Shoreline owners want answers

"County provides some, but admits to not knowing everything yet. "

“While county shoreline manager Renee Beam and Commissioner Tim Botkin were able to speak to some of the multifarious environmental regulation questions generated at a shoreline community meeting Aug. 29 in Silverdale, on others, they said they don’t yet have the answers. We’ve been very forthright in telling people what we know. We admit we don’t know everything, Botkin said. We’re trying as hard as we can to give people a chance to state their concerns. Botkin told community members who wondered why the county has to comply with state and federal governmental entities that the county cannot ignore shoreline regulations, nor can it ignore the fact that salmon have been listed as endangered. Some maintain the county has an obligation to the community to defy state and federal regulations they say infringe on their property rights. David Schumacher, who owns 100 feet of shoreline near the Hood Canal Bridge, said he fears the county will renege on its legal requirement to compensate shoreline property owners for property they can’t use. They should support the law and the Constitutional rights of people of the state of Washington, he said. You just don’t take property from people willy-nilly. Botkin has maintained the county will make good on its legal requirement to compensate property owners for undevelopable property due to shoreline restoration regulations. Schumacher conceded the regulation requirements were coming from outside the county, but added he disagreed with them wherever (they) come from. The state legislature in 1996 told the Department of Ecology to update and re-draft shoreline management guidelines. When it released the updated version, Beam said, Everybody hated them because they were so restrictive. The general feeling was they went beyond the Shoreline Management Act. The DOE went back to the drawing board. While the DOE was redrafting, the National Marine Fisheries Service listed Puget Sound Chinook and Hood Canal summer chum as endangered. As NMFS and the county worked to draft recommendations for a 4(d) exemption, the Department of Ecology emerged from the drawing board with two shoreline management proposals, Path A and Path B. A 4(d) exemption protects property owners and the county from third party lawsuits accusing them of harming salmon habitat. NMFS officials had advised the county to wait and see what the DOE’s shoreline proposals would be before continuing with federal salmon habitat restoration recommendations, Botkin said. Commissioners stated they will not choose Path B, which would require across-the-board, 100-foot buffers from the high-water mark of all 190 miles of county shoreline. Path B also includes restrictions on how much shoreline property owners can re-build or add onto existing structures. At several of the shoreline meetings, property owners asked Beam if the regulations would allow them to re-build their homes in the event of a disaster, like a fire. Current county codes allow property owners to re-build up to 120 percent of a single-family residence in the same place unless more than 75 percent of the fair market value of the home is destroyed. If more than 75 percent is destroyed, property owners are required by the state Shorelines Management Act to acquire a new building permit under current shoreline regulations. Remodels of existing houses within 50 feet of the shoreline currently can add up to 20 percent along the front line or back, though they can’t be built out any closer to the shoreline. Botkin said he would vote to keep the regulations under Path B as close to the way they are currently as possible. Path A allows the county to develop its own shoreline management strategy, which could include having property owners get site-specific environmental impact assessments prior to receiving a building permit. Beam said the county is currently about 99 percent complete with Path A following a re-write of the master program in 1999. While many have said they don’t want the restrictiveness of Path B, they also argue Path A is too vague, and doesn’t offer adequate answers to complex scenarios. Existing structures along shoreline would be grandfathered into any shoreline management regulation plan. Botkin agreed the shoreline management is complex. Distinguishing between state and federal (regulations) is a pain. NMFS doesn’t give guidance, it just says (what) it doesn’t like, he said. County administrators have emphasized that no course of action has yet been decided under Path A. The public meetings will continue heading south through shoreline communities through Sept. 16. The next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 6 at the Manchester Library, 8067 E. Main St. in Manchester. “