Bainbridge Homeowners have prepared an issue paper that outlines this issues involved in the Bainbridge Island SMP update.
The City seems to believe that all of these regulations are necessary to “save the environment.” But, when the City went to find proof that shoreline homeowners are harming the environment, they couldn’t find any. So to prove that people harm the environment, they used studies from cattle feed lots and commercial crop growing where a lot of pesticides are used. According to the Constitution and the Supreme Court, to be lawful, regulations have to be rational¸ they must serve a valid purpose and they must be designed to solve an actual problem created by the owner’s use of his land.
SMP Homeowner Issues
All existing homes and gardens are zoned “nonconforming.” These nonconforming use regulations let the City take away your right to live in your home for reasons that do not make any sense. This zoning label impacts the market value of your property and your ability to sell it.
- If you leave your house for a year – even for a perfectly good reason, like caring for your elderly mother in Spokane – the City can take away your right to use your house.
- If your house burns down and it wasn’t by natural causes – that is, maybe it was an accident, like when you forget to turn off the heat under the pan on the stove – then the City won’t let you repair or rebuild your home.
- Even if your house was destroyed by natural causes, so you can rebuild, the City has all kind of unrealistic, ‘gotcha’ regulations that can trip you up and take away your right to rebuild or even to finish rebuilding your house.
If your right to use your house is taken, there is no clear-cut way set out in the SMP on how – or even if – you can ever get it back.
The SMP bans bulkheads for erosion that is “unrelated to water” or if you live on a feeder bluff. What difference does it make to you or your insurance company what type of erosion is causing your house to fall into the ocean?
If you live anywhere in the biggest SMP area – called “Residential Conservancy” – you can only have a new dock or pier if you can get a conditional use permit.
The SMP bans any new construction in three different areas – Natural, Aquatic and Priority Aquatic. In some areas, you can only build if you can get a conditional use permit. That means that not only can you not build your dream home there for retirement; it also means you probably can’t sell the land for anything like what you paid for it.
The new buffer requirements may mean that you can’t fit a house on your lot.
The SMP forces people to restore the land to its original, natural condition; this is not required by the SMA – the only thing it requires is that you repair the damage you did to the environment.
If the City decides that you are subject to the SMP’s ‘revegetation’ requirements, whether because you want to build a new house or because the City decides that you have engaged in some “change of activity” in your yard that subjects you to these provisions, the City requires that you sign over a “conservation easement” that commits your property – for all eternity – to “native” vegetation.
Your ocean view is a valuable property right that can be taken away by the SMP’s new regulations. If the City imposes its “revegetation” requirements on you, the tall trees and bushes that must be planted every 20 feet, and every 5 feet, respectively – right in front of your view – is going to take away your water view. And the vegetation canopy you have to create over 65% of the part of your lot that is closest to the water is also going to make people feel like they aren’t even on waterfront property.
The SMP regulates your existing garden and how you maintain your house, even though the State says that it cannot do this.
The SMP says that its complete re-landscaping/ “revegetation” requirements can be applied to an existing garden if there is some “change” or new “activity” in the garden. There is absolutely no explanation of what this means.