Lake Burien Homeowners Look For Changes In Shoreline Regulations

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by Ralph Nichols

Third of four parts.

Much of the recent comment on proposed revisions to Burien’s Shoreline Master Program (SMP), by city council members and the public alike, has focused on developed residential property along Puget Sound.

But homeowners around Lake Burien, who will also be affected by the updated SMP, have not been silent. And their concerns go beyond the controversial question of public access to the lake.

Burien City Council members have scheduled what they hope will be their final discussion on the revised shoreline regulations for Monday, Sept. 13, beginning at 6 p.m. – an hour earlier than usual.

If all goes as both lawmakers and city staff hope, the council will then adopt the new SMP on Sept. 20. After that, the document will go to the state Department of Ecology for review, including another public hearing, and final approval.

The current SMP draft “is greatly improved due to the council’s conscientious research, consideration and hard work. We are thankful of most all of their efforts to date,” Don Warren, Lake Steward and president of the Lake Burien Shore Club, recently told the B-Town Blog.

However, “there are numerous questions remaining that can be identified as being consequential so that proper, additional improvements to the draft SMP can be made,” Warren said.

These include determining its “likely impacts to a single family residential property owner and any major works developer [to] help us assure the document accomplishes the state’s “no net loss” [of shoreline ecological function] requirement.”

This would also assure Burien shoreline homeowners that the new standard “is not over stepped through requiring, instead of suggesting, any sorts of improvements that go beyond ‘no net loss’.”

On Aug. 16, Warren continued, the council retained the existing 20-foot buffer extending from the ordinary high-water mark – rejecting a proposed 50-foot buffer and an additional 15-foot setback for marine shoreline residential development.

“No change was expected for the lake or the urban conservancy [primarily Seahurst Park] reaches,” he said. “And yet in the draft SMP [for consideration on Aug. 30] we saw that the setback for all reaches was eliminated.”

Some shore club homeowners “strongly desire” that the 15-foot setback around Lake Burien be put back the draft SMP. Yet others “would like to see the buffers/setbacks around the lake be modified to match” what Puget Sound waterfront homeowners now have.

A sewer line that rings the lake between people’s homes and the ordinary high water mark makes it “very, very unlikely that anyone would ever build a home closer than the upland edge of the sewer easement setback” of 10 feet.

“So,” Warren added, “the choice is whether a 30-foot/15-foot, 30-foot/0-foot or 20-foot/0-foot [buffer/setback] is best for allowing people to enjoy their property and plant what they like, or build a small shed for storing toys and tools.”

A buffer/setback preference by the Lake Burien Shore Club could be submitted to the city council at Monday’s meeting.

Lake Burien homeowners have been telling council members that increased use the lake resulting from opening it to public access would threaten its water quality.

Turning his attention to the discovery in August of blooming blue green algae in the lake, occurring “even in this cool and dark summer’s conditions,” Warren said scientific studies indicate even more nutrients for the algae would be introduced to the lake through its increased use.

“Presently, the level of use of the lake is at a relatively safe maximum at this time, although it rests at a tipping point from which we must be vigilant to avoid through added nutrient loading,” he cautioned.

Lake Burien homeowners have been telling council members that increased use of Lake Burien resulting from opening it to public access would threaten its water quality.

“It is important to note that [Lake Burien Shore Club] has been active in its stewardship of the lake and surrounding neighborhoods for 60 years,” Warren said.

“The [shore club] continues that important work of assuring that the ecology of the lake continues in best possible health while balancing the interests of private property owners.”

Another concern is “various aspects of the present draft language as regards vegetation,” he noted.

“We yet wonder what projects a property owner would seek to perform, which presently seem to require removal of virtually all existing vegetation and then go on to require replacement with native species in most all of the shoreline buffer area….

“This goes beyond the no net loss requirement in the [state] Shoreline Management Act (SMA) and seeks instead an improvement which is not required under the SMA nor in the SMP guidelines. This prohibition on replacement lawns will drive an undesired outcome.”

