Critical Areas Ordinance – Comments Part 1

To: Commissioners Rolfes, Garrido and Walters, and Chairman Phillips and members of the Kitsap County Planning Commission.

Re: Comments on the Critical Areas Ordinance.

Following are comments from a working committee of the Kitsap Environmental Coalition on DCD’s proposed changes to the Critical Areas Ordinance, dated April 8, 2024. Code writing is an iterative process. Thus, our comments are not final, but should be considered as strong but tentative recommendations.

We believe the code should meet the following basic criteria, all with the overriding intention of protecting our shared environment.

  1. The code should be specific, consistent, clear, and easily readable by the public. Specialist knowledge should not be required. The code should require adherence by staff and limit excessive discretion, as recently acknowledged by the Hearing Examiner in an appeal.
  2. The code should not rely on aspirational clauses to address policy issues.
  3. Public notification and a reasonable appeal time should be required for any buffer modification.
  4. The code should protect buffers for wetlands, streams, and wildlife areas. The best available science is that buffers are necessary, multi-functional, and of moderate width. The ecological functions of buffers must be identified.
  5. Effectiveness of the code requires permanent status of boundaries and effective protection against transgression.
  6. Set a minimum setback of 15’ from structures and impervious surfaces for maintenance and use in order to avoid transgressions of buffers.
  7. The code should require that evaluation of different ecological functions be performed by appropriate specialists or professionals. Items in a specialist report may only be relied upon when within a specialist’s area of expertise.
  8. Specialist reports must be subject to verification.
  9. The criterion of “no net loss of ecological functions” lacks definition and methodology. Specialist reports should not rely on ‘hand-waving’, but be based on objective scientific analysis and be subject to verification. The “no adverse impact” requirement in buffer averaging should be retained. Monitoring requirements must address all ecological functions, not just vegetation, and the County must provide for effective review of monitoring reports.
  10. Minimization of impact to wetlands should be in accord with Washington State agency guidances. Consider both large and small spatial scales during evaluation of wildlife corridors.
  11. The Code shall recognize amphibians and reptiles as two of the five classes of vertebrate ‘wildlife’ that are most endangered, locally and globally, and that they deserve protection and preservation. Vernal pools and intermittent streams are the lifeblood of larval amphibians. Additionally, endemic juvenile amphibians and all reptiles shall have unimpeded access to extensive forested uplands.
  12. Regional trails and shared-use-paths should be regulated with roads, not trails.
  13. Fertilizers and pesticides should generally be prohibited in critical areas and buffers.
  14. The lower width for riparian buffer widths in UGAs is scientifically unsupported.
  15. Clarifications are requested for Type I and special use review procedures.


Tom Doty

Doug Hayman

Joe Lubischer

Elizabeth Nichols

David Onstad

Beverly Parsons

Carol Price

Dave Shorett