Thurston County Commissioners voted 2-1 Tuesday afternoon to adopt Title 26 — a code that county officials say would roll numerous land use enforcement regulations into one. Commissioner Bud Blake voted against the measure, saying he felt it was too vague.
“It’s just not clear to the people,” he said.
County officials say the new code will ensure that compliance actions are consistent, regardless of the code violation. Common land use violations range from storage of junk vehicles and building projects without permits to illegally filled wetlands and cut trees that are protected by environmental rules.
“We’ve had our hands tied for so long and people have felt very helpless, and I feel this is a very reasonable way to deal with it,” Commissioner Cathy Wolfe said.
Before the board’s vote, about 20 people spoke during the community comment portion of the meeting. Most folks were opposed the code.
Unincorporated county resident Adrienne Arias said the county didn’t provide enough opportunity for the public to provide feedback and help shape the new regulations.
“My strongest objection and deepest disappointment comes in reading code enforcement ...the punitive and jaw clenching power given to an administrative agency,” she said.
A few people spoke in support of the code. Resident Phyllis Farrell said Title 26 is “long overdue” and urged the commissioners to adopt it.
“We are powerless over neighbors with junk cars, trash or homes that are not maintained — violations that jeopardize the neighborhood, the environment and property values of others,” she said.
Commission chair Sandra Romero said Thurston is the second to last county in Western Washington to adopt civil penalties. She also said that the cities of Olympia, Tumwater, Lacey, Rainier and Yelm already use similar options for code enforcement.
“I want to be able to have a county that my grandkids are going to proud to call home, and this is only one tool in a tool box to help people protect their own property rights from people that disregard their neighbors’ property,” Romero said.
Public hearings for Thurston County’s land use code changes were held Oct. 16, 2013; Feb. 18, 2014; and March 3, 2015, according to a fact sheet on the county’s website.
For more information on the changes, go to tinyurl.com/ThurstonDocket.