Bremerton SMP Update: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The City of Bremerton is in the final stages of drafting their Shoreline Master Program. The next SMP meeting before the Planning Commission will discuss of “nonconforming status” for existing, lawfully built homes and House Bill 5451. It is scheduled for  5:30 PM on March 20 2012 in the Norm Dicks Building 345 6th Street, Main level Conference Room.

The Bremerton Planning Commission has scheduled a hearing to accept public testimony on the entire Draft SMP Update at  5:30 PM on April 17 2012 in the Norm Dicks Building 345 6th Street, Main level Conference Room.

The Good: 

1. Variable Buffers: Bremerton has established a system of variable buffers depending on lot depth for residential properties, allowing smaller buffers on smaller properties.

  • Lot depth less than 125 feet  5 foot Setback  20% of lot depth Buffer
  • Lot depth 125’ to 199’           10 foot Setback  20% of lot depth Buffer
  • Lot depth  greater than 200’  15 foot setback  30% of lot depth Buffer
  • Minimum Buffer 10 feet
  • Maximum Buffer 100 feet

2. Buffer Averaging: Bremerton has established a concept of buffer averaging allowing the director to modify the buffer and setbacks required for existing single family lots under separate ownership provided:

  • Sixty (60%) percent or more of like structures along the shoreline within 500’ on both sides of the subject property are setback less than the required buffer/setback required by the SMP. The average of the current setback of said structures may be implemented as a modified buffer for the proposal, provided that;
  • A minimum of 10’ buffer is required and must be vegetated per the vegetation management plan requirements.
  • A 5’ setback is required from the buffer.

3. Current residences: In the absence of a development proposal requiring a permit, existing landscaping and gardens within the buffer may be maintained in their existing condition including but not limited to, mowing lawns, weeding, removal of noxious and invasive species, harvesting and replanting of garden crops, pruning and replacement planting of ornamental vegetation or indigenous native species to maintain the condition and appearance of such areas as they existed prior to adoption of this code.

  • Minor renovations may not require a vegetation plan
  • Remodeling within the same footprint will not require a vegetation plan.

The Bad:

1. Buffers: The concept of a variable buffer has no basis in science. Vegetative buffers require a set distance to be effective in their stated purpose. If 10 feet is adequate for one residential buffer there is little justification why 100 feet is needed for a deeper lot. WAC-173-26-221 requires “In establishing vegetation conservation regulations, local governments must use available scientific and technical information” See attached critique of the buffer science in the Department of Ecology Guidelines. Dr Flora comments on DOE Buffer science

2. Vegetation Management: The county is dedicated to establishing “Quality Native Vegetation Growth” along the entire shoreline.

” A Vegetation Management Plan shall be submitted for all new development and or redevelopment within the shoreline jurisdiction. The plan shall provide for substantial enhancement of shoreline ecological functions and must provide the maximum ecological functions feasible, in accordance with the following:

  • The plan shall preserve, enhance or establish native vegetation within the entire specified Critical Area buffer. Vegetation management plans shall be prepared by a qualified professional and shall describe actions that will be implemented to ensure that buffer areas provide ecological functions equivalent to a dense native vegetation community to the maximum extent feasible.
  • The Plan must provide for planting of trees and ground cover to a sufficient density of ground cover to provide effective coverage for canopy cover and erosion control purposes throughout the buffer. The Director may allow for a portion of the trees and shrubs to be placed in natural groups to allow for view preservation and a shoreline access trail.
  • Removal of or alteration of native vegetation within the shoreline jurisdiction is strictly prohibited unless such activity is required for a permitted use or is determined to be hazardous by a qualified professional. Removal of trees greater than 6 inches in diameter at four (4) feet in height shall be replaced at a ratio of 3:1 with native species and shall be re-established within any required buffer on the project site.”

The Ugly:

1. The Vegetation Plan is Forever!

  • A financial surety (an assignment of funds or surety bond with no expiration date) that accounts for 150% of the cost of a five year maintenance and monitoring plan that ensures a survival rate of 100% for trees and 85% for all other vegetation is required. The five year maintenance and monitoring period and shall begin at the time the required native vegetation has been installed, and verified by a representative from the Department of Community Development. Monitoring shall consist of photographs taken by the applicant yearly to indicate the continued survival of the plants. Said photos shall be submitted at the end of the 5 years to the Department of Community Development for release of the financial surety.
  • Required vegetation shall be maintained over the life of the use and/or development. In order to ensure such maintenance a recorded conservation easement or a Notice to Title shall be placed on the deed of the property identifying the buffer area and required plantings so that a record of the plan is available to all future property owners. The Notice to Title shall be recorded prior to issuance of the permit.

2. Bremerton has not committed to grandfathering existing residences in accordance with HB 5451. This will be the subject of the next Planning commission Meeting on 20 March 2011.

Read details of the Bremerton Staff SMP Feb 21 2012 submission to Planning Commission.

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