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Controversial Blakely dock OK'd

The city has given final approval to the controversial Bottles dock in Blakely Harbor.

And while the Bottles are appealing conditions placed on the dock, the group that had opposed the application does not intend to appeal, meaning the south-end harbor is likely to see its first new dock in some 20 years.

“We decided to put our energy into protecting the rest of the harbor,” said Iver MacDougall of the South Bainbridge Community Association. “We had decided we are not going to intervene in this application.”

The city had previously determined that the dock could be built without adversely affecting the environment, if certain conditions were imposed.

The most recent action from city Planning Director Stephanie Warren was to approved a so-called Shoreline Substantial Development Permit, which planner Kris Morrison said will include the same conditions as the environmental approval.

The conditions include removal of the floating dock altogether for three months in the spring, and shortening the dock to the line of maximum low tide, rather than the requested length, which was sufficient to provide two feet of water at maximum low tide.

The Bottles have hired Seattle land-use lawyer Dennis Reynolds to appeal those conditions.

“We don’t think this is the final word,” Sue Bottles said Tuesday. “It’s possible for us to build the dock this way (with the conditions), but we can’t see how anybody gains.”

Bottles said, though, that the dock with conditions is better than no dock at all.

“We will definitely build a dock,” she said.

Bottles said the Army Corps of Engineers has indicated that it will give its required approval this week for the dock they wanted, without the city-imposed conditions.

“These are the people charged with enforcing the Endangered Species Act, and they don’t find any harm to the fish,” she said.

The dock

The Bottles had applied to build a floating dock with a T-float at the end at their house on Seaborn Road, on the north side of Blakely Harbor.

The dock would be made of black plastic, and would ride low in the water, minimizing the visual intrusion.

For the Bainbridge Planning Commission, which recommended against its construction, the issue was not the Bottles dock per se, but the precedent it might set.

Commissioners feared the dock could lead to a proliferation of new structures on the relatively undeveloped shores of Blakely Harbor.

“It is a pretty unique resource,” said commissioner Bill Luria, who wrote a letter to Warren on behalf of the commission. “We wanted to keep it as natural as possible.”

In the wake of the dock applications from the Bottles and another Blakely Harbor resident, the city council imposed an island-wide moratorium on dock applications.

But that could not affect the pre-existing Bottles application.

The Bottles want the dock because Kim Bottles commutes to his Seattle job by boat. They told the planning commission that they determined that docks were permitted before buying their home, and that they would not have purchased the property otherwise.

Warren was on vacation and not available for comment, but the files suggest she felt compelled to grant the application because it met all regulations actually in force at the time, although it might not have accorded with community sentiment against building new docks on Blakely Harbor.

Luria said the commission agreed the application conformed to existing rules, but took what he called a “different perspective.”

“If we were to look simply at what the ordinances and policies say, our role would be pretty limited,” he said. “We look more broadly at the intent of the community and the comprehensive plan. And although the moratorium didn’t apply, it was in the back of our minds as an expression of policy.”

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