By a 7-0 vote, the Ocean Shores City Council at its June 24 meeting approved raising the fee for issuing lot-clearing permits from $23.50 to $110.00, effective immediately.
Even though that represents a 468% increase, the city will barely break even on its actual cost, new City Administrator Scott Andersen told the council. He said a fairly brief examination of the process produced an estimated average cost to the city of $106.
And there’s a good chance costs and fees will go up.
A huge increase in lot-clearing applications that started last year and exploded this spring saw the numbers leap from 124 permits in 2017 to 228 last year and a projected 330 this year. Several instances of lots being clear cut, some down to the waterline on local lakes and canals, in apparent violation of the state’s Shoreline Master Plan, prompted public outcries at the May 28 council meeting.
Later that week, Mayor Crystal Dingler cited the skyrocketing application numbers when she announced that the city was slowing down lot-clearing permit approvals. She noted that 60 clearing permits were issued in the month of March and commented, “I don’t believe that any one person with multiple other responsibilities as well, could have issued 60 such permits with each receiving a thorough evaluation and follow through. I am not blaming staff, certainly, who are just trying to meet the public need.”
She said all pending clearing permit applications were being reviewed, and “any that are ready to go out, will issue immediately. However, any that are deficient, will be held up until such deficiencies are remedied.”
At the June 10 session, the mayor received the council’s blessing to create and fill a new position that will be a lead planner and supervisor of the services that are increasingly in demand as Ocean Shores experiences its biggest building boom in well over a decade. Dingler told the North Coast News that it will likely be September before an actual hire is made.
A local realtor had called the slowdown on approvals a moratorium on permits, but Dingler told the June 24 council meeting that, since it began at the end of May, 28 permits had been approved.
More permit applications and more strict, thorough enforcement means more city personnel time, particularly with site inspections, Dingler and Andersen both maintained. She said once the new planner is hired, a deeper examination of processes and costs will be done and fee adjustments may be considered.
Several city residents who offered public comments said serious penalties and tough enforcement are key to controlling the situation. Dingler said that “two penalties are coming out … (likely) this week.” She said the city was working with the Washington Department of Ecology on the specific violations.