constitute urban sprawl" is not a valid, good faith effort to comply with the Act. (FDO page 9 at line 2.)
The FDO requires preclusion of urban densities in the rural element of the Plan.
The FDO in this case found that "[a]ll the rural zoning throughout SJC involve densities that often constitute urban growth, do not constitute rural growth and are inconsistent with CP criteria." FDO, Appendix 1. Densities permitting a dwelling unit on parcels of less than 5 acres were invalidated for significantly interfering with the goals of the Act.
To achieve compliance with the Act the CP was remanded for the County to "establish densities outside UGAs, villages, hamlets and activity centers that are consistent with the CP and the GMA." But as the order also observed, "In GMA, as in life, everything depends upon everything". Allowance of guest houses and rural character depend upon density as does the protection of resource lands that adjoin rural lands, protection of groundwater, and of wildlife, fish and wildlife habitat. And the internal consistency of the CP with its "vision statement set forth as the guiding principle for the CP" depends upon density. (FDO page 11)
One thing that rural density will depend on in San Juan County is the failure or success achieved in encouraging growth in the urban areas in accordance with .070(5)(a) of the Act. CP 2.2A states that it is policy to direct growth into growth areas and activity centers.
Resolution103-2000(1)(a), #244496 states that: "[t]he Land Use Element and the Official Maps of the CP encourage urban development in areas where adequate urban services exist or will be provided, and minimize inappropriate conversion of undeveloped resource lands." Invalidation of the most egregious urban densities in the rural area may one day be seen to have been the beginning of a trickle to flow towards the urban areas, diverted from the boisterous stream of growth presently flooding the rural district. But at the moment that seems inconceivable. The densities have been raised in the urban areas but that seems illusory "encouragement" because services and facilities are lacking there and the reduction of the potential capacity in the rural lands has been from overwhelming to merely vast. What will direct development into the urban area? Nothing in the CP or OM or UDC does so. On the contrary, the allowance of subdivision down to an average hovering at 5 acres for the entire rural area creates a great density vacuum.
Resolution 103-2000.7 provides in part that:
Appendix 1 provides the background population projections and buildout analysis for the policies of the Land Use Element and the land use designations of the Official Maps.
The sentence just quoted is incorrect; Appendix 1 has not been changed to match the amendments. Furthermore, data regarding density in the rural element of the CP still have not been prepared by the County or offered to the public. No population projections or buildout analysis of rural densities, or of those in designated resource lands, a designation discrete from rural, were made available to the public before the public comment period was closed. The Countys failure to determine buildout population and density and to provide it to the public before the comment period is a most disturbing violation of the requirement for public participation. The hugely effective crippling of crucial public participation is a travesty; there was universal confusion as to what the proposals could mean and certainly no one had a notion whether there were other options.
While failure to correct the quoted sentence in the Resolution may have been an oversight, the failure to determine density in the rural element is a most revealing fact. Two weeks after adoption of the CP the County has not calculated what the density will be in the rural element of the CP. In response to the requests of participants for information, made in public testimony, the Planning Department released some data after the period for public comment had closed. Declaration of Maile Johnson Exhibit B
Table 2 of that data, attached as Exhibit A-3 shows the following:
Table 3 does not break out data for rural from resource lands but does project total number of parcels at buildout. This table shows that without density bonuses, there would be 17,990 parcels at buildout in rural and resource lands combined. Table 1, Ex A shows there are a total of 102,085acres designated rural and resource. These two numbers permit the calculation that the average parcel size at buildout in rural and resource lands combined would be 5.67 acres.
This brief asserts that the density allowed in the rural area, specifically the continuing subdivision of 19,306 acres out of the total 63,672 acres of rural lands (30% of the rural area) to 5 acre density, when the average parcel size in the rural lands area is already 5.7 acres, amounts to substantial interference with GMA planning goals (1), (2)(8)(9)(10)(12) and (14).
The densities established for the rural area encourage low-density, sprawling development.
Sections .020(1), (2) and .110 of the Act require that a plan
1 Encourage development in urban areas . . .and
2 Reduce the inappropriate conversion of undeveloped land into sprawling, low-density development..
Section .110 requires the CP to designate urban growth areas outside of which growth can occur only if it is not urban in nature.
Other sections of the Act are applicable. Section .030 (14) provides that rural character refers to patterns of land use in which open space, the natural landscape and vegetation predominate over the built environment, and which provide visual landscapes that are traditionally found in rural areas and communities. Section .030 (15) defines rural development as consisting of a variety of uses and residential densities at levels that are consistent with the preservation of rural character.
Section .030(17) defines "urban growth" as growth that makes such intensive use of land for the location of buildings as to be incompatible with the primary use of the land for the production of food or other agricultural products, the extraction of mineral resources, rural uses or rural development.
The Growth Management Hearing Boards have developed caselaw elucidating and applying the GMA provisions regarding rural development and have found that rural densities greater than 1 du per 10 acres must be closely scrutinized to determine whether they comply with the Act. Vashon-Maury v King County, 95-3-0008 (1995) held that "rather than adopt a minimum rural residential lot size the Board instead adopts as a general rule a bright line at 10 acres." Any smaller rural lots would receive close scrutiny to ensure the number, location and configuration of lots did not establish a pattern of urban development, threaten resource lands or critical aquifer recharge areas, or thwart the long term flexibility to expand urban growth areas. Sky Valley, 95-3-0068c (1996) determined that rural densities permitting one or more du per 5 acres were generally not compliant with GMA and that the exceptions to this rule would be few. This decision found densities greater than 1 du per 5 acres a prima facie violation of GMA and that the development allowed in a rural area designated entirely in 5 acre lots would be impermissibly dense unless balanced with larger parcels in the rural area.
