Did you know that CAO provisions on Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas and Wetlands pending before the county council would declare our entire shoreline to be a “critical” area, and turn shoreline setbacks into “buffers?” Setbacks and buffers are NOT the same. Setbacks govern where structures can be placed, but buffers govern what you are allowed to do on your land. The new restrictions are not limited to shorelines, but also extend buffers around “streams” and wetlands, and will enable the county to regulate almost everything we do in areas of our land declared to be “buffers.”
Why should you need county permission to use your property to: Walk your dog or ride your horse? Picnic near the shore or by a stream? Play softball or Frisbee during a family gathering? (“Hiking” and “birdwatching” are okay.) Fly a kite or radio controlled airplane?
Rather than prohibiting only specific activities that are proven harmful to habitat, the proposed CAO allows structures, uses and activities in buffers only if they are specifically listed and approved. Any activity that is not listed and approved in the regulations is prohibited, unless the owner secures a provisional/conditional use permit or variance, subject to additional requirements imposed by the County. (See Table 3.10 in the FWHCA Section and Table 3.8 of the Wetland Section (current draft at http://bit.ly/OUNN6C). It may be true that you will be allowed to “keep doing what you’re already doing,” if you can prove, to the satisfaction of the planning department, that you have used the area for the specific activity prior to the CAO, that you haven’t abandoned the activity, and the “degree of nonconformity is not increased.”
It is not too late to stop this unwarranted overreaching in the guise of environmental protection. If you value the use of your land and the rural character of our community, call your county council representatives and attend the hearing on Aug. 21.