Opinion

Shoreline update needs a balanced approach

Bainbridge Shoreline Homeowners representatives are grateful for the opportunity to have served on the citizens committees for the Shoreline Master Plan update.

We support the original intent of the Shoreline Management Act that was to protect the environment while protecting property rights. This is the minority position of the loyal opposition.

1. We spent eight months working on goals and policies, but were given only one month to work on regulations. There was no time for an iterative process, where once we could see what the policies or goals looked like in a regulation, they could be revisited and tweaked.

That is why we cannot support the shoreline designation map and the regulations that apply to the shoreline designations.

The Task Force vote on the shoreline designation map was evenly split because some who voted “no” would have liked to revisit and potentially change the criteria once we saw the dramatic increase in the number of homes that had been placed in the restrictive “Shoreline Residential Conservancy.”

We support criteria that results in a map that leaves most residential uses in the Shoreline Residential designation, as they are under the current SMP.

2. Other controversial votes on important issues were also split votes. Property owners represented two seats on the seven-member committees and four on the nine-member committees.

These split votes resulted in policies that would be detrimental to shoreline home ownership.

For example, we support making all single-family residences “conforming” per SB 5451, with regulations that would allow rebuilding and expansion similar to what would be allowed under the current SMP.

3. In many cases there simply was not enough time to adequately address our concerns.

For example, the Herrera Report, the scientific basis for shoreline buffer widths, came out just days before the meeting at which a decision on buffers was to be made.

There was no time for understanding the implications of the report, and we had to vote immediately. We support leaving the shoreline buffers widths where they are under the current SMP.

The no-net-loss standard can be achieved through voluntary mitigation, public shoreline restoration and mitigation banking.

4. The ETAC’s report on the science of shoreline management was not available to inform our work. The result is that a lot of decisions were based on “policy,” the planning staff’s terminology for a decision with no basis in science.

For example, we do not support the regulations for shoreline armoring (bulkheads). We support allowing bulkheads to protect existing homes while requiring mitigation for identified impacts.

5. The science that did come forth, though late in the process, is based on reports on rivers, lakes, or by minimally qualified researchers. This leaves the interpretation and use of scientific and technical information up to volunteers, staff, elected and appointed officials, most of whom have no scientific training.

We support establishing a region-wide board of qualified, Northwest-based, saltwater scientists who can review and critique any science that is used to promulgate shoreline regulations.

6. There was a sense of predetermination that major changes were needed to our current shoreline regulations.

However, since the standard is “no net loss” it would seem that analyzing the current code for what regulations are out of compliance with new DOE guidelines and/or that may be causing  a net loss of shoreline function should be identifed and changed, leaving the majority of the SMP alone.

We support taking a second look to see what of the current SMP can be retained under the new DOE guidelines and only changing what is necessary to comply.

We suggest that the Planning Commission and the City Council take time to consider how the recommended regulations will affect shoreline homeowners (80 percent of the shoreline), what their basis in science is, and how they will help to achieve the goal of the Shoreline Management Act – to balance the rights of private property ownership with protection of the environment.

Ken Sethney, Andy Mueller, Alice Tawresey and John Bomben have been Bainbridge Shoreline Homeowners representatives who served on the SMP update committees established by the City of Bainbridge Island.

 

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