Rules confusing for objections on county planning commission

For residents of the county who are interested in land use issues, a key player is the advisory Snohomish County Planning Commission. This group discusses or advocates for the ordinances that constrain and modify developments. They also work on the future zoning of available, buildable lands.

Although the group is advisory, its influence on the decisions of the County Council cannot be underestimated. Each person on the council appoints two people and the county executive appoints one. Hopefully, the appointees would hold the best interests of the county, its allegiance to the Comprehensive Plan and protections of the environment to the forefront. For some appointees, the manipulation of this advisory board for self-interest or for the welfare of the Master Builders Association is a goal. When the correct position on a measure would be to recuse, some continue to present arguments that would favor their business.

Calling out this type of unethical behavior would appear to send a citizen to representatives on the County Council. Not so! This is the hard lesson learned by numerous citizens when they objected to a recent reappointment to the Planning Commission. Apparently, the County has another body, the Ethics Commission to which these types of conflict of interest concerns must be taken first and in a timely fashion. Not that average citizens would know that. Furthermore, the council engages in a formality called Council Courtesy in which almost any appointee by Council is automatically accorded approval by the others.

Should citizens be questioning this as a politically irresponsible process by the council? Who is responsible for educating citizens about these obscure, political steps? Who will then act as the watchdog for the Planning Commission? The Ethics Commission? Or, is this simply another roadblock to citizens having their voices properly heard?

Joan Smith


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