Dock ban to be decided next week

The salmon will square off against the suits Wednesday, when the Bainbridge City Council must decide whether to continue a moratorium on new docks and bulkheads across the island, limit it to Blakely Harbor, or do away with the ban altogether.

The island-wide moratorium and its salmon-protection rationale might give way, especially in light of a court decision striking down the freeze.

“I haven’t made up my mind yet, but my preliminary feeling is to lift the moratorium on the rest of the island,” said City Councilman Bill Knobloch.

Interim Planning Director Larry Frazier called the matter “a policy decision,” but said that if asked, “we would probably recommend dropping the moratorium except as to Blakely Harbor.”

While he didn’t dismiss the environmental benefit of continuing the moratorium island-wide, he said that in light of the legal situation, “I’m not sure we have much choice.”

Facing the council are two alternative ordinances, one continuing the island-wide freeze on new dock and bulkhead applications in place since August 2001, and the other lifting the moratorium except for Blakely Harbor.

The moratorium was imposed to give the city time to conduct a scientific assessment of its near-shore habitat, and make whatever modifications might be necessary to its shoreline regulations to protect juvenile and spawning salmon.

It was struck down in June by Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Leonard Costello, who ruled that, unlike some land-use laws, state shoreline statutes do not provide for moratoriums. Even if shoreline moratoriums are permitted, Costello said, the city had overstepped by including low-cost docks and bulkheads, which state law declares to be unregulated.

The moratorium expires by its own terms on Sept. 1, so unless the council takes action to extend it, the appeal becomes moot.

The city decided to appeal that decision, and its attorneys have filed a unilateral notice purporting to stay the decision until the matter is settled on appeal.

That action has frustrated Katherine Kennedy, who wants to install a bulkhead to prevent further bluff erosion at her Manitou Park Boulevard home. The city has refused to accept her application three times since Costello’s decision.

She believes the city’s actions are illegal, pointing to a June case where the city of Lynnwood was told that it could not unilaterally stay a court judgment pending appeal, but had to file a motion and gain court permission.

“The city’s refusal to accept and process our application today was illegal,” she wrote in a letter sent Thursday to Frazier.

Kennedy, an attorney, said she won’t take immediate legal action. “I’ll wait to see what the city does Wednesday,” she said.

The moratorium is said to be critical to preserving Blakely Harbor as an only lightly developed shoreline. Any new dock applications would be processed under current law, which imposes substantial environmental review, but does not flatly prohibit docks in Blakely.

The council also considers an ordinance that would limit new Blakely docks, either to a public dock or to private community docks, one on each shore.

Even if the council adopts a Blakely dock ban, that measure would need to be reviewed by the state Department of Ecology, which would take several months, requiring some form of interim bar to prevent possible new applications.

Councilmember Norm Wooldridge said he was leaning towards maintaining the Blakely moratorium.

“It’s a unique area – maybe the last harbor on Puget Sound without a proliferation of docks,” he said. “We may want to keep a moratorium in place while we determine whether it’s legal or desirable to restrict further dock activity in that bay.”

* * * * *

Bainbridge Concerned Citizens hosts a discussion on the shoreline moritorium, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Aug. 26 at the Commons. Speaking will be attorney Dennis Reynolds.

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