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UPDATE | Councilwoman Lester responds to ethics complaint
The pair at the center of an ethics complaint prompted by controversy of the city's Shoreline Master Program said Monday the complaint is wrong in more ways than one.
Islander Tom Golan filed an ethics complaint with the city on March 12 alleging Councilwoman Debbi Lester has a conflict of interest and should not vote on the update to the city's Shoreline Master Program. Golan said Lester should step aside because she is married to local land-use attorney Ryan Vancil, and said Vancil needs "to be in the planning department's good graces to further his career."
Vancil countered that he has not worked for the city's planning department, as Golan has alleged in his complaint.
"If I understand it correctly, he is saying I've worked for the planning department. I've never worked for the city — in any capacity," Vancil said.
"Frankly, my work with the city has been to sue the city, representing individuals and organizations," Vancil said.
Lester said that the complaint is an extension of the misunderstanding within the community regarding the update to the city's Shoreline Master Program.
"For some reason there is a portrayal that this update has come from the planning department, but rather, it's come from a process with citizen committees," Lester said.
"This the culmination of all that work," she said.
Talk of the state-mandated update to the program, which works to balance development along the shore with environmental protection and public access, began on Bainbridge in late 2009.
An Environmental Technical Advisory Committee was formed, and the city's planning commission started work on the update in early 2010. New regulations were written in 2011, and council deliberations on the draft update began last year.
Some shoreline property owners — including Golan, who has been outspoken against the program — have protested buffer requirements and the use of the term "nonconforming" to describe their houses. Critics of the updated program have been lobbying the four council members who voted to designate many shoreline houses as nonconforming structures in recent weeks in an attempt to get them to change direction. The council members included Lester, Anne Blair, Kirsten Hytopoulos and Bob Scales.
City officials have early noted that some critics of the changes do not understand the regulations that are being proposed.
State officials have noted that buildings that don’t conform with the new regulations are considered grandfathered, and state code explicitly recognizes the grandfathered status.
The updated program will eventually go to the state Department of Ecology for approval.
Golon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The complaint will be reviewed by the city's Ethics Board at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 18 at Waterfront Park Community Center.
The Ethics Board reviews all complaints waged against elected officials. It has the option to ask Lester for a written response to the complaint.
It will then determine if the allegation is credible, and decide on what further action to take such as dismissing it, forwarding the issue to the city council, or drafting an advisory opinion on the matter.