The Western Board has had occasion to apply these provisions and in Friends of Skagit v Skagit Valley, 95-2-0065, ruled that densities in rural areas in excess of 1 du per 5 acres are not in compliance with GMA and substantially interfere with GMA goals. In Smith v. Lewis County, 98-2-0011c (April 5, 1999), Lewis County cited Hudson, 96-2-0031 for the proposition that a rural density of 1 du per 5 acres was acceptable. The Boards opinion in Smith v. Lewis County distinguished Hudson by explaining that 5 acre parcels were accepted there because subdivision that had already taken place left no larger lots available in the 1300 acre "developed" designated agricultural lands and that outside this area the Board "welcomed" 16 acre lots. Without the balance of 10 and 20 acre parcels, the Board explained, extensive use of 5 acre parcels allows too high average densities to constitute an appropriate and GMA compliant land use pattern in rural areas. The Board referred also to Achen v. Clark County, 95-2-0067 (February 5, 1998) in which a density designation of 1 du per 5 acres throughout the countys rural areas was invalidated where the record showed that a variety of densities would decrease low-density sprawl and would increase resource land buffering.
Thus in Cotton v Jefferson County, 98-2-0017, Jefferson Countys designation of rural densities as 1 du respectively per 5, 10 and 20 acre lots was found to be compliant. The Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development ("CTED") guidelines were cited in Smith v Lewis County, supra, that densities of less than 1 du per 10 acres and 1 du per 20 acres should predominate in rural areas.
Dawes v Mason County, 96-2-0023 (january 14, 1999), continued an order of invalidity where the rural area was uniformly designated 1du/5 acres. The average rural parcel size in San Juan County, 5.7 acres, would fall under the CP to 5 acres or as low as 3.7 acres per dwelling under (See next section of this Brief). Under Dawes these densities are invalid . The 1du/5 acre density designation in the CP must be invalidated for encouraging sprawl in contravention of the mandates of the Act.
In Diehl v Mason County, 94 Wn App 645 (3/5/99) the Appellate Court upheld this Boards earlier holding that parcels of 1 and 2.5 acres in size were per se urban.
2.1.C of the CP effects "grandfathering":
Existing parcels which were established under the greater densities of the 1979 plan may still be developed for residential use, but any further subdivision in these areas must meet the newly established density limits.
Though eliminating the densities invalidated, namely those greater than 1du/5, the CP leaves in place thousands of existing "grandfathered" parcels with per se urban density (Diehl, supra) There are in the county 9,122 existing legal parcels of less than 5 acres size each and which average 1.66 acres in size. (April 14, 2000 Staff Report, Rural Lands, page 9)
What would the rural density be under the CP? As explained above, the County does not know, yet GMA requires a reasoned arrangement in the rural area to effect its goals.
The Planning Departments Memo of September 14, 2000, Revised Countywide Buildout Estimates and Distribution of Rural and Resource Land Parcels by Density Designation and Average Parcel Size was prepared after the close of public comment on the CP. Exhibit A. Table 2 includes number of parcels, total area in acres and average size of parcels now existing in each density designation. I will use data from this memo to calculate a theoretical average parcel size for the rural designations. Numerical calculation need not be tedious if they create a more factual grasp of an issue. Density is in part a numerical concept and translates into a vibrant or tawdry, intelligent or wasteful land use plan.
There are 182 parcels designated 1du/15 acres, 1951 parcels designated 1du/10 acres and 15,303 parcels designated 1du/5 acres. In the case of10 and 15 acre density designations, I assume no further subdivision will occur in these two designations because the average parcel size is below that specified as the minimum for one dwelling unit by the respective designations. (This may result in a low estimate of parcels.)
In the case of the 1du/5 acre density Table 2 shows there are 9,472 existing parcels and 44,366 acres in this designation. In addition, there exist already in the 1du/5 acre density designation 9,122 parcels each smaller than 5 acres with an average size of 1.66 acres, which total 15,210 acres. (Staff Report April 14, 2000, Recommended Changes to CP and UDC, "Rural Lands" p9). Subtracting these 9,122 smallest parcels from the 9,472 existing parcels designated 1du/5, we find there are an additional theoretical 350 parcels which when divided into the 44,366 acres designated 1du/5 minus the 15,210 acres designated 1du/5 (but already divided to an average size of 1.66 acres), we get 29,156 acres which may be divided by 5 to produce another 5831 potential 5 acre parcels, which when added to the existing 9,472 parcels gives a theoretical number of parcels in the 1du/5 acre density designation of 15,303. Theoretical parcels combined:
Total Theoretical Parcels
Dividing the 17,208 potential parcels in the rural area at buildout the total rural lands area of 63,672 acres gives an average rural parcel size of 3.70 acres at buildout.
This exercise to obtain a theoretical maximum number of rural parcels is necessary because the actual number is not available from the county. The calculation is a reasonable extrapolation from data the County has provided and permits the determination of crucial information about the effect of the CP in the rural area. The theoretical number may be stated in a range, allowing correction for error resulting from the likelihood that not all the parcels are divisible by the minimum parcel size permitted per dwelling unit in its density designation.
The calculation just described produces a theoretical maximum rather than a known accurate number because the size of each parcel is not known and the size of existing parcels is known in average. If one were to presume that the theoretical number of parcels is 15% too high, to correct for possible error, there would be 17,208 minus (.15 x 17,208 = 2,581) or 14,626 parcels which when divided into the 63,672 acres in the rural area gives an average rural parcel of 3.7 acres. If one assumes the theoretical number of parcels is 20% too high and reduces the number of parcels accordingly to 13,766 the average parcel size in the rural area would be 4.6 acres. It appears that the CP permits subdivision such that the average parcel size in the rural designations will be between 3.7 and 4.6 acres.
Even as a minimum parcel size, such high density is urban and simply impermissible in rural areas. Density greater that 1du/5 is per se urban under Diehl, supra. By the crucial criterion of density the rural element is per se invalid and constitutes the inappropriate conversion of undeveloped land to sprawling, low-density development.
The CP fails to provide a variety of densities in the rural area. Only an order expanding invalidity will permit conservation of resource lands and rural character.
RCW 36.70A.070(5)(b) requires that a plans rural element provide a variety of residential densities. The Countys Brief in Support of Rescinding Findings of Invalidity states that "The rural district density allowances outside of AMIRDS provide for a variety of 5, 10 and 15 acre densities and no longer substantially interferes with the Act." The OM also show 5, 10 and 15 acre allowances. In Table 2of Ex A-3 the proffered cookie crumbles however, when the average parcel size already existing in those density designations is revealed in column three..
In the rural designations with a density of 1du/5 acres the average parcel size is now 4.7 acres. In the rural designations with a density of 1du/10 acres the average parcel size is now 8.8 acres. In the rural designations with a density of 1du/15 acres the average parcel size is now 8.2 acres. Where, as here, the averages are below the density designation, most of the variety offered is illusory.
