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UPDATE | Bainbridge council passes SMP to Ecology

Some islanders turned out at city council Wednesday night to advocate the passage of the Shoreline Master Program. The Council voted 4-3 to send the document on to the Department of Ecology. - Henri Gendreau / Bainbridge Island Review
Some islanders turned out at city council Wednesday night to advocate the passage of the Shoreline Master Program. The Council voted 4-3 to send the document on to the Department of Ecology.
— image credit: Henri Gendreau / Bainbridge Island Review

The Bainbridge Island City Council approved an update to its Shoreline Master Program Wednesday night.

In a 4-3 vote, the city council sent the updated program to the Department of Ecology for review. The move puts an end to another phase in the update’s progress toward final acceptance.

Council members Bob Scales, Kirsten Hytopoulos, Anne Blair and Debbi Lester voted to send the update onward.

Council members David Ward, Steve Bonkowski and Sarah Blossom voted against sending it on.

“I don’t think that the document reflects the master goal. I don’t think the document respects no net loss,” Bonkowski said as reasons why he did not support the update to the Shoreline Master Program.

“Most of the public comment in favor of the SMP was that we need to improve the environment. I don’t disagree with that, but that is not the requirement coming from the department of Ecology,” Bonkowski said. “The DOE said that existing properties need to have no net loss, and to develop into the future you need to make sure that you are improving things.”

Ward also said he couldn’t support the program update.

“I too will not support this for a litany of reasons, but I think the nonconforming issue is the hardest for me to deal with,” Ward said, further noting that he believes any designation other than conforming will harm home values and the ability of homeowners to obtain financing.

But a majority of the council did approve of the program and held differing opinions.

“This is a very large and complicated document, and the reason for that is because it is a document that is full of compromises,” Scales said. “It would be easy to say all the things you can do and the things you can’t do, but there’s a lot of grey area in the SMP.”

Scales said that no one will get everything they want out of the program, because compromises were made.

There were only a few minor modifications to grammar and syntax made to the program Wednesday night, but it was largely passed without major alterations.

The council spent over two hours discussing the update. Some members came with alterations to the programs they would like to have seen discussed. Ward came with four changes, Blossom and Lester had one each. Bonkowski had 20 changes. All changes failed to take root with the council, except one. Bonkowski suggested wording that clarified that road end designations would not affect surrounding homes. City Shoreline Planner Ryan Ericson told the council it affected a handful of homes around Port Madison.

Ecology is now tasked with scrutinizing the program to see if it holds up to state regulations and law. The state Attorney General’s office will also go over the program to ensure that property rights are not threatened.

The Shoreline Master Program is how local jurisdictions comply with the statewide Shoreline Management Act managed by the Department of Ecology.

In the past, Ecology has sent updated programs back and forth, with cities asking for modifications and corrections to be made. Officials with Ecology have said that it is likely that such requests will be made of Bainbridge’s update, therefore, the city hasn’t seen the last of the program just yet.

Once Ecology approves the rewritten regulations, the Bainbridge rules will become part of the statewide program and officially under Ecology’s purview.

The update has spent three years making its way through review groups.

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