After an hour of debate, the Cowlitz County commissioners Tuesday morning approved rule changes to ease environmental reviews for small construction projects.

These changes will reduce review thresholds for environmental impact statements for projects such as single-family and multifamily residential developments, offices, schools, barns and other minor buildings or construction sites.

The county’s State Environmental Protection Act guidelines were first adopted in the early 1980s. The changes are intended to bring the county into alignment with state law, which was changed in 2012, said Greta Holmstrom, a senior long-range Cowlitz County planner. The county’s proposed changes have been in the works since 2016, she said.

During Tuesday morning’s public hearing, Longview resident Chris Turner spoke multiple times outlining her complaints with the idea of minimizing regulations, including that the original notice in the paper did not correctly outline which section of the Cowlitz County Code would be changed.

Building and Planning Director Elaine Placido rebutted this claim, saying that according to state law, an “inadvertent mistake or omission” doesn’t invalidate the notice.

Local environmental activist Diane Dick said Tuesday’s public hearing should have been postponed to give more people a chance to voice their opinions.

However, other public speakers, including former Building and Planning employee Nick Little, said it wouldn’t be smart to postpone a decision.

“As a week, two weeks, three weeks go on, there are a number of projects — both for a company I work for and for others out there — that would benefit from this (change),” Little said.

At the meeting’s end, commissioners Arne Mortensen and Dennis Weber both approved of the Cowlitz County Code updates. Commissioner Joe Gardner was not present.

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