That the average parcel size is below that specified as the minimum for one dwelling unit in the given density designations does not unfortunately - mean that there will be no further subdivision in these designations, only that the number of nonconforming, below-size parcels is so very large.
The parcel boundaries in small black lines on the OM assure us that further subdivision will indeed occur in areas designated 1du/10 acres, creating some unknown number of 10 acre parcels. But the data the County has been able to assemble does not show us how many. With the overall density in the rural district virtually urban, 1du/5.7 acres, it is in no sense justifiable to subdivide further, and blindly, thereby increasing the density in the rural designations.
During remand, the planning staff described what was later adopted as the density designations for the CP, thus:"[t]his promotes an overall pattern approaching sprawl; it may not meet legal tests for addressing this problem with a mix of rural densities." March 6,2000 Planning Department memorandum "GMHB Response Options", page 2, ExhibitD-2)
The CP densities encourage, even compel sprawl and no analysis has been made of a truly rural pattern. Further subdivision in the rural area without a compliant plan would be completely illogical, foreclose beneficial planning options, contribute to the overriding problem of a huge over supply of urban density parcels.
Densities in rural lands cannot be established to conserve resource lands when the pattern of resource lands is itself in flux.
Butler v. Lewis County #99-2-0027c (FDO 6/30/2000 ) The patterns and densities of rural lands must serve for protection for resource lands and critical areas, as well as that of conserving rural character. Variety of rural densities is mandatory for these reasons. One important function of rural lands is to buffer these resource lands. Achen v. Mason County (September 20, 1995), cited in ICCGM v. Island County 98-2-0023 (June 2, 1999) In ICCGM the CP provided a uniformly 5 acre rural density which was held to be grounds for invalidity although the County was given time in which to enact a moratorium instead. A moratorium was called for to prevent the further creation of 5 acre lots during a period in which resource lands were being reconsidered. Without knowing whether rural lands would be needed in certain larger parcels to buffer resource lands, or what the pattern would be, it was inappropriate to allow subdivision to continue.
This is also the situation in San Juan County, in which an effectively uniform 5 acre density pattern has been enacted and resource lands have been called into question and will be reconsidered by BOCC in the coming months. Since entry of the FDO in this case invalidated higher densities in resource lands, BOCC has proposed reconsidering forest lands. This intention in set forth in Resolution 104-2000 #244509 Nearly 1000 acres of resource lands have been redesignated in the CP on a spot basis, even after findings by Planning Staff that they met the criteria for designation. Staff Report September 21, 2000. #231440
The redesignation of resource lands should be invalidated.
Resource lands and rural densities must compose a coherent pattern that conserves and buffers resource lands. Just as interim regulations were warranted in ICCGM, supra, during evaluation of designation of resource lands to preserve the buffering capacity of rural lands from subdivision to five acres during the time in which resource lands designation was being evaluated, so it is warranted and appropriate here to invalidate the resource land redesignations in the CP of 1000 acres of resource land. BOCC intends to evaluate designation and it is far more suitable there be a topical, legislative process to analyze designation of resource lands according to objective criteria rather than on an individual basis. In City of Redmond v. CPSGMHB, 136 Wn 2d 38 (1998), the Supreme Court ruled that the intent of the land owner is not relevant to designation of resource lands. All of the lands redesignated meet the criteria. The designation of resource lands serves a public value, and seeks to conserve resource lands into the future.
No analysis has been done towards these ends since entry of the FDO which invalidated densities. Since the downzoning there has been a rush to redesignate resource lands and to compose various programs to justify awarding density bonuses in other designations. As in Smith v. Lewis 98-2-0011 (July 13, 2000) the already urban average density in the rural area in SJC is exacerbated by the density bonuses created as lands slip forth from resource designation into subdivison and development. There is no consensus or clear goal regarding land use policy in the County and the public is wholly uninformed and confused. Lifting any portion of the subdivision moratorium will enable creation of more 5 acre parcels while there are over 9,122 non rural parcels already in the rural area, parcels so small that the density they embody presents a tremendous obstacle to meeting the goals of the Act. Just as in Island County, the "rush to the counter" with subdivision applications upon rescission of invalidity can extinguish the possibility of San Juan County attaining GMA goals in its land use development.
The 9,122 existing parcels, which average 1.66 acres each are urban even though the lands themselves are scattered through the rural district. They in no way can serve the Acts intention and goals as to buffering but are themselves, or will become once they have been developed, just what the Act intends a rural area to shelter rural character from. In order to accomplish protection of rural character, large parcels are essential to balance the effects of their urban densities. All of these reasons argue for entry of an expanded order of invalidity to enable an orderly process of analysis and planning once the outcome is known of the reconsideration of resource lands.
Smith v. Lewis, 98-2-0011c (July 13, 2000) also turned on this relationship between rural and resource lands. There also the rural lands had a uniformly 5 acre density designation, and resource lands were similarly being lost from resource designation. As resource lands were redesignated they were subdivided and sold, entering the rural element with five acre densities, and the Board ruled it is necessary to conserve large parcels to balance the higher density. An expanded order of invalidity is the best possibility for retaining a stable situation in which to complete the analysis and public process that must be the foundation of any successful pattern of land uses. San Juan County is quite unprepared to have the doors thrown open to subdivision now.
There is no analysis contained in the CP, or anywhere else in this record, that defines what local circumstances are, except for reliance upon anecdotal reminiscence of PC members and occasional audience comments.
Butler v Lewis County, supra. As in the Butler case, local circumstances have not been determined and without that analysis it is not possible to determine what range or variety of densities is capable of conserving rural character. The supposed variety of density under the CP would in fact be an average density greater than 1du/5 acres, rejected in Smith v Lewis County, 98-2-2000 (July 13, 2000). In Butler this Board remanded the CP to Lewis County for creation of a plan consistent with the rural character of Lewis County. Each countys plan must be as unique as is its own landscape; there is no generic plan San Juan County can swiftly adopt that will conserve the values the Act mandates be conserved.
The inconsistency of the CP with the Vision Statement and the inconsistent provisions in the amendments to the CP all indicate the total lack of preparedness of the County to resolve such complex issues in the midst of a speculative land rush.
