It got a wee bit testy at times during this afternoon’s special meeting/public hearing at the county commission. The topic was the possible repeal of portions of Ordinance 412 prohibiting commercial recreation fees for access to designated forest land.
After nearly 90 minutes of public comment from a packed house, County Commissioner and Chair Vickie Raines closed the public hearing portion of the meeting. This was at about 3:19 p.m. Commissioner Frank Gordon then moved to repeal the portion of the ordinance with changes as outlined. Raines seconded.
At this point Commissioner Wes Cormier read the following statement:
Over the course of the last few years I have met with residents, recreationalists, outdoor enthusiasts, State agencies and other elected officials to get feedback, plan, strategize and bring forth a piece of legislation that I believe was in the best interest of our community. The culmination of people coming together and talking about what matters to them is the most basic and fundamental principle of legislation and self-governance.
The Ordinance passed by the Grays Harbor County Commission, does not force or mandate a property owner to provide access. It is not a property rights taking. The property tax program that many of these property owners are in, is voluntary, no one “must” or “shall” be in the program – it is a privilege not a right. If a property owner does not want to follow the rules of the program, they are free to “opt out” and do as they please. This also means that they will be assessed and taxed at true and fair market value like any other resident or business owner in Grays Harbor County.
I am disappointed that the county was two weeks away from our day in court and it was stopped because of financial “threat” to the county. Should we as an elected body give in because our Ordinance was challenged by people who have more money? Every county and city in the State of Washington is threatened by litigation not because we or they act inappropriately, it is because we live in a litigious society. Any law passed by the Board of County Commissioners will always be subject to a lawsuit. I am not encouraging or advocating for litigation, I am just asking that the county not back down on such an important issue.
January 25th, two weeks away form our summary judgement (sic), Commissioner Gordon you stated in executive session that you support this fight 100%. That same week you called for the county to repeal the Ordinance. What has changed? I would ask the commission, continue this fight.
A few observations:
- The capacity+ turn-out was heavily male. By like a zillion to one. In case you’re wondering. One guy gave up his seat for an expectant mom. (Yes, I noticed.)
- Also for the record: it gets really, really hot in that conference room when it’s crammed to the gills. And all the windows are closed. And the air hasn’t kicked in yet. Just sayin’.
- The vast majority of attendees weren’t exactly happy campers.
- Commentarial demeanor (new word I just made up) ran the gamut from nasty and saber-rattling and oh, nasty, to polite, respectful and conciliatory.
- The room was about two-thirds full by 1:35 p.m. It was nigh unto overflowing some 15 minutes later, with many standing.
Pre-meeting chatter revolved around county commishes “chickening out” cuz they don’t want to get in a court fight with Big Timber. The guy with the bigger checkbook winning. “Protecting my rights.”
More details later. Folks, I missed lunch and dinner is quickly going the way of the Dodo. We’ll be back. So kindly keep your shirt on.
Oh, yeah. Before I hit the kitchen: The repeal portion as outlined passed on a 2 to 1 vote. Commishes Gordon and Raines voted Aye. Commish Cormier was the sole Nay.