Why is the City reviewing and updating its Shoreline Master Program (SMP)?
The City is mandated by the State to update our Shoreline Master Program (adopted in 1996) and comply with the State’s adopted 2003 SMP Guidelines (WAC 173-26) by December 2011. This update process will result in changes to the City’s shoreline policies and regulations.
Where are we in the update process?
The Planning Commission is nearing the end of its review process and is expected to schedule a public hearing in March, 2012. The following meeting in April, the Commission will consider comments, may make changes, and then formulate their recommendation on the SMP. The Commission will transmit its recommendation to the City Council for consideration.
What are the City’s plans for public outreach and citizen involvement?
The City’s public participation plan, approved by the City Council in May 2010, provides for public meetings, workshops, open houses, and public hearings throughout the SMP update. Notice to the community will be provided when draft documents are released or presented to the Planning Commission or City Council, and for all public hearings. Public notice has been and will continue to be provided through press releases, newspaper advertisements, notices on the City’s website and through an electronic mailing list.
What groups are involved in the review and update process?
SMP Advisory Ad Hoc Committee: Two Planning Commissioners and two City Council members were appointed to provide guidance to staff on public outreach and policy direction.
Four Citizen Stakeholder Committees: Three topic-based citizen committees made up of representatives from shoreline property owner groups, environmental groups and citizens at large are working with staff to draft policies and regulations focused on specific topics: shoreline modifications, shoreline vegetation, and existing/new development. A fourth group, the SMP Task Force, consists of three members from each of the topic-based committees, and is responsible for reviewing all policies and regulations to ensure overall consistency within the program.
Citizen Committees’ Draft Recommendation on SMP Policies
The City received approximately 80 comments in response to the citizen committees’ draft goals and policies. Many of the comments received are not directed at the draft policies, but instead speak to regulations, which the citizen committees are currently reviewing.
The following sections are intended to respond broadly to some general themes in the public comments, and to clarify the City’s requirements under the Shoreline Management Act.
Have buffer widths been determined?
Under the State SMP Guidelines, the City must update shoreline buffers based on the most current, accurate and complete scientific and technical information and in consideration of land use. Current scientific information indicates that the City’s existing shoreline buffers are not sufficient to meet the shoreline protection goals. The City has compiled scientific information in two documents (City of Bainbridge Island’s Nearshore Assessment Summary of Best Available Science [Battelle, 2003] and the Addendum to Summary of Science [Herrera, 2011].
The revised policies and regulations provide for a dual-zone buffer or site-specific vegetation conservation areas, which better meet environmental protection goals, and offer incentives to provide a net-gain of ecological functions for the shoreline environment. (See Section III.B, Policy 6, page 2 of the draft policies
The buffer width recommendations developed by Herrera and reviewed by ETAC are found in the following documents:
Are single-family residences a preferred use in the shoreline jurisdiction?
Yes. Under the SMA and the City’s SMP, residential use is considered a preferred use in the shoreline jurisdiction when the use is developed in a manner that does not pollute or harm the shoreline environment. Residential use when allowed by the zoning code is a conforming use on the shoreline.
How are non-conforming structures addressed in the SMP Update?
Structures that do not conform to the current development regulations are considered “non-conforming structures.” At this time, only the policies addressing non-conforming structures have been drafted by the citizen committees. Regulations are currently being drafted by the citizen committees and staff.
The City’s current SMP allows existing structures that do not conform to current development standards to be rebuilt if they are destroyed, provided they are rebuilt in the same location. The draft policies would continue to allow existing residential structures that are accidentally destroyed (for example, by fire) to be rebuilt in the same location. Proposed policy changes would limit the redevelopment of existing non-conforming residential houses that are intentionally demolished. In such cases, non-conforming residential houses would not be required to fully meet the standards that would be applied to new development, provided there is a net improvement in the shoreline ecology of the site. (New Policy L.4, page 12 of the draft policies).
Currently, legally established structures are allowed to be repaired, maintained or expanded consistent with the SMP. As proposed, that will not change after the SMP Update.
Do the draft policies call for removing all nonconforming uses and structures?
The draft policies set a general goal to gradually phase out non-conforming uses. Nonconforming structures
will be addressed differently, based on type of structure. Under the proposed goal, residential structures should, when feasible and over time, conform to the new standards in consideration of private property rights. This would mean that after the life of the structure, redevelopment should occur in conformance with the standards to the extent possible.
Can bulkheads and shoreline armoring be installed to protect shoreline property?
The requirements for shoreline stabilization measures are among the most specific in the State SMP Guidelines, requiring that policies and regulations limit hardening of the shoreline by restricting bulkhead construction. Under the State SMP Guidelines, waterfront property owners who need to protect an existing single family residence from erosion will be allowed to install stabilization measures only if the property owner can clearly demonstrate there is an eminent threat to the primary structure, as defined by WAC 173-26-231. The approach that has the least impact on the natural shoreline will be allowed.
Recognizing that shorelines are dynamic and erosion and accretion are natural processes and crucial to beach health in the Puget Sound, and to meet the intent of the State SMP Guidelines, the draft policies discourage hard armoring of the shoreline and favor soft armoring (Section VI.A & B, pages 26-29 of the draft policies). Soft armoring stabilizes shorelines through a combination of less rigid structural materials and vegetation, incorporating large logs or appropriate vegetation and providing habitat while also serving as a natural break for waves.
Will docks be allowed?
Regulations addressing docks have not yet been drafted. The draft policies for docks provide guidance to encourage joint use of docks, limit the size to the minimum necessary, and prohibit docks in areas where there are critical physical limitations, such as shallow waters and areas of high exposure. Regulations will be consistent with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers general permit for saltwater residential overwater structure construction.
What is the status of shoreline designations?
Shoreline designations must meet the State’s SMP Guidelines and consider three principles: existing development pattern, biological and physical character of the shoreline, and goals and aspirations of the community as expressed in the comprehensive plan (WAC 173-26-211(2)(a)).
What’s the best way to stay involved?
Visit the City’s website on a regular basis, and sign up for the City’s SMP electronic mailing list to receive email notices.