Ecology takes issue with Tripp's email claims on SMP

The Department of Ecology is trying to knock down an oft-repeated missive launched by critics of Bainbridge Island's new shoreline regulations, and allegations made by email activist Gary Tripp in particular.

Opponents to proposed changes in the city's Shoreline Management Program have repeatedly claimed the city will face lawsuits from property owners if the updated regulations are adopted. The city is updating its Shoreline Management Program, or SMP, to fit with new guidelines that have been adopted by the state.

The city has been working for three years on the SMP update, and the council expects to vote on the rewritten regulations on June 12.

The Bainbridge Island City Council held its final public hearing on the SMP changes Wednesday.

A few hours before the hearing, Tripp, who is also director of the property rights group called the Bainbridge Defense Fund, sent a message to his listserv readers that repeated the  claim that the city would stand alone in any legal challenges to its updated SMP.

The email carried the headline: "SMP - News Flash - DOE Refuses to Commit to Defend SMP."

Tripp wrote that Bainbridge had "asked the DOE for a letter detailing their commitment to defend Bainbridge’s SMP."

"The DOE refused to provide a letter or to refer to any official statement of policy about the DOE’s willingness or responsibility to defend the SMP," Tripp wrote. "Message to Bainbridge: You are on your own."

On Thursday, an official with Ecology sent a letter to City Manager Doug Schulze that countered Tripp's claim.

Barbara Nightingale, a regional shoreline planner for Ecology and the agency's project manager for Bainbridge's SMP update, called the claim "misinformation."

"Please be advised that when Ecology approves a city or county's SMP, that approval is a state action," Nightingale wrote in the May 9 letter.

"Should parties appeal an SMP, it is the role of the state Attorney General's Office (ATG) to defend the state-approved master program," Nightingale continued.

"Upon Ecology's approval of the locally adopted SMP, Ecology sets and announces to all interested parties a 60-day appeal period to the Growth Management Board. If there be an appeal, the ATG will defend the state-approved SMP. There are cases and laws that reflect just that," she said.

Nightingale also dispelled the recent claim that the city had sought a letter on the topic, as Tripp had charged.

"I am also not aware of anyone in this office, including myself, as Ecology's project manager for the Bainbridge SMP update, who received a request for a letter on this topic," she wrote.

Nightingale was more blunt about Tripp's email claims in an email sent to city planning staff after his "News Flash" email was sent out. The email, also sent May 9, was obtained by the Review under a public records request.

"The city is not alone. This is a joint city & state action," she wrote. "When DOE approves the SMP it is a state action. We will and do defend the regulations from that point on."

Nightingale also said in the email that Tripp had not asked anyone in her office about who would legally defend the SMP once it was adopted.

"I know it is disturbing that someone would so blatantly misrepresent a basic fact to a list serve like this and take advantage of others' fears. However, it is not new," she said.

"As a planning commissioner for Jefferson County I saw too much of this type of behavior. I have seen people lose sleep, worry and be brought to tears in public testimony because so-and-so repeatedly made false statements on their capacity to rebuild their third-generation home should it burn down," Nightingale wrote.





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