Council Extends Consideration Of New Shoreline Plan To Sept. 20

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by Ralph Nichols

Adoption of Burien’s revised Shoreline Master Program (SMP), which was tentatively scheduled for Sept. 13 after an earlier postponement, will be delayed at least one more week.

City Council members agreed following Monday night’s (Aug. 30) public hearing to give themselves additional time in which to review staff responses to both new citizen comments and their own questions and concerns.

“I’d like time to review the comments and input of staff” before continuing the council’s discussion of the draft SMP revisions, Councilman Jack Block Jr. said at the end of public testimony.

“Then we can discuss it at the next meeting like we did the last time … then vote at the following meeting. Our citizens have taken time to come and talk with us.”

Block added that the council now owes them a full review of their comments.

The council scheduled that discussion for their next meeting on Sept. 13, beginning at 6 p.m., and rescheduled final action on the city’s SMP for a special meeting on Sept. 20.

A new matrix including the latest public comments and council recommendations for additions, deletions or clarifications will be prepared by staff in advance of the next meeting. That matrix will be posted on the city’s website when it is ready.

During their Aug. 30 discussion, Mayor Joan McGilton noted that “rather than good science, we’re talking about policy and politics. This is not a sound document.”

Block said he has “concerns about what [the state Department of] Ecology is going to with this” because it is “motivated by ‘no net loss’ and the needs of the community.

“I have to be honest with you. I don’t have a lot of confidence in the DOE,” he continued.

“It scares me that the very same people responsible” for Puget Sound water quality since the state Shoreline Management Act was enacted in 1972 “are now looking over our shoulder.

“I have real concerns about what will be handed back to our community” by Ecology. He suggested that a definition of “best science could give way to the opinion of the person who’s reading it” [the city’s SMP].

After the city council adopts its updated SMP, the document will be forwarded to Ecology for a final review, which will include the agency’s own public hearing.

Ecology then will approve Burien’s plan or return it to the city with recommendations for additional revisions.

Earlier in the discussion, Councilman Gordon Shaw focused on requirements for shoreline vegetation in the document.

“We should at least try to define how vegetation protects the ecological function of Burien’s shoreline,” Shaw said. “Is ecological function improving or declining?”

The council needs this information “to know if we need to take more restrictive action or less restrictive action” or if there are alternatives they should take.

Public testimony, which lasted almost an hour, covered the waterfront, so to speak. Points of concern, which will be included in the new matrix and discussed by the council on Sept. 13, included:

  • Amending language regulating the replacement of bulkheads to apply only to new bulkheads.
  • Applying vegetation standards only to new development that results in the removal of existing native vegetation.
  • Requiring a more site-specific process before proceeding further with requiring public access, including the protection of private property.
  • Requiring both visual and physical access to Lake Burien.
  • Restoring the 15-foot setback, inadvertently deleted earlier by the council, in addition to the 20-foot buffer around Lake Burien and urban conservancy areas (primarily Seahurst Park).
  • Less restrictive language on the vegetation shoreline homeowners can add to or remove from their property.
  • Adding prohibitions against the “stripping” of vegetation on slopes near the shoreline.

Brent Carson, an attorney representing the Burien Marine Homeowners Association, said “your job is to look at local circumstances for your city” within the broad guidelines of the Shoreline Management Act.

“You have substantial discretion to adopt changes for those circumstances” in updating the SMP, Carson told council members.

SeaTac City Councilman Rick Forschler, appearing as King County President of the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights (CAPR), cited a report that says no study has been conducted in Puget Sound lowlands to determine if buffers and setbacks actually contribute to its health.

And Sam Pace, representing the King County Association of Realtors, cautioned the council that Ecology “wants the city to do its dirty work for them” by limiting property rights in the updated shoreline regulations.

“I appreciate the restraint the council has shown” in not expanding marine shoreline buffers in developed residential areas, which “doesn’t make any sense,” Pace said.

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