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County examining its philosophies on sensitive areas

sensitive areas ordinance by Jeff Switzer
While a list of changes to the King County sensitive areas ordinance (SAO) has been produced addressing topics that developers, environmentalists, and rural landowners generally agree on, there are still some outstanding issues to resolve which may not come with this update.
   During a workshop at Woodinville High School last week, area residents got another look at the proposed changes the county will be considering for the revised SAO, which is scheduled to go to the King County Council in August.
   Disagreement continues over whether public agencies, such as schools, road construction, or utilities, should be exempt from development conditions in the urban area, or whether theses agencies should adhere to the same or higher standards as other developers. Residents at the May 30 meeting added their concern about whether there is enough county staff to enforce these regulations.
   Some topics have been generally agreed upon, including having more objective criteria for whether a stream is used by salmonids; defining standards for increased buffers; and include Himalayan blackberry, Scot's broom, and milfoil as noxious weeds that can be removed. The agreed-upon improvements to the ordinance are described as streamlining, clarifying, and housekeeping changes, while there remains no consensus on issues such as development of Class III wetlands; regulation of streams; and whether developers should be allowed to relocate Class II streams.
   The feedback the staff has gotten to date will be compiled and sent to a focus group composed of rural property owners and citizens, developers, utilities, and environmentalists, who are contributing their perspectives as individuals rather than as representatives of their organizations.
   This umbrella focus group is prioritizing the issues that will go to the director of the Department of Development and Environmental Services, who will transmit it to King County Executive Gary Locke. It will then go on to the King County Council this summer, where staff will work to accurately articulate the controversies while also categorizing long-term issues needing analysis and legal interpretations.
   Comments will be accepted through the end of June and can be sent to Ken Carrasco, Environmental Division, Department of Development and Environmental Services, 3600 136th Place SE, Bellevue, WA 98006-1400.