Planning commission expects to make recommendation for the SMP

The updated Bainbridge Island Shoreline Master Program is expected to finally pass out of the planning commission and onto the city council's dais after this week.

After nine months of work, and an open house dedicated to the rewritten plan on March 29, the commission is ready to make a formal recommendation at their next meeting Thursday, April 12, according to Michael Lewars, the commission's chairman.

"I expect at the end of Thursday's meeting we will move to a recommendation on the SMP," Lewars said. "Once that is complete, it will move to the city council."

The city's Shoreline Master Program has been tied up in the planning commission longer than anyone expected.

When the commission began working on the plan in July 2011, they added an extra meeting each month. The meetings' hours were extended as well.

During the time since, city staff have compiled more than 400 public comments on the matter alone.

At the March 29 open house, the public was able to view charts, maps and other information regarding the plan. The biggest topic at the meeting, raised by many shoreline homeowners, was the issue of nonconforming structures on the island. The term applies to buildings and homes on the island that were originally built with the standards of years past, but now wouldn't be considered in compliance.

Lewars, a shoreline homeowner, said that there has been much public confusion regarding the "nonconforming" designation.

"Stuff has gone around that if we are nonconforming that we can't sell our house or get a mortgage," Lewars said. "None of that is true. The thing that protects homeowners is that all lawful uses and existing structures are grandfathered in."

When the planning commission meets at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the council chambers, it will have a couple of final "t's" to cross and "i's" to dot before handing it over to the council.

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