One Man’s view on Bainbridge Island SMP

Hello to my Neighborhood friends,

This is a personal statement of concern about the November COBI City Council member races.

You may have read/heard platform/issue statements by candidates that address the COBI SMP (Shoreline Management Program), and I encourage you to pay close attention to them. I am aware that Arlene Buetow, Dick Haugen and Dee McComb have all clearly expressed concerns and objections to some or many of the SMP provisions, and a desire to modify or rescind them. Of the other candidates, so far I’ve read endorsements that variously say they are good candidates or nice people but without addressing this particular issue at hand. So I encourage you to seek out their stances in order to see how they correlate with yours on this important matter.

The Bainbridge Review has chosen to tar-and-feather critics of the SMP by citing individual remarks they characterize as being radical or intemperate, including suggestion of a “Nazi” fetish because one writer had related to Nazism the despotic manner in which COBI planners are tasked to make judgments about approved/disapproved activities on waterfront property in the absence of specific governing law.

Regarding the SMP itself, I would note that it imposes a large number of restrictions, hired professional opinion, permits or approval requirements on the use of waterfront property, such as for activities, modifications, additions and removals – all with regard to vegetation, structures, (e.g., play) equipment or installations, and human or animal activities. While meeting the imposed conditions may be costly or seem harassing, some of them would appear to cross the line of individual liberties or property rights – as cited in concerns addressed by many citizens to COBI or the State. Those issues are far too much in abundance for me to comment on here.

Rather, I will only cite some provisions that threaten the actual loss of the landowner’s use of his property for a residence, while generously allowing use as a nature preserve.

Comment A: The SMP takes away a homeowner’s right to use his existing nonconforming home (e.g., within setback zone required of new construction by the new SMP) if he leaves it unoccupied for 12 consecutive months. For instance, if an accident or infirmity of some sort causes the “homeowner” to be displaced to a hospital or relative’s care while leaving the home unoccupied for that long, then he would lose the home unless it can be made conforming – such as by moving it a sufficient distance from the water. SMP 4.2.1.5.2{controlling 2013 Final Draft COBI SMP provision}

4.2.1.5 Regulations – Nonconforming Uses

1. Nonconforming uses shall not be altered or expanded in any way that increases the nonconformity.

1. If a nonconforming use is discontinued for twelve (12) consecutive months, any subsequent use shall be conforming; except that if a nonconforming use is operated within a nonconforming structure that is accidently damaged or destroyed and reconstruction is proposed under Section 4.2.1.6.1(3), then the use may be re-established within the same time period as the reconstruction for the nonconforming structure pursuant to Section 4.2.1.4(2)

Comment B: The SMP refuses to let a homeowner repair or rebuild his house if it is damaged or destroyed by something other than “natural causes” (i.e., accidentally). SMP 1.3.5 {controlling 2013 Final Draft COBI SMP provision}

1.3.5 Applicability of Bainbridge Island Shoreline Master Program

1. The provisions of the Program apply to new development and activities and are not retroactive. All existing legally constructed single-family residences and accessory structures, including lawns, landscaping and recreation areas, which do not meet the adopted standards of this Shoreline Master Program are allowed to continue, and may be maintained, repaired, and remodeled if destroyed or damaged by natural causes as provided in Section 4.2.1 Nonconforming Uses, Nonconforming Lots, and Existing Development.

Comment C: If the owner of an existing home, seriously damaged in a natural disaster, cannot repair it within one year of construction start, the City takes his right to ever use the house again. SMP 4.2.1.4.2 {controlling 2013 Final Draft COBI SMP provision}

4.2.1.4 Regulations – General

1. Nonconforming uses and developments and/or existing buildings and structures that were lawfully constructed or existed prior to the effective date of initial adoption of this Program (November 26, 1996), or its amendments, but which do not meet the specific standards of this Program, may be continued subject to the provisions of this section; provided that shoreline modifications shall conform to Section 6.1, General Shoreline Modification Provisions, and Section 6.2, Shoreline Stabilization.

1. A complete application for any reconstruction under this section must be submitted within two (2) years of the date of damage or removal, and upon approval of the application, redevelopment must be completed within one (1) year of the commencement of reconstruction. A one (1) year extension may be granted, provided that a written request is submitted no later than twenty-one (21) days prior to either deadline and provided that the owner is not responsible for the delay.

Comment D: While the above-cited Regulations do serve the perhaps honorable SMP goal quoted below, they are unduly harsh and would deprive the private property owner of his asset without compensation in order to meet the desired outcome of the governing body. By definition, that is in the nature of ‘despotism’. {controlling 2013 Final Draft COBI SMP provision}

4.2.1.2 Goal

It is the purpose of this program to recognize legally established primary residential structures, and to allow them to be maintained, repaired, remodeled, replaced and in some cases expanded in conformance with these rules. Residential structures that do not conform to this program should, over time, as the owner proposes changes to the structure, conform as completely as possible to this program, with due regard to unique site conditions and property rights.

It is further the purpose of this program to ultimately, over time, have uses and commercial structures conform to the provisions of this program. Over time, uses and commercial structures that do not conform to the standards of this program should be phased out as uses cease or redevelopment of structures occurs.

Note: Existing structures and uses that do not conform to this Program are not required to meet its requirements, unless the owner proposes changes to a structure or use that would require review under this Program.

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