Wednesday, May 2 2012 - San Juan County staff and elected officials received dozens of calls and complaints last week about the difficulty of providing all of the information required on forms labeled “San Juan County Response to Shoreline Inventory Report” many assumed were required County forms with a completion deadline of April 30th.
Neither staff nor Council Members were familiar with the forms and Planner Colin Maycock, who heads the Shoreline Master Program update and is responsible for gathering and organizing comments on the Shoreline Inventory and Characterization Report, was not aware of the form’s existence and noted that because it was not a County form, there was no requirement for anyone to fill it out.
Tuesday, the County learned that the form was created by an attorney for the Common Sense Alliance, a local property rights group. Instructions for the form asked shoreline property owners to obtain data CDs from the County and perform a number of tasks, including taking photographs and providing narratives to document the use of their shoreline and to present the information to the Community Development and Planning Office to be time stamped and processed.
A representative of the CSA, acknowledged that it had not let the County know that it had created and distributed its own form. Based on public complaints about the form, the County posted a notice saying that the form and the implication that shoreline property owners were required to fill it out was likely a “hoax.” The CSA indicated that it did not think its form was deceptive and it was simply trying to be helpful in providing an organized way to provide feedback on a technical report.
April 30th was indeed the deadline for comments on the Shoreline Inventory and Characterization report, which is a consultant’s report which provides “big picture” background information for defining shoreline environment designations. The report seeks to characterize the ecological functions of extended sections of shoreline rather than individual parcels. Ultimately, the different shoreline environment designations will have different development standards and allowed uses, however planner Maycock noted homeowners should be aware that residential development is listed as a preferred shoreline use in the State’s Shoreline Management Act and is permitted in all SMP zones.
The Inventory and Characterization Report is a non- regulatory document which precedes the process of setting basic goals and policies that will ultimately guide the evaluation and possible amendment of existing regulations.
While comments concerning specific pieces of property will be reviewed and included in the final Shoreline Inventory and Characterization report; the point at which regulations affecting specific properties are considered will arrive after many more opportunities for the public to provide information and input.
In the wake of the confusion over the CSA form and the nature of the Inventory Report, the Council has asked the County Administrator to look into the situation and recommend whether the deadline for submitting comments should be extended for a second time. (The original deadline was in mid-March.) Meanwhile County Planning staff members are reviewing the comments it has received along with technical reviews dealing with how the consultant gathered, analyzed and organized the report’s data. If modifications are called for, additional comments may be solicited.