What does the Director of the Department of Community Development do?
The Director of the Department of Community Development is responsible for enforcing and advising the County Commissioners on all laws related to:
- The Environment
- Natural Resources
- Land and Shoreline Development
About Jesse Major
I was raised in Port Angeles and graduated from Port Angeles High School and Peninsula College before attending Pacific Lutheran University to earn a Bachelors of Arts in Communication. From there I began working as a journalist in Central Iowa before eventually making my way back home to Port Angeles to work at the Peninsula Daily News. While reporting for the Peninsula Daily News, I primarily covered Clallam County government, which allowed me to gain a solid understanding of how our local government functions (or sometimes doesn’t function) and to build relationships with key officials in local, state and federal government.
I left the Peninsula Daily News in 2020 at the start of Covid-19 to work as a code enforcement officer for Clallam County DCD, where I saw first-hand the struggles our residents are facing. Our citizens need effective code enforcement, affordable housing and consistent application of Clallam County Code.
I (and the entire Code Enforcement team) left the Department of Community Development in 2021. I am presently working as a Public Records Analyst for Clallam County providing public records to our citizens.
✓ Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict
✓ Retired PAPD Chief Terry Gallagher
✓ Sequim School Board Member and former Charter Commission Member Jim Stoffer
✓ Sequim City Councilmember Vicki Lowe
Or by mail:
Major 4 DCD Campaign Fund
1839 E Melody Ln #4
Port Angeles, WA 98362
Code Enforcement can be effective!
Code Enforcement can be effective when DCD works with the Sheriff’s Office, Health and Human Services, Board of County Commissioners, Public Works Department and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to solve these issues as a TEAM. This teamwork has occurred at the staff level, but the Director must also be part of this team. Clallam County Code and state law currently provide the tools necessary to solve the most serious violations by escalating enforcement when needed. Here’s the process:
- Seek voluntary compliance with written warning
- Seek fines by issuing a Notice of Violation and holding a hearing
- Seek criminal prosecution
- Warrant of Abatement or Condemnation
We need Code Enforcement to target the most egregious violators in our County. These are violations that present an imminent threat to public health or safety to the occupants at the subject property or to surrounding residents.
Unfortunately some of the most significant violations in the County are a symptom of the drug epidemic. There are numerous properties with a dozen or more people living in RVs without power, without septic and surrounded by solid waste. These are not safe conditions for people to live in and these properties pose a risk of fire and breed crime. Code Enforcement should work with community agencies to help people who are dealing with drug addiction and facing possible eviction from these properties, but must also be willing to follow through with the code enforcement process within a reasonable amount of time..
Decriminalizing RVs and Tiny Houses
It is no secret that Clallam County lacks affordable housing. Yet, under Clallam County Code, a property owner who either lives in an RV or has someone staying in an RV on private property is considered a criminal. It is a misdemeanor to live in an RV, even if that RV is hooked up to septic and power AND the property is kept tidy. This even applies to tiny houses on wheels and park model RVs.
Many people living in RVs in Clallam County are not doing so by choice. Affordable housing is difficult to come by and enforcement of this provision only makes it harder to find adequate housing.
That is why I am proposing a new ordinance that would decriminalize living in RVs. This is an easy step we can take RIGHT NOW to decriminalize living in RVs, tiny houses on wheels and park model RVs. This ordinance would also clarify the number of RVs that are allowed before a property is considered an “RV Park,” which requires additional permitting. This ordinance would still allow the County to address other common issues that people frequently complain about when they think of people living in RVs:
- Solid Waste — CCC 41.11.070(1) – It shall be a violation of this chapter for any person to dump or deposit or permit the dumping or depositing of any solid waste onto or under the surface of the ground or into the waters of the State except at a facility that is permitted to accept the solid waste.
- Septic — CCC 41.20.080(1) – Every resident, place of business, or other building or place where people congregate or reside, if not connected to an approved public sewer, shall be connected to an on-site sewage system approved by the Health Office.
- Junk Vehicles — CCC 19.60.040(1) – It is hereby declared that, except as provided in CCC 19.60.050, the storing or keeping of one or more junk vehicles on private property of less than 2.5 acres, or two or more junk vehicles on private property of 2.5 acres or greater, constitutes a public nuisance, subject to abatement by the last registered owner(s) of the junk vehicle(s) and/or the owner of the property where the junk vehicles are located as provided by State law and the provisions of this chapter.
This proposed ordinance does not solve our problem, but it’s a step that will help some of our lower-income residents. We must also work to understand the barriers preventing development of multi-family housing.
Pre-Approved Building Plans
One of the great things our current DCD Director accomplished was the development of pre-approved building plans for a tiny house, which she calls a Basic Living Unit. For less than $400 someone can get a building permit with all necessary inspections if they are willing to live in under 400 square feet. We can expand on this idea.
We should also prepare pre-approved building plans for a modest two-bedroom house, a modest three-bedroom house and a duplex. This would reduce the cost of new construction, reduce time with the permitting process and add more affordable housing stock in the County.
The City of Port Angeles recently received a $100,000 grant to just this. This is an EASY step we can take to reduce costs of new housing.
Our rules regarding agriculture need to change. We need to make it clear that our County supports agriculture.
Currently our regulations concerning agriculture are vague, leading to vastly different interpretations of what you can do with your property. While our Comprehensive Plan talks at length about different aspects of agriculture we should encourage, our code is limited to a two-sentence definition of “agriculture” that is allowed in most (if not all) zones in Clallam County. This includes “ancillary activities.”
I propose that we adopt codes similar to Jefferson County. Jefferson County Code 18.20.030 makes it clear that:
- Small-scale farmers markets are allowed on private property
- Agritourism that is closely related to normal agricultural activities is allowed
- Certain agricultural structures do not require a building permit
We can use the Jefferson County Code as a starting point and develop new codes for Clallam County that reflect the values of our community.
Planning for the future
It is time for Clallam County to plan for the future, not only to meet legal obligations under the Growth Management Act, but to develop a roadmap to guide policies that will make our County a better place for everyone who lives here.
The County needs to be preparing for its Comprehensive Plan update now. Our current Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 1995. Though Clallam County completed a periodic review of our plan in 2018, state law requires the County to review and, if needed, revise its comprehensive plan and development regulations again by June 30, 2025.
This is an opportunity to better understand the needs of our County, our vision for what our County should look like and develop a 20-year plan to get us there. This is a process that must include robust public input from citizens across the County as we tackle topics such as:
- Land Use
- Capital Facilities
- Rural Development
- Economic Development
- Park and Recreation