REALTORS Concerned About Shoreline Regulations On Property Values, Rights

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by Ralph Nichols

Fourth of four parts.

The bottom-line concern of waterfront homeowners – along Puget Sound and around Lake Burien – about proposed revisions to the city’s Shoreline Master Program (SMP) is potential impacts on property values and rights.

And Sam Pace of Seattle/King County REALTORS has submitted to the Burien City Council a number of concerns his association has with the draft regulations. Similar rules could also impact residential shoreline property in other communities.

Council members discussed what they hope will be their final review of the revised shoreline regulations on Monday, Sept. 13.

If all goes as both lawmakers and city staff hope, the council will then adopt the new SMP on Sept. 27 (read our previous coverage here). After that, the document will go to the state Department of Ecology for review, including another public hearing, and final approval.

The private property defense says this right is guaranteed by the 5th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution, and the Washington State Constitution, Article I, Section 16, which provides that “[n]o private property shall be taken or damaged for public or private use without just compensation.”

This claim also holds that these protections shield, beyond accepted community zoning restrictions, private property owners from restrictions various government jurisdictions would place on uses of their land.

Writing on behalf of waterfront homeowners, Pace noted in his presentation that updated regulations impacting Burien’s Puget Sound shoreline were drafted in the absence of a complete inventory of these marine reaches.

“Lack of Burien data in the City’s Shoreline Inventory denoting degradation to shoreline functions … would likely violate state law,” Pace said.

“The City is required to ensure No Net Loss of shoreline functions from existing uses, including preferred shoreline uses such as single family homes,” but adding new protective regulations without such data “is simply untenable.”

State law doesn’t permit Burien “to merely assume continued degradation of shoreline functions below current conditions” in the absence of a complete inventory and supporting data, he continued.

This lack of information, coupled with no clear definition of “net loss,” were key factors in the council’s 4-3 vote on Aug. 16 to veto a proposal to expand the existing marine shoreline buffer from 20 feet to 50 feet plus an additional 15-foot setback.

On another issue of importance to waterfront homeowners that has also divided council members, Pace said the association was concerned with proposed limits on the repair or replacement of bulkheads serving single-family homes.

“It is important that the City not impose any new requirements on existing [bulkheads] in a way that, directly or indirectly, minimizes the existing function and utility … serving the home. Doing otherwise may have the effect of reducing the value of the home.”

Pace also suggested that Burien consider adopting “non-regulatory approaches” for protecting and enhancing shorelines, noting “the Shoreline Act is clear that … regulatory enactments are only one of the approaches the City should pursue.”

Adding that “updating the SMP is a difficult job,” he said, “It’s not one the City requested, but instead is one that was given to you by the state….

“We are very appreciative of the way the Council has been willing to immerse itself in these issues in a genuine and diligent effort to try to truly understand both the update process and the options available … given the considerable leeway afforded the City” under the state Shoreline Management Act.

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One Response to “REALTORS Concerned About Shoreline Regulations On Property Values, Rights”
  1. Lee Moyer says:

    And here is another one sided puff piece on the SMP. The proposed SMP will not take or damage anyones property. To say the constitutions prohibit restrictions, other than zoning, on property use is obviously false. We have all kinds of necessary and reasonable limits on “property rights” like building codes for public safety, restrictions on allowing pollutants to run off into the storm water system, restrictions on outdoor burning, restrictions on clutter and neglect of the property, restrictions on disturbing natural features like wetlands and waterways, etc. Trying to be “upscale”, some areas even restrict what color you can paint your house and require that you cover your roof with kindling (aka, cedar shakes).

    The inventory we were given on the citizens advisory committee listed all the reaches and used narrative and maps to depcribe land use, zoning, critical areas, shoreline jurisictions, drainage basins, coastal drift, etc. City staff also provided any additional information that we wanted. Pace’s comment that we laked an inventory on the degradation of the shoreline makes no sense.

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