Property owners group prepares for legal fight

The city’s update to the Shoreline Master Program spent months being hammered out by the Bainbridge Island Planning Commission. Now the city council is perched on a decision on the update of its regulations for seaside development amidst heavy public criticism.

Critics of the new rules are gearing up for a fight.

Island activist Gary Tripp has been amassing support for an assault on the proposed Shoreline Master Program.

Tripp manages an island listserv for interest groups around the island, and also oversees the Bainbridge Shoreline Homeowner’s blog. In a Feb. 20 email written to his followers, Tripp asked for financial donations in order to combat the city’s work on its Shoreline Master Program.

“We need money now to place ads in the papers, send mailers, rent meeting space, hire experts and for legal representation,” Tripp wrote.

One such mailer arrived in islanders’ mailboxes over the last week.

The postcard mailed to residents advertises a meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 9 at the Eagle Harbor Church. Three attorneys have been slated to speak. Scott Roberts with the Olympia-based Freedom Foundation, a conservative think tank, is also expected to speak at the meeting.

The postcard claims that the new shoreline rules will “hurt” property owners with strict regulations and “a bizarre set of vegetation buffers that will block your view and destroy your garden.”

The mailer also encouraged people to speak out during public hearings this month and next.

Tripp did not respond to requests for comment.

Members of the island’s shoreline community have come to the council with concerns over the use of the “nonconforming” designation that will continue to be placed on structures that were built under previous and outdated regulations. City officials have said the designation won’t hurt property values.

Councilwoman Anne Blair has noted that the “conforming/nonconforming” label has been used in land-use regulations in Washington state, Kitsap County and on Bainbridge Island since 1906. She also said the city’s updates to its Shoreline Master Program in 1996 and 2006 also used the words and they were entirely appropriate for existing shoreline homes.

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