I urge the Board to look closely at the little black parcel lines on the Official Maps in order to grasp a fact of great significance on the ground and in the law. There are parcels much larger in size than their density designation requires per dwelling. Theirs are the shapes that will vanish from the map, replaced by a haze of more numerous little lines describing much smaller parcels after subdivision. They are the most rare and endangered element of the existing parcel pattern and of any potential parcel pattern devised by the wisest King Solomon of Planners. They are a defining part of the San Juan County traditional visual rural landscape and a supremely important constituent of our rural character. They harbor beaver and orchids, lakes and streams, osprey and owls, and probably school teachers living, for want of more comodious housing, in teepees and moldering cabins. Gaze a moment at them, resting on mountains or lying nearer the shore as indicated there on the Official Map, for they may not be there long. This large-parcel element of the landscape is now on the chopping block.
Nothing short of an order of continuing invalidity of densities in the rural and resource lands will secure the opportunity to comply with the Acts requirement to enact a plan that preserves the resource lands and rural character of the unique, particular and historic landscape of the San Juan Islands. Nothing short of an order of invalidity of all densities in the CP will secure to the citizens of San Juan County the opportunity to quantify and enact their Vision Statement.
There are presently in San Juan County 722 parcels which are 20-39.99 acres each and which comprise a total of 20,007 acres; 300 parcels which are 40-79.99 acres each and which comprise a total of 15,652 acres; 124 parcels which are 80 acres and larger in size each and which comprise a total of 22,765 acres. Declaration of Maile Johnson, ExhibitB.
Where the average parcel size is already so small, where density is already too high for development to be rural no matter how sensitively future development may be located or screened, the parcel pattern that exists now is the last hope for retaining a rural pattern of development that includes some traditionally larger parcels. The costly battle to regain ground lost by having later to buy or extinguish development rights for large parcels, or to compel aggregation of smaller parcels, is too much and too late.
A far more rational approach to the rural element than that taken, which was simply to gag at the amount of politically unpredictable downzoning required by proactive planning, would be to maintain the range of rural densities that exists. The Staff Report of Senior Planner Patrick Mann of May 25, 2000, contained strong warnings and recommendations for just this result. This excellent report, a sort of arrow to the bulls eye on the target of controlling growth in seasonal and resort communities similar to those in San Juan county, was utterly ignored. Exhibit E.
Ironically, the community support for adopting a policy of no further subdivision is high, yet the protests of those opposed set the startled quail aflight. The communitys will to remain intimate and to stop sprawl, expressed first in the Vision Statement and again in 1995 by a petition gathering 1100 signatures and requesting the BOCC to enact densities consistent with the vision statement, was reconfirmed during the remand period. The County backed away from a requested referendum on growth but distributed a survey, which was included in a local newspaper as well as sent to nonresident property owners. The survey described three options, none of which would implement the vision statement, but which may be summarized as offering no, some, or much more subdivision. A majority of those polled favored Option C, no further subdivision, or Option B, no further subdivision in resource lands, downzone rural to a density of 1du/10 acres, and eliminate the separate densities for the shoreline. Exhibits F and G.
As a further and significant manifestation of the strong political support for local growth management, the Planning Commission, which heard extensive public testimony at filled-to-capacity-hearings and held seven work sessions in April and May, 2000, decisively recommended to the BOCC that there be no further subdivision . (Recommendation No. 2, Planning Commission Findings, transmitted to BOCC by and attached to May 19, 2000 Planning Department Staff Report. Exhibit H).
The GMA intends public participation on planning issues and one would hope this degree of public comment could find its way into the planning process. To date it has not. As the disregarded professional study which was included in the disregarded Staff Report on Socioeconomic Impacts of Growth Pressure in Selected Seasonal/Resort Communities concluded, time is of the essence. Exhibit E.
On Orcas Island and Shaw Island the rural element does not provide a variety of rural densities of buffering to achieve conservation of.
The County asserts that the CP provides a range of densities in the rural area of 5, 10 and 15 acres but all of the Shaw Island and 99% of the Orcas Island rural area is designated 1du/5 acres. The County does not provide data broken down by island that would show the number of acres designated rural 1du/5 and rural 1du/10. But one can see on the OM that of the four ferry-served islands, Orcas and Shaw Islands wholly lack variety of rural densities. The rural designation on Shaw Island is exclusively 1du/5 acres and the rural designation on Orcas Island is almost exclusively 1du/5 acres.
Three discrete parcels are designated1du/10 acres on Orcas Island. Section lines around the standard square160 acre survey sections, and their accompanying 40 acre quarter sections, are evident in places on the maps. In comparison to them it is easy to see that those three parcels designated 1 du/10 acres are quarter sections or combinations of them, forming two parcels each of 40 acre and a third parcel in the form of a 120 acre rectangle. Thus about 200 rural acres on Orcas Island are designated 1du/10 while the entire remainder of the rural area on this island is designated 1du/5 acres. From Table 25, "Orcas Island Land Use Inventory" at page 30 of Appendix 1, CP, it may be estimated that Table 25 and the OM show that 200 or 1% out of 18,164 acres of rural land on Orcas are designated 1du/10 while the remaining 17,964 acres or 99% are designated 1du/5.
Orcas Island is the largest island in the County and its 5,219 residents constitute 40% of the Countys total population of 12,846 residents. Orcas Island is 56.9 square miles in size; the Countys total land-surface area is 174.9 square miles. Shaw Island is 7.7 square miles in size and has 209 residents. (Analysis of Proposed UGAs, Staff Report updated September 28, 2000, Table 1 p 6.) From these numbers I calculate that Orcas Island constitutes 32% of the Countys land-surface area.
It is apparent from the OM that the subtext of rural density designation has been to conclude that an island with more designated resource lands or natural or conservancy land needs less variety of rural density than one with less. This does not accord with the Act in which variety of rural density is mandated, not as some form of compensation to those in the immediate district, and not as some entitlement of rural dwellers either, though the benefits of lower density are surely enjoyed by those who experience them. Surely there are disadvantages too.