Overwater structures – docks and floats – were limited by an Aug. 16 council vote to just one for each single family residence on Lake Burien.

Yet, Warren said after re-reading the limit in the draft SMP on overwater structures, “it now seems apparent that … this outcome is not intended by state SMP guidelines or the SMA.”

Those guidelines impose limits on structure size based on project cost, which Councilman Gordon Shaw pointed out in the Aug. 30 council session. They provide “a sufficiently limiting factor” on overwater structures, Warren argued.

Furthermore, “in shallow, warm-water lake environments, such as Lake Burien, docks actually improve habitat by mimicking shading that large overhanging trees might also provide.”

An additional concern, Warren noted, is that “single family residential [overwater structures] must use the conditional use permit process. This is unprecedented statewide. And it requires the Department of Ecology to review and approve every small overwater structure project a home owner would seek to affect.

“This should quite obviously be changed to a substantial development permit and also be allowed exemption should the project fall below the project costs suggested in the state SMP guidelines.”

Warren said the Lake Burien Shore Club hopes the city’s final SMP will not be out of line with state guidelines.

[Photos Courtesy Gregory Rehmke]

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5 Responses to “Lake Burien Homeowners Look For Changes In Shoreline Regulations”
  1. Coverofnight says:

    Oh, for the good ol’ days when regulators stayed out of one’s private property. I feel sorry for all those homeowners – having to continually battle government and their proposed regulation changes that will affect their property and homes. Isn’t a man’s home his castle where he can escape the pressures of work and a world gone crazy? Not in Burien, I guess!

  2. Lee Moyer says:

    Another puff piece for the Lake Burien NIMBYs who may have to share the public resource with the public. They have the resources to hire legal and technical help and run a well organized P R campaign to keep Lake Burien their private playground. They ride the pro environment band wagon when it suits them (e. g. docks offer shade just like trees would).

    They oppose public access under the guise of protecting the lake from invasive species but their own studies show that almost all native vegetation has been removed from the residential shoreline. Their studies also show that numerous species have been introduced into the lake, deliberately and illegallly according to the Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife. Of course, those details didn’t make it into the anti public access summaries, which is probably all most people had time to read.

    The Citizens Advisory Committee produced a very good Shoreline Master Program. It was then tweaked by the Planning Commission and sent on to the City Council. The council has been overwhelmed by one-sided input to the point where much environmental protection has been reduced. The council made sure the rights of the residents to have docks, floats and party boats will not be infringed but if the nearby apartment dweller were to come to a public access on Lake Burien, he couldn’t launch his little K-mart raft because that could damage the ecology.

    • Eaton B. Verz says:

      Lee, You hit the nail on the head!!! Well said!! I’m sure they will try but it is hard to argue against the truth. The green angle today, the criminal element tommorow. What a sham……

  3. feral dog says:

    People always want what isn`t theirs,, What I see here from all this is a group of jealous folks who feel slighted because they don`t have a lake outside their door.
    Anybody can sit here and say well, we should have access to that lake, we live in Burien also. Who gives a shit where you live, There`s angle lake not to far away, there`s star lake, long lake, lake fenwick etc.. even lake hicks. Why is everyone harassing these folks so much anyways? Because they have something you don`t and you want it? Well, maybe since you all want FREE access to the lake in the ruse of a “city park” maybe Burien should impose a lake tax on ALL Burien residents to help pay their (the residents of the lake) taxes. Oh wait, God forbid you should pay what those people pay for right? like maybe the right to a little privacy,, Leave them alone,, I don`t see them pushing to invade your serenity.

    • Eaton B. Verz says:

      C’mon Dog, The problem is they don’t OWN the lake. The public owns the lake. I’ll pay a tax to maintain Public acess to the Public lake. Don’t be so afraid of us! I promise I won’t steal your lawn chairs. SHEESSHH

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