Critical Areas Ordinance Update

Phase II of GMA Periodic Update

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Where are we in the Update Process?


Critical Areas Periodic Update

Overview: Wetlands, frequently flooded areas and landslide hazard areas are just a few of the natural areas that the City of Port Townsend regulates for the benefit of public health, safety, and welfare. The City is required to regulate these areas under the State Growth Management Act.

On May 21, 2018, City Council adopted updates to the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) and limited amendments to the Shoreline Master Program (Ordinance 3198). The updates are intended to meet the following goals:

  1. Incorporate mandatory revisions necessary to comply BAS and State requirements;
  2. Address issues raised at the local level;
  3. Reduce redundancies and make clarifying edits

Effective date: The updates become effective as follows:

For areas outside of shorlines jurisdiction
June 4, 2018
For areas in shorelines jurisdiction
Pending Ecology Approval

Ecology's review and approval process
The City’s Shoreline Master Program (SMP) incorporates the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) by reference; thus, the City needs to update the reference to the recently adopted Ordinance 3198. Locally adopted amendments to the SMP have been forwarded to the Department of Ecology (ECY) for review and approval. Steps to approval are set forth in WAC 173-26-120 and can be summarized as follows:

  • City submits documentation of locally adopted amendments to Ecology
  • Ecology reviews for completeness
  • Once deemed complete, Ecology provides notice and opportunity to comment
  • City submits response to any comments received
  • Ecology either approves, approves with modifications, or denies the amendments
  • Ecology publishes a notice of final action
  • Fourteen days later, amendments become effective

Why regulate Critical Areas?
Critical areas are fragile resources that are sensitive to the impacts of urban development or may pose hazards to the community if developed. Critical areas include:

  • Wetlands
  • Frequently flooded areas/Critical Drainage Corridors
  • Fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas
  • Geologically hazardous areas.
  • Critical aquifer recharge areas

The city regulates critical areas and their required buffers through the Port Townsend Municipal Code (PTMC) Chapter 19.05. Critical areas regulations

  • Protect the public health, safety, and welfare
  • Allow for reasonable uses
  • Maintain beneficial functions and values of critical areas such as:
    • Water quality protection
    • Fish and wildlife habitat
    • Flooding reduction
    • Erosion control
    • Open Space
  • Reduce cumulative adverse impacts

Part of the GMA Periodic Update
Adoption of the Critical Areas Ordinance marks the final phase of the City’s, state mandated, GMA periodic update.

  • ☑ Phase I - Comprehensive Plan & Amendments to zoning and land division These amendments became effective on October 17, 2016.
  • ☑ Phase II - Critical areas ordinance (CAO)

Comprehensive Plan Town Meeting


Staff Contact:  Judy Surber, Planning Manager
City of Port Townsend
360.379.5084
jsurber@cityofpt.us