Thurston County Commissioners are scheduled to revisit a controversial land use enforcement issue this week.
The creation of Title 26 — a proposed code that county officials say would roll numerous land use enforcement regulations into one — is back on the commissioners’ agenda nearly a year after the last public hearing on the issue. County staff have recommended the Board of County Commissioners adopt the proposed code during their Tuesday meeting.
“The purpose of this change is to make it easier for staff and customers to find and understand enforcement provisions,” Katie Pruit, associate planner in Resource Stewardship, wrote in an agenda item summary included in background information provided to the board. “Title 26 also adds an administrative enforcement option for Resource Stewardship. This would allow staff to issue monetary penalties to ensure speedy compliance and would only be used after voluntary compliance conditions have not been met. Environmental Health and all neighboring counties use administrative fees to encourage land use compliance.”
But some residents say the proposal is an invitation for abuse by county officials.
Property rights activist and south county resident Glen Morgan said Title 26 is “incredibly vague,” and allows the county to make its residents criminals when they commit even minor violations.
“I think the way this is written, it is a direct war on the rural poor,” he said.
But county officials say the new code will ensure that compliance actions will be consistent, regardless of the code violation. Common land use violations range from storage of junk vehicles and building projects without permits to illegally filled wetlands and cut trees that are protected by environmental rules.
Pierce, Lewis, Mason and Grays Harbor counties already use administrative enforcement options. Public hearings for Thurston County’s land use code changes were held Oct. 16, 2013; Feb. 18, 2014; and March 3, 2015, according to a fact sheet on the county’s website.
For more information on the proposed code changes, go to tinyurl.com/ThurstonDocket.
If you go
Title 26, a proposed land use enforcement code, is on the agenda for the Thurston County Commissioners’ meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Thurston County Courthouse Building 1, 2000 Lakeridge Drive SW, Olympia. The meeting is open to the public.