Report suggests more studies before future development is allowed at Point Monroe

Development on Bainbridge Island’s Point Monroe sand spit has been great for homeowners but horrible for wildlife habitat.

A new study of the area that was launched by the update of the city’s shoreline master program points out that new development will have to be tailored to avoid causing more environmental damage in the neighborhood, and recommends that even redevelopment of existing properties should trigger extensive studies before permits are issued by Bainbridge Island City Hall.

The city recently released a science summary prepared by Herrera Environmental Consultants, based in Seattle, that focused on the Point Monroe sand spit — home to a handful of islanders.

The summary provides recommendations for the spit’s properties but its conclusion may set the tone as the council considers the shoreline master program.

“Point Monroe is distinguished by significant development, which has largely resulted in the direct loss of fish and wildlife habitat and has thus likely affected the fish and wildlife species that depend upon such habitat,” the summary concludes.

Mitigation is cited as the way to restore existing disturbed areas.

Other recommendations include studies on environmental impacts on any new residential development or projects.

New shoreline armoring, such as the bulkheads common on the spit, is discouraged. A study on any proposed bulkheads is also recommended to determine that the armoring will not harm the spit.

The report also suggests that all mitigation projects include a five-year monitoring plan.

Herrera’s report was presented to the city’s planning department and reviewed at a special public meeting Monday, Aug. 27.

Jeff Parsons from Herrera was on hand to answer questions from the community. A collection of sand spit homeowners — concerned of the report’s influence on the shoreline master program — were also in attendance, eager to weigh in on the study.

Many of the property owners at the meeting told city officials that their homes were having no effect on the spit.

The report will be considered as the city council continues to deliberate the details of the shoreline master program.

The program will significantly regulate the island’s 53 miles of shoreline — a vast majority of which it is developed with waterfront homes.

But Point Monroe is unique compared to other waterfront properties on the island.

The spit stretches out off the north end of the island, creating a lagoon and a sandy foundation for the homes that line its edges.

The study breaks down the sand spit into four areas — outer neck, outer middle, lagoon, and the tip. It recommends specific mitigation for each section.

It noted that shoreline stabilization, such as bulkheads on the spit, have cut off the sediment supply that would normally nourish the beach.

Yet, without the bulkheads, the sandy foundation would not be stable enough for the homes.

Parsons did have one suggestion for the spit, however.

“Large amount of debris on the beach is good,” Parsons said. “It serves as a home for a large amount of invertebrates.”

Shoreline debris can also act as a natural shoreline stabilizer while allowing the exchange of sediment that the spit needs.

Another point of interest is on the inside of the spit, along the lagoon where many overwater structures such as docks have been constructed.

According to the report, these structures attract predator species, such as birds and fish, who can threaten juvenile salmon and other fish.

The study, however, notes that while the development on the spit has disturbed some habitat functions and the landscape of the spit, the “remaining natural areas of the spit are relatively stable and provide some ecological functions.”

The spit is currently listed as “non-conforming” under the proposed shoreline program under consideration. The designation has not been well-accepted by some sand spit homeowners, who fear it may harm property values.

Another concern is city codes stipulating what homeowners will be allowed to do on their own properties when it comes to remodels, construction and landscaping.

City officials, however, claim that “non-conforming” will not be stamped on their homes’ titles.

Libby Hudson from the city’s planning department told the audience at the meeting that the issue of home values, and if they could possibly be affected, is something for the city council to discuss.

The city council will continue to work its way through the details on the program update on a bi-weekly basis.

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