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Bainbridge council passes updated Shoreline Master Program

The Bainbridge Island City Council has given its final stamp of approval on the city's Shoreline Master Program update.

In a narrow 4-3 council vote after a public hearing this week, the council approved the Shoreline Master Program ordinance and it is now on its way to the state Department of Ecology to become law.

"I'm sorry that we are faced with voting on something that feels quite imperfect at this point, however I do have a lot of confidence in the work that's gone on for five years and the amount of effort," said Mayor Anne Blair.

"We've all learned a lot," she said.

Work began more than four years ago to update the Shoreline Master Program, or SMP, to fit with new state guidelines.

The rewrite, however, was prolonged as it made its way from the planning commission to the city council in early 2012.

Some shoreline property owners argued the regulations were unconstitutional and too restrictive and confusing.

Others said the update was lenient but still necessary to protect Puget Sound marine life.

Headway was made late last summer when the Department of Ecology addressed 20 pages of public comment and required and recommended changes to the ordinance.

The update will include the new shoreline designations map and amending goals, policies and regulations. It will also make necessary amendments to the city's comprehensive plan and municipal code.

Monday night's public hearing did not lack voices of opposition.

More than 20 citizens, many of them shoreline property owners, signed up to speak during the public hearing.

One shoreline resident and outspoken activist against the updated SMP, Linda Young, was ceded time by seven other residents.

During her 16-minute speaking time, Young said the SMP lacked true scientific study and did not consider declining property values.

State officials reviewed the SMP before this week's review by the council, and state officials rejected many of the claims made by critics. State officials cited multiple scientific studies, reports and inventories that the update used as its basis, and also noted studies that rejected the notion that the new shoreline regulations would lessen property values.

During Monday's hearing, Gary Tripp, another leader in the fight against SMP rewrite, was ceded time by one resident and told the council that a lawsuit was inevitable if the SMP was approved.

"What do homeowners want?" Tripp asked.

"They don't want to hurt their environment. They only want to preserve their view and maintain their house.

"If you take this course which is opposed to the property owners on the shoreline you are bound to be sued by multiple people," Tripp said.

Despite the comments, the council voted 4-3 to approve the ordinance.

Council members Roger Townsend, Anne Blair, Val Tollefson and Wayne Roth voted to approve the new SMP, while council members Steve Bonkowski, Sarah Blossom and Dave Ward opposed the adoption.

Once Ecology approves the ordinance and it becomes state law, Planning Director Kathy Cook said monitoring shoreline development will lie largely in the city's hands.

"A lot of what we'll be doing is on-the-ground monitoring to make sure that the mitigation that's required is provided, that it's maintained, that it thrives, and I'm speaking mostly in this case of vegetation," Cook said.

Conditions for development of shoreline properties are already built into the permit approval process.

While there is no regional monitoring program to help implement the new ordinance, Bainbridge's Shoreline Planner Ryan Ericson said the city will be looking into grant opportunities to supplement the new workload.

As for making future changes to the document, Barbara Nightingale of Ecology said that although there have been some cases where limited amendments have taken years to process, the city can anticipate a change to take less than a year.

It would depend on what kind of amendment was proposed, she added.

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