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DNR won't delay liveaboard evictions after Bainbridge City Council's request
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources said it will not delay the Dec. 15 evictions of the Eagle Harbor liveaboard residents as the city requested in a formal letter dated Dec. 3. The City Council asked the state agency to delay the eviction process while the city worked to find a solution to save the liveaboard community.
DNR notified the registered owners of some 58 vessels in Eagle Harbor in November that they have until Dec. 15 to remove their unauthorized vessels from the harbor before the eviction process begins. Among those who received letters is a group of approximately 10 to 20 long-term liveaboards who are part of a historic community the city and DNR have tried to preserve through the creation of an open water moorage and anchorage marina.
"We are going to continue the process moving forward. At any time the City Council can enter into a lease that will allow DNR and the city to find some common ground," said Aaron Toso, Director of Communications and Outreach for DNR. "We have a responsibility to enforce the law the way it is. We have been working creatively for a decade to come to a resolution and we still believe we can before next week."
Toso said he is unaware when DNR will have a formal response to the city, but said DNR has no plans to delay the eviction process as a response to the city's request. Boat owners remaining in the harbor on Dec. 16 will be in trespass of state-owned aquatic lands and will begin to accumulate fines.
DNR also sent a letter to council members on Dec. 1 stating that they remain "eager and willing" and believe a "solution remains at hand" to enter into a lease agreement with the city for an open-water moorage and anchorage area.
The Dec. 3 response signed by Interim City Manager Brenda Bauer, was crafted in large part by Councilor Hilary Franz who revisited the regulations in an effort to keep the hopes of saving the liveaboard community alive and to address the reasons the city was forced to abandon lease negotiations in October. The letter asks DNR for a stay on evictions until the current regulations can be changed to preserve the historic community.
Both the city and DNR expressed several decades worth of toil and efforts to resolve this longstanding issue within the community. Both letters cite numerous policy changes and collaboration efforts between the two organizations to find a way to preserve the Eagle Harbor community.
Those efforts may prove to be in vain if nothing is done before Dec. 15, which is the date DNR wants unauthorized vessels to leave the harbor.
Several members of the Bainbridge community are unwilling to concede defeat and are planning an anchored-out residential community celebration and rally against evictions at 2 p.m. on Dec. 15. Members of the community are planning to express their support for the community with signs, hot cider and singing. Ray Novak, one of the liveaboards will be tying up his house boat Wicca to host the celebration at the city dock.
The letter sent by the council reiterates its concern and frustration with adhering to the DNR percentage requirement that limits the number of residential slips in a marina. The statewide regulation limits the number of residential slips to 10 percent of the total number of slips within a marina.
The city approved a 25 percent residential use limit, but would still be required to install and maintain 36 to 48 additional buoys for transient use in order to preserve 12 to 16 buoys for anchored-out residents. The city isn't willing to invest roughly $72,000 to $96,000 for installation, maintenance and management costs for transient buoys that its feels will likely remain unused.
Even with the $40,000 DNR has secured from the State Legislature to install the buoys, the city said it's difficult to accept funding for purposeless buoys when the state is facing an estimated $1.1 billion deficit in its current budget.
In the letter, council stated that the DNR structured the regulations specifically with Bainbridge in mind, and recognized the need for local governments to be able to increase or decrease the percentage limit. The DNR states local governments can increase this percentage up to 100 percent for residential use.
"Your agency clearly intended to give local governments control to determine a percentage approach that worked for their communities. Yet, in actuality, as these regulations are implemented on the ground, the percentage requirement's potential impacts on the Bainbridge Island live-aboard community are not 'negligible,' and the City has not been given control to change the residential use percentage within DNR's timeframe to create a better result in this case," states the letter.
The city asks DNR to either initiate rule-making proceedings to address the percentage requirement or allow the city some flexibility to change the percentage through a shoreline master program amendment. The city's shoreline master plan is not up for an update until 2011, which is past the DNR deadline.
The letter concludes by saying the impacts of the regulations are contrary to their original intent and the city does not want to see people who currently have a home rendered homeless during a difficult economic time with Kitsap County's homeless rate up 40 percent. The city reiterated is unwillingness to participate in the eviction of Eagle Harbor residents.
One of the liveaboard residents who attempted to leave the harbor several weeks ago ran into trouble near Port Madison and eventually required the help of fellow liveaboard neighbors to be brought back to safety in the harbor.
Charlotte Rovelstad, a liveaboard advocate in the community, said this is a horrible time of year for people to be forced to relocate outside of the security of Eagle Harbor.