Images of Kitsap County
Public Communications (MS-11)
614 Division Street, Port Orchard, WA
Phone: 360.337.4598
Date: January 5, 2011
Contact: Patty Charnas, Manager Environmental Programs Division
Kitsap County Department of Community Development
Contact: 360-337-4558 or
No: 11-002

County Critical Areas Ordinance upheld by Court
Court of Appeals issues opinion supporting Kitsap County and critical areas best available science

(Port Orchard, WA) - The Court of Appeals upheld Kitsap County’s Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO), which has been embroiled in legal battles since its adoption in 2005, in a decision handed down yesterday. The court made two significant rulings. First, it held that critical areas located along the shorelines are appropriately regulated under the CAO until the local Shoreline Management Program (SMP) is updated. This decision was, in part, due to the Legislature’s adoption of EHB 1653 last session that clarified how critical areas were protected in shorelines, which the court ruled was appropriately retroactive. Accordingly, the County’s CAO will regulate all critical areas, whether on the shoreline or not, until the County’s SMP is updated. The SMP is currently being revised and is scheduled to be updated in 2012.

In the second part of the decision, the Court found that the CAO and its shoreline buffers were supported by “best available science,” as required by the Growth Management Act (GMA). In fact, the court commended the County’s process for gathering and evaluating the science upon which the CAO was based. It further confirmed that the County was not required to develop its own scientific information, but may rely on state and federal natural resource agencies and other reliable sources. Finally, because the CAO was supported by best available science, the Court found that nexus and rough proportionality, constitutional requirements, were likewise satisfied.

This decision is hopefully the end of the legal challenges. “We are very relieved, of course, by this decision,” commented Charlotte Garrido, Chair of the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners. “In these challenging times, our environmental programs need as much clarity as possible. This decision provides that clarity and helps the County move forward with its shoreline program update while protecting critical areas.”

“This is significant as we move forward with the Shoreline Master Program (SMP) update,” Commissioner Steve Bauer said. “The County staff and SMP citizen task force can focus on developing recommendations for reasonable policies and code recommendations to the Commissioners rather than focusing on a science debate that clouded the Critical Area process.”

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Last Updated:  May 27, 2014