BAINBRIDGE ISLAND — A room full of disgruntled shoreline homeowners couldn’t quite sway the City Council on Wednesday night. The council narrowly voted to maintain “nonconforming” status for shoreline structures that don’t meet regulations under the new Shorelines Master Program update, despite vehement opposition from waterfront property owners. The vote was preliminary, as the draft shorelines plan is still two months away from final approval. The council also gave informal approval to special provisions for properties on the Point Monroe sand spit.
The decision over “nonconforming” status drew the most heated comments Wednesday. The council had the choice of retaining the language, as recommended by its shoreline task force and Planning Commission. Or it could have taken advantage of a recently enacted state law allowing local jurisdictions to assign a “conforming” status to buildings that don’t meet new shoreline regulations, provided they were legally permitted to begin with.
But a stream of waterfront owners told the council the word “nonconforming” carries heavy baggage. The owners are concerned the status will diminish property values, and make it harder to obtain financing and insurance. Others worried the city would use the “nonconforming” label to force them to move their buildings over time.
The council voted 4-3 to maintain the nonconforming status before adjourning at 11:30 p.m. It also asked staff to draft language allowing minor nonconforming accessory buildings to be rebuilt in their original footprints, something not allowed in the original proposal.
The decision over “nonconforming” status addressed one small element of a vast and complicated shorelines plan update. Bainbridge will continue to refine its plan over the next two months. The council will discuss the plan again March 6. Planning Director Kathy Cook said the city hopes to hold a final public hearing April 10 and finalize the plan April 24. Once approved by the council, the plan is forwarded to the state Department of Ecology for review.