Bainbridge's proposed shoreline rules too complex, property owners complain

A large crowd packs council chambers for the continuing discussion of the city
A large crowd packs council chambers for the continuing discussion of the city's Shoreline Master Program at Wednesday's council meeting.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

The Bainbridge Island City Council’s Wednesday meeting went from outcries at the start to yawns as the meeting lingered past midnight.

The city’s update to its Shoreline Master Program once again attracted a large number of waterfront property owners.

Their message: The program is not fair, or at least, not understandable.

“I have this 350-page document which no one understands, and I have this 185-page document which is the SMP for the city of Seattle,” said Gary Tripp, an island activist at the heart of opposition to the update.

“Which has a more complex environment, the city of Seattle or Bainbridge Island?” he asked.

Tripp argued that the update is too complex.

Others protested the manner in which property owners have been treated since the controversy over the update began.

“I never knew that property ownership was a communicable disease, that’s the way some seem to feel that it is,” said Joe Honick, who spoke about the previous night’s South Ward meeting where the Shoreline Master Program was a hot topic.

“We were told that property owners had hijacked the continuum of hearings of various committees,” Honick said.

“I am not a hijacker. I am a property owner...,” he added. “There is prejudice involved in some of this.”

But not all present agreed that the update was confusing.

“Last week I read cover to cover the SMP. I don’t find it as difficult as some people do,” said Houston Wade.

“It does have lots of technical jargon,” he added.

“I understand people’s confusion and anger, but I don’t think the intent of the Shoreline Master Program is to take property or remove access to the water. It is to try to formulate, using science, the best fit for any new development,” he said.

After nearly 90 minutes of public comment, the council had its turn to talk about the program and make a few preliminary amendments. One was to remove a provision that allowed property owners with only one buffer zone to reduce their buffer by 25 percent in order to create two buffer zones.

Another modification was allowing “essential public facilities” to increase building heights to 30 feet after a view restriction analysis was conducted.

Bainbridge can expect to hear more talk on the shoreline regulations in the weeks ahead.

The city council will address the Shoreline Master Program at a May 8 public hearing. The council hopes to adopt the program locally and hand it off to the Department of Ecology by May 22.

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