I appreciate Lee Steinhardt’s writing about the introduction of the new Critical Areas Ordinance as a zoning matter, but I think he is mistaken. Like most communities, San Juan County already has a zoning ordinance that separates various uses from each other; residential, rural farm forest, rural general use urban growth areas, commercial etc.
The County also has a Unified Development Code that specifies such things as setbacks from wetlands, buildings from property lines or guidance for locating wells or septic systems. The UDC not the same as zoning.
One of the concerns about the new Critical Areas Ordinance is that it uses wide restricted-use buffers of an owners land to “protect” critical area features that may be present on or near the owners property. The buffers are so large and invasive that many existing uses and homes become effectively non-conforming and many undeveloped parcels largely unusable. In addition, the CAO is so complex as written as to be very expensive and largely arbitrary in how it can be applied.
The question from the beginning has been why has the County not been able to clearly identified the environmental problems that require sweeping new regulations to solve? Maybe because the problems, if they do exist at all, are not at a level that requires property owners to be excluded from large portions of their own land.
To many citizens, there is no showing of a compelling public benefit that begins to justify such a large taking of private property by County government without so much as a, “Thank you very much for your donation of your land and home to the public good.”