Rather the Acts requirement for a variety of densities is to conserve rural character, which has to do with the land itself and values much more widely shared, amongst society at large. It is a requirement of the Act operative beyond the borders of the rural district itself, and commands we conserve qualities of landscape and rural character much as a critical areas ordinance commands we conserve the habitat of the threatened and endangered; that we take care not to smother the bog that is the mucky lung of the aquifer. Conserving rural character is akin to conserving archeological resources. Those in the given district, isolated by water or not, are not the intended beneficiaries of the mix of rural densities. We all are. But neither is it an optional notion.
A variety of rural densities is mandatory in the rural element and cannot be disregarded. That there may be larger rural parcels on other islands does nothing to redeem a pattern of five acres and smaller on Orcas and Shaw Islands. The OM show that both Shaw and Orcas Islands have parcels in the rural area larger than 5 acres.
Given the large percentages of total County land-surface area, the failure to provide a range of densities in the rural designations of Orcas and Shaw Islands is a significant failure to comply with section .070(5)(b) of the Act. The rural lands surrounding resource lands on Orcas Island would be a most appropriate place for a rural density designation of 1 du/10 acres to buffer the resource lands, satisfying both the Acts requirements of conserving resource lands and rural character.
It is the function of rural lands to buffer resource lands. Achen v Clark County, 95-2-0067 September 20, 1995.) To allow incompatible uses near to resource lands has been held by the Washington Supreme Court to impair the viability of the resource industry. City of Redmond v. CPSGMHB, 136 Wn.2d 38, 959 P.2d 1091 (1998). Effective buffering is not possible with parcels of such a small size and other impacts conflict as well. InAchen, upon finding that density designations did not adequately conserve resource lands when parcels smaller than 10 acres adjoined resource land, the Western Board stated that a county must adopt techniques to buffer resource lands, that strong consideration must be given to aggregation of parcels of nonconforming size where they adjoin resource lands, and that a county must prevent incompatible uses from encroaching on resource lands. Achen v Clark (September 20, 1995) p 9. This is a mandate to buffer. Rural lands adjoining forest resource lands should be in parcels of 10 and not 5 acres. ICCGM v Island County, supra. This Board has previously held and noted that a limited variety of rural density is particularly unacceptable where the rural characteristics permit variety. As they do here. Cotton v. Jefferson County, 98-2-0017 and Smith v Lewis County, 98-2-0011 (July 13, 2000).
Such provisions have not been enacted or even considered by San Juan County. Particularly on Orcas Island, the most significantly sized blocks of resource lands in the county lie in a sea of 1du/5 acres density designation and miles of resource land boundaries are shared with lands with densities per se urban under Diehl or that are or may be subdivided to 1du/5. Under the CP all of those lands may construct both a main residence and a guesthouse. This is exactly what resource lands are to be buffered from.
"[A]llowing urban size lots near resource lands is not in compliance with the Act. If there is no way to eliminate the lots due to prior vesting some action to effectively buffer and keep the conversion pressure away from the resource lands is required under GMA." Ibid. Conservation of resource lands is mandatory under the Act.
Resolution 104-2000 9#244509) tells us that the County will shortly consider abolishing forest resource lands altogether. CP 2.2.F.3 contains a policy "to develop a sustainable forest management programs for the forests of San Juan County. Perhaps BOCC will find a way to implement this policy. However, so long as there are resource lands validly designated under GMA, they are to be protected. City of Redmond, supra.
Effective buffering of resource lands from the 1du/5 or urban densities in rural lands is mandatory. Buffers of 10 acre parcels would be helpful as would an exception to the universal allowance of one guest house plus one main house per parcel .
The County made no analysis of what pattern of densities and uses is consistent with and would preserve rural character. The County does not know the density its CP would permit.
RCW 36.70A.070(5) (b) and (c) require a CP to contain a rural element, including lands that are not designated for urban growth or as resource lands, where a variety of rural densities are provided in a manner consistent with the protection of rural character.
RCW 36.70A.070(5)(c) requires measures that apply to all rural development in order to "protect the rural character of the area" by (1) containing or controlling rural development; and (2) assuring visual compatibility; and (3) reducing inappropriate conversion of undeveloped land into sprawling low-density development in the rural area; and (4) protecting critical areas and surface water and (5) protecting against conflicts with the use of resource lands designated under .170.
RCW 36.70A.030(15) defines the term rural character as a pattern of land use and development "in which open space, the natural landscape and vegetation predominate over the built environment. . .that provide visual landscapes that are traditionally found in rural areas. . .that are compatible with the use of the land by wildlife and for fish and wildlife habitat; that reduce the inappropriate conversion of undeveloped land into sprawling, low-density development; that generally do not require the extension of urban governmental services; and that are consistent with the protection of natural surface water flows and ground water and surface water recharge and discharge areas.
The density designations in the CP permit subdivision such that rural and resource lands together will have an average parcel size of 6.26 acres and the average parcel size in the rural designations will, in all likelihood, be between 3.7 and 4.6 acres in size.
There is no analysis in the record that this parcel pattern adequately protects rural character and the traditional visual rural landscape, that it constitutes a landscape pattern compatible with the use of the land by wildlife and for fish and wildlife habitat, that this will reduce the inappropriate conversion of undeveloped land to sprawling development, as required by the Act. These parcel sizes were not elicited in the process during remand ; the impacts can scarcely have been considered. Analysis of the local circumstances is essential to craft a plan to protect the unique qualities and characteristics of place.
In Butler v Lewis County, 99-2-0027c (June 30, 2000) FDO, this Board remanded the CP for creation of rural densities consistent with the specific rural character of Lewis County. The order stated "[t]here is no analysis contained in the CP or anywhere else in this record, that defines what local circumstances are, except for reliance upon anecdotal reminiscence of PC members and occasional audience comments."
The SJC Planning Commission examined the same record and heard testimony in joint hearings from the same concerned citizens as did BOCC and it concluded that the CP permits significant destruction of rural character and fails to stop sprawl .
Based on the number and sizes of existing undeveloped parcels in the Rural areas and the extent of area currently assigned densities of 5 acres per unit, the visual and physical result of 5 acre development patterns, even if clustered, will be a significant loss of rural character "in which open space, the natural landscape and vegetation predominate over the built environment." This is inconsistent with the Vision Statement and does not serve the goals of the [GMA] for the protection of rural lands from "the inappropriate conversion of undeveloped land into sprawling low-density development." (RCW 36.70A.030(14))
Planning Commission Finding No. 4, Planning Commission Recommendations, transmitted to BOCC by and contained in May 19, 2000 Staff Report. Exhibit H-I.
