County staffers and the commissioners are reviewing comments received during a public hearing last month with a goal of approving the revised ordinance as early as July 24. The hearing drew more than 300 people; about 100 testified.
The ordinance is an update to the original CAO, passed in 1994. The state Growth Management Act requires that the county review and, if necessary, revise the ordinance every seven years using the best available science.
The ordinance protects five critical areas: those that are geologically hazardous, frequently flooded or critical for aquifer recharge; wetlands; and fish and wildlife habitat.
The county’s review of the ordinance began in 2003, with a 2005 deadline. The update was suspended because of staffing issues and resumed in 2007.
Commissioners Cathy Wolfe and Sandra Romero, as well as planning director Scott Clark, met with The Olympian’s editorial board Wednesday to discuss the proposed ordinance.
Because of several law changes since the original ordinance was enacted, a revision is a necessity, Wolfe said.
“The purpose of a review is to determine what to revise,” Clark said. “It’s updating with what changes in law have occurred and what changes you need to do that are required by that law.”
If the county does not update the ordinance, Wolfe said, it could become ineligible for grants or could lose local regulatory control to federal or state government.
In addition to updates, the proposed ordinance was drafted with readability in mind.
“We wanted to come back and write it so you could understand it,” Clark said. “It’s a complex document that we are trying to make as easy to read, and referable as possible.”
Before the county can approve the ordinance, the commissioners want to address a few remaining issues brought up by the public, including having clearer guidelines for reclaimed water and providing a better definition of agriculture.
“We want to preserve agriculture,” Romero said. “Especially with the movement toward more locally grown and healthy food … we just want to do it in a way we aren’t destroying the things we are trying to preserve.”