Kitsap County is proposing a complex buffer scheme for shoreline homes.

Where’s the science?

The county has an obligation to its citizens to protect their interests in their shoreline property while ensuring no net loss of ecological function from future development. This requires strict adherence to the law, WAC 173-26, which requires that the most current, accurate, and complete scientific or technical information available is used in decision-making, including buffer designations.

Simply rolling over a flawed, one-size-fits-all buffer policy, that employs non-scientific, precautionary-principle oversized buffers, does not meet this standard. Nor does the use of flawed studies such as the Battelle nearshore report or the Brennan Marine Riparian study.

The efforts of Dr. Don Flora and Dr. Kenneth Brooks to assemble and analyze credible shoreline and wetland science should be welcomed by the County – and used as a foundation for the SMP update. Employed properly, this approach will lead to correct, scientifically defensible decisions for buffers and other program elements.

By Bob Benze, environmental engineer. Sent on behalf of the Kitsap Alliance on May 13, 2011, to Larry M. Keeton, Director, Kitsap County Department of Community Development, et al, 619 Division Street MS-36, Port Orchard, WA 98366-4682

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2 responses to “Kitsap County is proposing a complex buffer scheme for shoreline homes.

  1. Bob,

    Under Residential development;

    “Development Standards
    1. In addition to the buffer, setback and site-specific critical area requirements provided in General Goals, Policies and Regulations, residential development shall be subject to the standards provided in Title 16 KCC Zoning, for bulk, height and density requirements.”

    I have two concerns:

    First, the 85 foot “average setback” of residences in Kitsap includes many which are located on bluffs and suffer from a natural artificial setback. Homes down along the beach have a much smaller average setback. There should be a calculation of average setback of low/no bank homes. This is a much more realistic representation of actual conditions.

    Be careful of DCD inserting a 15 foot “setback” in addition to the buffer. In the CAO this artificiality is commonly inserted “so construction equipment doesn’t disturb the buffer”. It’s a very weak argument. Natural vegetation re-grows around here so fast, in a year or two all evidence is erased.

    DCD is slippery when it comes to terminology. What’s a “buffer” and what’s a “setback”?

    Again, no proof of harm has been offered, so the buffer is arbitrary and capricious. This is prohibited by State law and the County is actually accomplishing an unjustified regulatory taking.

    As you so well stated, “No let loss” and “functions and values” have not been defined, so there is no valid criteria for these regulations.

  2. Mike,

    You were not at the meeting with the the organization’s attorney last week when he asked what Kitsap Alliance’s position on buffers was — and I answered that we knew of no additional information or science that would justify anything more than the original 35 foot setbacks — and that was our firm position. Indeed, we have given the county studies that show that buffers are not needed to protect the nearshore habitat from shoreline residential development.

    There may be special circumstances that require greater setbacks, such as bluff conditions, but they should be site-specific. So, unless the county can show, using “the most current, accurate, and complete scientific or technical information available” that buffers are needed to “separate incompatible uses from (critical saltwater) habitats”, they have no justification, under the guidelines of WAC 173-26, to require any saltwater shoreline buffers whatsoever.

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