Resolution 103-2000 1 a #244496 provides in part:"[t]hese amendments substantially reduce the potential residential density allowed in rural and resource lands, and provide additional incentives to promote subdivision design that preserves resource lands and protects rural character in a manner envisioned by the vision statement."
Two programs are referred to here, one being the application of conservation design provisions made applicable by UDC 7.1.6. to all land division in rural (except AMIRDs) resource, conservancy and shoreline areas. The other program referred to is the open space overlay district authorized by 2.2.A.10 of the CP and scheduled for implementation within 2 years by Resolution 104-2000 (#244509).
The conservation subdivision provisions of UDC 7.6.2.j. appear to require that land owners be "encouraged" by planners to consider clustering development. The provisions require concentrating development on 40% of the parcels created. They require further that the significance and sensitivity of open space resources that contribute to rural character shall be identified for the parcel to be divided according to the San Juan County Open Space and Conservation Plan (Section 3.7.6 of the UDC.)
The standards are applicable only at land division and can do nothing to shrink or in any way affect development on the huge inventory of small, urban density parcels that have already been created. Development of these parcels threatens the rural character with significant adverse impacts. Had conservation subdivision standards been enacted 15 or even 10 years ago along with a minimum rural density of 15 acres and a true variety of rural densities and preservation of large parcels, then San Juan County might have conserved its traditional visual rural landscape as required by RCA 36.70A.070 and .030(15), and might retain a pattern of development "compatible with use of the land by wildlife and for fish and wildlife habitat" as required by those same sections. Sprawling development of outright urban density is unavoidable on 15,210 rural acres where 9,122 of the existing 11,620 rural parcels average 1.66 acres. This density of development will obliterate landscape character and wildlife habitat, threaten critical areas, resource lands, surface and groundwater quantity and quality. The sprawl is as yet invisible, but it is inherent in accomplished parcelization and will come home to haunt us very soon.
The additional sprawl that will result from retention of a rural density designation of 1du/5 acres will be urban no matter how it is dressed about screens or even views and conserved slivers of open space. If the conservation subdivision standards are used, there will by definition be less open space than before; subdivision heralds development. When applied in the context of such excessive and outright urban density as already exists and is further generously encouraged by the 1du/5 acre density, the subdivision regulations could scarcely secure habitat for a field mouse or a pond frog, much less conserve what is a national treasure; the rural character existing in San Juan County today. Unless in the context of dramatically reduced density, almost any new development standards would be a gesture grossly inadequate to that required by the Act.
If the regulations are workable, they may achieve invaluable conservation of some landscape features, and their enactment must be hailed. But even to be speaking of them here seems a travesty when what is needed urgently is invalidation of the 1du/5 acre rural designation and the expansion of invalidity while the CP is honed to send growth to the urban areas and pare the rural densities to secure conservation of resource lands, critical areas and rural character. These regulations can do nothing about the mountain, though they may affect the molehill in a most meaningful way. The Act mandates conservation of natural character. Devising a plan for conservation of rural character must be based on natural criteria such as watershed, wetland, shoreline and wildlife functions and values, wildlife corridors and habitat. Resource lands and critical areas have certain protections within their borders but they have critical external functions as well that must be recognized and protected from the adverse impacts of urban growth. The studies of the natural systems must be broadly conceived to be meaningful, and not set within the parameters of human concerns, such as real property parcel lines, at the outset.
The open space conservation overlay program is authorized in the CP 2.2.A.10. but not enacted in the UDC at this time. It was proposed as an amendment to allow density bonus allowances to large parcels of rural and resource lands that were rated with the highest number of points according to an enacted open space plan. As such it would have encouraged development of and granted added density to just those parcels most worthy of conservation; the largest, with valuable natural features or views; and resource lands mandated by GMA to be conserved. The provision was deleted from the UDC but the policy authorizing it remains at CP 2.2.A.10.
The Office of Community affairs commented on the proposed plan revisions in its letter of September 13, 2000 and expressed concern that San Juan County take care to be sure the various overlay districts not "adversely impact rural character". Exhibit I-3.
San Juan County is without direction now, simultaneously coming and going, perhaps waving the flag of the open space plan to make palatable that it is handing out density bonuses and transient rental permits to all who ask, "planning by permit". Once San Juan Islanders sold logs and salmon, strawberries and plums. Now we divide and sell real estate by the five acre punnet, and business is brisk.
The CP fails to explain how the rural element harmonizes the Acts planning goals and meets the requirements of the Act.
The County has failed to harmonize the Acts planning goals in the rural area and to "show its work." Merely enacting minimum densities without analysis or even knowledge of the resulting pattern of development is not a substitute for tailoring a specific pattern of uses and densities to accomplish GMAs goals.
In Butler v. Lewis County #99-2-0027c (FDO 6/30/2000). The Western Board stated :
RCW 36.70A.070(5)(a) requires that in establishing a pattern of rural densities and uses the County may consider local circumstances, but shall develop a written record as to how the rural element harmonizes the goals of the Act and meets the requirements of GMA. There is no analysis contained in the CP, or anywhere else in this record, that defines what local circumstances are, except for reliance upon anecdotal reminiscence of PC members and occasional audience comments. There is no "written" record of harmonization of the goals and meeting of the requirements of the Act.
Determination of the average parcel sizes in the rural area at "buildout" under the CP is essential to a rational analysis of whether the CP could possibly preserve rural character and traditional visual rural landscape. This failure to define what the local circumstances are and will be under the CP make rational application of criteria and attainment of goals impossible. The County cannot claim the CP is a valid good faith effort to comply with the goals when it has not "shown its work" even when under an order of invalidity.
The plan has escaped from its controlling principle, the Vision Statement.
The FDO held that the densities in the CP were inconsistent with the Vision Statement, which is the guiding portion of the plan. It entailed the broadest and most thorough public participation of any part of the plan, and it rings with joyful and staunch commitment to the goal of maintaining the islands' rural character and natural peace and beauty. The plan violates the GMA requirement of internal consistency and rationality because what the plan legislates is not remotely what the Vision Statement implies it does.
