Lake Burien Homeowners Look For Changes In Shoreline Regulations
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.
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]