Burien City Council Dives Into Shoreline Master Program Review
Against a backdrop of requests for civility and respect â€“ and new expressions of public unease â€“ city council members took a preliminary step on May 3 toward a summer-long review of Burienâ€™s revised Shoreline Master Program.
Their discussion, which lasted over an hour, focused on the process they will employ in considering the updated shoreline plan, especially at the first formal discussion of the controversial draft scheduled for June 14.
Council members want a briefing at that meeting, which has been dubbed â€œShoreline 101,â€ on what is required of them in the review process, the regulatory issues, shoreline ecological functions, â€œno net lossâ€ of wetlands, and the legal and scientific definitions involved.
City Manager Mike Martin will submit to the council for its consideration on May 10 a refined plan for the process.
The preliminary schedule proposed by Community Development Department staff sets subsequent meetings on:
- June 21 â€“ the first of two public hearings.
- July 19 â€“ council discussion.
- Aug. 2 â€“ council discussion and direction to staff for final updates to the plan.
- Aug. 16 â€“ the second public hearing.
- Aug. 30 â€“ a special meeting for council discussion and adoption of the cityâ€™s revised Shoreline Master Program.
Property owners from cityâ€™s two regulated shoreline areas, Three Tree Point and Lake Burien, want at least one meeting for a discussion at which they can engage in dialogue with council members and not be limited in their remarks to three minutes.
But while Council members Brian Bennett, Lucy Krakowiak â€“ who would prefer two roundtable discussions â€“ and Gordon Shaw endorse the idea, Mayor Joan McGilton and Deputy Mayor Rose Clark arenâ€™t so sure.
â€œIâ€™m not a strong proponent of a public forum,â€ McGilton said. Council members need to read all the letters about the shoreline plan, submitted earlier to the Burien Planning Commission and the council, to â€œhave a good understanding of what the communityâ€™s concerns are,â€ she added.
â€œMany times the city has had public forums,â€ Clark continued. â€œOften the public treats us not as a partner but as someone to fight against â€¦ I would hope for civility and respect.â€
While she would â€œhope to come into a [forum] as friends, neighbors, with mutual respect, I am troubled that lawyers have already been hired [by shoreline property owners] as if we have motives that are not sincere,â€ Clark said. â€œI donâ€™t have any of those motives.â€
Concern over the draft shoreline plan, which was approved and submitted to the city council by the Burien Planning Commission on March 30, was evident during public comment that preceded the lawmakersâ€™ discussion.
â€œThe planning commission failed to do what they should have done,â€ said Clark Mounsey. What they did â€œwas blatant activism.â€
Don Warren said there are â€œvarious state guidelines [in the Shoreline Management Act] we wrongly used and treated as requirements.â€
And Greg Anderson suggested that the â€œresidents of the waterfront â€¦ are probably the best stewards of that waterfront. Please let the citizens help you put a good plan together.â€
Looking at the work ahead of them, which then will be reviewed by the state Department of Ecology, Shaw said, â€œI donâ€™t want us to be under the threat of doing something we donâ€™t want to do.â€
But, McGilton responded, â€œWe are the decision makers.â€
Later, Shaw added, â€œWeâ€™re not Seattle. Weâ€™re not Tacoma. We donâ€™t have industrial development on our waterfront. Weâ€™re not even Des Moines with a marina â€¦ everyone in this room agrees that protection of the shoreline is a good idea. But there is no benefit from one size fits all. That will not improve Burienâ€™s shoreline situation.â€
Shaw said he wants someone from the Master Builders Association and a real estate representative to speak to the council in addition to those who will talk about shoreline ecology.
Bennett said he wants â€œscientific experts and real estate expertsâ€ to discuss the impacts of more restrictive shoreline regulations on waterfront property owners.
And, said McGilton, â€œI hope we can get an expert from the Puget Sound Partnership. I would really like to get that perspective â€¦ lots of folks talk about individual property rights, but I want to hear from others.â€
Senior Planner David Johansen told council members that under state law, the shoreline jurisdiction extends 200 feet inland from the ordinary high water mark, and includes associated wetlands.
Major issues facing the council in adopting an updated shoreline plan for the city include public access, repair and replacement of bulkheads, alterations to native vegetation â€“ as well as non-conforming structures and buffer zones, Johansen said.
The current setback for homes and other structures along these waterfronts is 20 feet from the ordinary high water mark. The updated shoreline plan before council members proposes a new setback and buffer of 65 feet.
More than 130 homes would be classified as â€œnon-conforming,â€ which could affect property values and future additions or repairs, if that proposal is adopted.