The Countys buildout calculations show that the CP allows an increase in the total number of dwelling units, and hence of population, of 379%, from the present 3751 dwelling units to 17,990. Including a Vision Statement pronouncing as prominent the goals most dear to the citizens in a plan that makes no attempt to achieve those goals or even to reveal they are impossible to realize under the plan, has denied citizens the opportunity, intended by State environmental policy to be secured to them, of rationally planning for their and their children's future, "(f)ulfilling the responsibilities of each generation as trustee of the environment for succeeding generations". RCW 43.21C.020(2)(a).
Amidst the urgent public discussion in San Juan County over growth, its daily transformation of life in the islands and its potential to transform the islands themselves from rural havens, farms, and forests to urban sprawl, the great question we have asked ourselves is whether the County would act to forestall just what the GMA was enacted to halt. For over a year there has been an order in place finding virtually none of the rural designations truly rural and an order of invalidity halting subdivision, but the County has been wringing its hands while the remand period ticked away.
The County did not attempt to rectify its noncompliance in the rural area.
"All the rural zoning throughout SJC involve densities that often constitute urban growth, do not constitute rural growth and are inconsistent with CP criteria. For those reasons all rural zoning classifications fail to comply with the Act." Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law #11, FDO.
San Juan County has not only been under an order of invalidity, but also one that found almost none of the density designations throughout the rural element to be truly rural. The County has not even addressed this order of noncompliance in its planning process. It has not lowered density in the rural area outside of the invalidated densities. Rather the amendments to the CP contain provisions for increasing density in the rural designations by awarding density bonuses. CP 2.2.A.10.
In CP 2.2.A.5 the County says it will do within three years things that are essential to a valid, good-faith effort to comply with the Act:
Within three years of the effective date of this Plan the County will examine the effects of potential buildout. The buildout analysis will include consideration of actual permanent reduction of density units through conservation easements or other existing means, known physical development constraints, and consistency with the Vision Statement. The buildout analysis should also include consideration of appropriate means for further reducing the impact of increased population, including impact fees, transfer of development rights, and other mechanisms for reducing population impacts in the Rural and Resource Lands.
The County actually declares here that it has not examined the effects of potential buildout, has not analyzed consistency with the Vision Statement and has not considered appropriate means for further reducing the impact of increased population. A plan cannot rest on what it promises but on what it enacts, and the CP is per se not in compliance with the Act where such a crucial admission of noncompliance is explicit. The County cannot claim that its CP is a valid, good-faith effort to comply with the Act when it has wholly disregarded an existing order of noncompliance for a year which directs it to preclude urban growth in the rural designation and has enacted provisions it admits are not in compliance on that same issue. The FDO found "almost all rural density designations to be not truly rural." The rural designations at that time ranged from 1du/O.5 acres to 1du/40 acres as they do now. "Almost all" of those were held to be not in compliance; therefore the County had no basis for assuming only the invalidated densities were not in compliance. The County was under a directive to preclude urban density in the rural area and it has enacted a promise to study precluding density in the rural area. This does not constitute an effective or a valid, good-faith effort to comply with the Act.
Under Friends of Skagit v Skagit County, supra, a valid, good-faith effort may be found by facial review. Explicit admission of noncompliance makes this impossible here.
Furthermore, even facial review of the CP reveals that nothing in the amendments lowers density in the rural area outside of the areas of invalidated density designations. Noncompliance was found earlier as to "almost all" rural density designations; nothing has been done to alter those densities; the CP must fail facial review for compliance with the Act.
There is no basis for rescission of the order of invalidity in the rural area. An Order of expanded or continuing invalidity is warranted and and urgently needed.
San Juan County has the burden of demonstrating that the provisions adopted in response to the order of invalidity will no longer substantially interfere with the goals of the Act. In Whatcom Environmental Council, 94-20009, the Board declared the test for "substantial interference" with goals of the Act to be whether the challenged provisions encourage rather than reduce the inappropriate conversion of undeveloped land to sprawling, low-density development. San Juan County asserts that the rural density designation of 1du/5 acres does not encourage rather than reduce the inappropriate conversion of undeveloped land to sprawling development.
The density it has chosen to defend lies in that glaring light of the "bright line" where it is subject to searching gaze and close scrutiny. That bright line is set about with circumstances. It lies on islands that themselves draw the gaze of many nation-wide who are attracted by --who knows? They come like the flocks of sea birds islanders so often have depended on.
The bright line in Vashon-Maury, supra, found a parcel rural at 10 acres. The black parcel lines that would fill the Official Maps on rescission of invalidity would encircle five acre parcels, darkening particularly the rural district of Orcas Island where forest resource lands would hover, ephemeral, on the darkened sea. There is a second house on each one? On 29.6% of them? A different car settles there each night as the beaver pads past the bright line? Saw whet, great horned, short-eared, snowy, and screech owls? Where will all the cars go when those maps are darkened with parcel lines? Not on the ferry for they surely would not fit. And where would our visiting summer flock be then? What local circumstances does the Act care about? Not that the coons got my pears again last night. Or does it? It is a venerable old tree, a century in one place. This place. When was the last sweet Salish child born here who would find salmon in the stream? Are there barns that old? The bright line lasers through bog muck where tiny insectivorous sundew grows, lifting its rosette of hairy paws beside the long mired and rusted-out cranberry harvester. Dzunuquaa gathered labrador tea here. Here, where the bright line runs .
The Countys course while under this Boards directive has been to avoid shouldering its responsibility to preclude urban density in the rural area and to establish a variegated pattern of densities to conserve resource lands and rural character. It has not gathered local cirumstances to analyze according to the Act and it has not harmonized the Acts goals and requirements in an internally consistent and responsive plan. Instead it enacted amendments which do nothing to preclude urban development in the rural area, which increase that density and which fail to consider and control the impacts of the overall density. A rural element is to consider a whole range of statutorily specified criteria, qualities and impacts. Without knowing even the average parcel size in the rural area it is impossible for the County to claim that it has weighed the impact of this development at all. A CP must be internally consistent and implement its guiding principle, which is in this case the Vision Statement.
