Ecology asks to indefinitely postpone SMP public hearing

The Bainbridge Island City Council decided Monday it will not schedule a public hearing to adopt the Shoreline Master Program draft ordinance until further notice.

Officials from the state Department of Ecology informed the council in this week’s session that the hearing planned for June 2 would be a tough deadline to meet while it prepares for a potential appeal on the ordinance.

“What the Attorney General’s Office is doing is preparing for defense for the appeal,” said Barbara Nightingale of Ecology.

“In order to do that, I am receiving many questions from the Attorney General’s Office that I need to answer,” she said.

Nightingale explained that her responses are dependent on having time to review the ordinance documents.

If Ecology were to submit the ordinance in time for the June 2 hearing, it may prematurely cut off that preparation time.

Most city SMP ordinances, Nightingale said, include three types of documents from Ecology: findings and conclusions, required changes and recommended changes. Bainbridge’s includes three additional documents: Ecology’s response to public comment and two cases of records.

“I have to delve in and make answer to all this,” Nightingale said. “Some of them are simple, but some of them are not at all.”

For many cities, the findings and conclusions do not exceed five pages, she said.

Bainbridge’s findings and conclusions, on the other hand, is a 35-page document.

The response to public comment is also lengthy — a 20-page document.

“It’s up to me to tie it together, so that it’s a good, strong case,” Nightingale said.

In anticipation of having to provide further information to the Attorney General’s Office, Nightingale advised the council to hold off on scheduling a public hearing until further notice.

The council agreed it will not set a date until the city receives official notification from Ecology that approval to the ordinance is on its way.

The SMP is a state-mandated plan that regulates development along state shorelines with the goals of promoting responsible development along the coast while preserving public access to the water and protecting natural habitat and the environment.

The city council gave its OK to the rewrite of the SMP on a 4-3 vote last year after more than three years of work by the city and citizens on the plan.

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