What's up with docks?Neighbors are at odds over the first new structures on Blakely Harbor in two decades.
June 9, 2008 · Updated 4:02 PM
"For over 30 years, Bob and Rachel Smith have enjoyed the relatively uncluttered beauty of Blakely Harbor.Unlike many of the island's other shorelines, Blakely Harbor is generally free of docks - only five were counted in a 1996 survey, compared to 78 on Port Madison, 36 on Fletcher Bay and 30 on the inner side of the Point Monroe sandspit.We wish there wouldn't be any more, said Rachel Smith, or if there are, they should be reduced in size and shared.The water belongs to everybody born and unborn, she said, but as soon as you start getting docks, the water gets taken up.Kim and Sue Bottles love Blakely Harbor too. Kim commutes across Puget Sound every day by boat. And when they saw a house on Seaborn Road four years ago, they thought it would be an ideal spot to remodel a house and build a dock to sustain that lifestyle.We made the decision to buy based on the fact that a dock was a permitted use, Sue Bottles said. That was our number one priority.The visions of the Smiths and the Bottles, neighbors separated by only a few doors, are coming into conflict. The Bottles' application for a city permit to build a 100-foot dock on the north side of the harbor has ended what the Smiths call informal consensus against any new docks there - a consensus that they say has prevented the proliferation seen elsewhere.A second new dock application comes from the owner of an under-construction home on the south side of the harbor. Because of the more gradual slope of the south side, a dock needs to be longer to reach deep water - the application is for a 211-foot dock with a 36-foot T-end. It's not that the Smiths are against boating - they are boaters, and so are most of their neighbors.You don't have to have a dock to have a boat, Rachel said. Most people have floats and a skiff. You really only need a dock once in a while, if you have a disabled passenger, or if you need to work on the boat.Nor is it a matter of wanting the water all for themselves.We have a couple of dozen boats anchor in the harbor every summer weekend, and we had 75 on the Fourth of July, Bob Smith said. I think they would feel less welcome if there were more docks.Even those who do object to the Bottles' dock agree that it's as unobtrusive as a dock of its size could be. The proposal calls for a series of prefabricated floats made of a non-reflective material that will barely protrude from the water and will require no construction.We are just following the rules, and are not asking for anything special, Sue Bottles said.City ordinances limit pier or dock size to the average length of the structures on the two adjoining properties or to the distance necessary to obtain a four-foot water depth at low tide.Where there are no docks on adjoining properties, the only limit is that based on water depth, and in shallow bodies of water like the south shore of Blakely Harbor, that distance can be considerable.Iver MacDougall of the South Bainbridge Community Association, who is not a Blakely Harbor resident, says the issue goes beyond the immediate neighborhood. He says new docks would diminish the value of the new Blakely Harbor waterfront park at the head of the bay by obstructing views of downtown Seattle, particularly if docks multiply.If you have one long dock, the harbor will bristle with them, MacDougall said.He interprets the existence of the park as an expression of widespread sentiment in favor of preserving the harbor as it is.The community raised over $1 million to buy the land for a waterfront park, he said of the parkland at the head of the bay. That's a strong showing of concern and interest.Neighborhood opposition prompted the city council last month to declare a moratorium on dock applications for Blakely Harbor, which was subsequently replaced with an island-wide moratorium on dock, bulkhead and certain other shoreside construction.The moratorium will not affect the two pending Blakely Harbor dock applications, which were already in process. No decision has been made on those applications.Meanwhile, Kim Bottles uses a rowboat and a floating platform - one section of his planned dock - to reach his commuter boat each morning. And Sue Bottles says the outcome of their application is uncertain.We feel like we're caught in the middle, she said. We were told one thing, but the circumstances are changing around us, particularly with the listing of the salmon as endangered species. Nobody knows what's going to happen. "