The average density in the rural area is presently1 du/5,7 acres and will rise significantly if further subdivision is permitted, likely falling to or below 1 du/4 acres. The CP does not provide an adequate range of rural densities; it fails to conserve resource lands and the large-parcels essential to protect rural character and the traditional visual rural landscape. Impacts of high rural density of development, including guesthouses, on groundwater, fish and wildlife and their habitat are unknown. Resource lands are lost by spot redesignation; impacts of development and the costs of impacts of growth on open space, parks, capital facilities, services and the economy are unknown; little or nothing encourages development in the urban areas and the overcapacity in the rural area will vitiate any such encouragement. These provisions of the CP are not in compliance with the Act and many of them substantially interfere with the goals of the Act. Factually they are deeply entwined and a policy relating to one impacts the others. If the County argues, as it no doubt will, that invalidity should be lifted in the rural area because it has eliminated the offending densities it has the burden of demonstrating that the provisions it has enacted in response to the order of invalidity no longer substantially interfere with the goals of the Act. Friends of Skagit v. Skagit County, supra.
There is no basis for rescission of the order of invalidity in the rural area. The density designations in the rural area substantially interfere with GMA goal 1 of encouraging development in urban areas and with section.110 which requires that urban growth occur and be encouraged in urban areas and that non urban growth occur only outside of UGAs. At buildout there will be 17,990 potential dwelling units in rural and resource lands where there are presently only 3,751 dwelling units. Over half of the existing rural parcels are undeveloped at present with a dwelling unit.(4/14/00 Staff Report, p 9). Permitting further subdivision in the rural designations, and hence the creation of this immense over-capacity in the rural area, substantially interferes with the Acts goal of encouraging development in urban area. Diehl v Mason County, 94 Wn App 654 (March 5, 1999). This over-capacity interferes with channeling development to the urban particularly where, as here, nothing in the CP or UDC encourages development in the urban areas.
The rural density provisions also substantially interfere with goal 2 to reduce sprawl. The average parcel size in the rural area is now 5.7 acres. A density of 1du/5 is never to be applied uniformly throughout a rural district and is acceptable as a rural density only when part of a rural parcel pattern that includes many larger parcels.
There are additional independent bases for an order of invalidity. Where imposed on land adjoining resource lands, the higher rural density designations in combination with the provision allowing each residence to construct a guest house, threaten the conservation of resource lands and substantially interfere with goal 8 of the Act which is to conserve them.
Because the average rural parcel size is now 5.7 acres, permitting the continuing development of guesthouses permits urban level of development in the rural area, substantially interfering with goals 1 and 2 of the Act and with section .110 regarding urban growth and with goal 12 regarding availability of public facilities and services. SJC says two houses are one when one is a guest house but the guesthouse provision violates the Act when applied to parcels of less than ten acres. PNA II, supra, 95-3-0071 (March 29, 1996).
Permitting continued development of guest houses substantially interferes with goals 1and 2 of the Act and with section .110 regarding urban growth, with goal 10 of the Act regarding availability of water and with goal 12 of the Act regarding availability of public facilities and services necessary to support development. Guesthouses have a significant impact on density, currently increasing it by 29.6% (May 30, 2000 Staff Report p 17) and potentially doubling it (FDO), and their impacts and the cost of public services and facilities needed for this new growth remain unexamined because the County discounted their significance.
Allowing guesthouses in resource lands is a conflicting use and threatens their conservation, substantially interfering with goal 8 of the Act.
An order finding continuing invalidity of the rural density designations is all that might make possible the thoughtful proactive planning which GMA mandates and which offers the only hope for stopping rural sprawl and the destruction of rural character in these islands.
I respectfully request and encourage the Board to invalidate all density designations in the CP and on the Official Maps and invalidate policies 5, 10, 11 in the Land Use Element 2.2 A of the CP, to invalidate the provisions allowing each residence to build a guest house, to remand the CP to San Juan County with instructions that the density designations in the CP and the Official Maps be modified to implement the Vision Statement and that resource lands be conserved and rural character be effectively protected through policies that include conservation of large parcels.
Site-specific redesignation of resource lands must be approved according to objective criteria.
Section 9.3.1 SJC UDC provides :
Purpose of Site Specific Redesignations. A district change or density change is a mechanism by which the [CP] land use designation or density applicable to property can be changed to reflect such things as changed circumstances, new land-use needs, or new land use policies.
Redmond City, supra, established rule that the intent of a land owner or actual use of a given parcel is irrelevant to the designation of resource lands. The intent of the designation is to preserve resource lands for the long term, and to preserve the availability to society of the most suitable soils and growing capabilities of regions based on criteria specified by the Act and WAC provisions. Criteria such as Forest Lands Grade according to species and site indecies, in the case of forest resource lands, or the parcel pattern, distance from dense urban settlement and conflicting uses, in the case of any resource lands, are objectively controlling. The type of "changed circumstances" that would properly result in removal of land for Forest Resource designation would relate to those criteria. For an individual parcel of forest resource lands to present an appropriate case for redesignation it might show that a Superfund site on adjoining property caused toxins to leach through and contaminate for the next century the Forest Land Grade soils on which the designation was based. The decision by the owner of forest resource lands to log the land and develop it for residential purposes means it must withdraw from the State Designated Forest Lands program, a current-use taxation program administered by the counties which reduces the real property taxes levied on that parcel because it is growing, harvesting, selling and replanting timber, which activities the State supports. Ceasing timber management activities in favor of development is optional to the owner. It has nothing to do with proper designation of resource lands under GMA which mandates their conservation.
Any redesignation of lands presently designated resource lands in SJC, whether in this process of amending the CP or in the separate administrative procedures provided for in Section 9 of the UDC must be controlled by the objective criteria the Act intends, not by changed circumstances in the plans or activities of the landowner. The site specific redesignations which are included in the CP are inappropriate under Redmond and must be invalidated; planning Staff Report of September 21, 2000indicates all meet the appropriate criteria for designation. It would be beneficial for the county to reevaluate designation of resource lands in a larger context as the BOCC intends to do shortly. Resolution 104-2000, page 2.
The fire sweeping towards the uncomprehending heard of deer grazing on its soft mossy hills over the sea is the development to urban densities of the San Juan Islands which presently are developed in only the tiniest degree compared to what is inherent even in existing parcelization. All chance to preserve the precious qualities of ancient forest and small town social warmth will be lost, along with the Acts goals of preserving resource lands and rural character, if this development continues. Time is of the essence.