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Rules may be eased for Poulsbo shoreline structures

POULSBO — After two and a half years of study and discussion, the Poulsbo Planning Commission is nearly ready to submit its second draft of the Shoreline Master Program.

In the second draft are changes to the land use table, which determines what action is or is not allowed along the shoreline of Liberty Bay.

A public hearing was held Nov. 15 evening, and although only three of the 10 or so people in the crowd testified, the commission addressed the written comments it received.

One item that drew intense discussion from the commissioners was damage to non-conforming structures. When the city’s Shoreline Master Program was created in 1976 — and has not been updated since — all structures within 200 feet of the shoreline were designated non-conforming, in that they did not comply with the updated shoreline setbacks.

And in the proposed update to the plan, structures designated non-conforming cannot be rebuilt. The example the commission used: if The Loft restaurant was damaged in a fire where 50 percent of the structure was lost, it could not be rebuilt. Keri Weaver, associate planner, said this is because the current plan is preferential to structures related to water activities or uses. A restaurant built over the water would not be preferred, according to the program.

Commissioners had a problem with this. Commissioner Stephanie Wells that those structures should be rebuilt without increasing its “footprint” — no additions or expansions. The commission also agreed that there shouldn’t be a limit on the damage for a non-conforming structure to be able to be rebuilt.

“Fifty percent is not enough, 50 percent is catastrophic,” Wells said.

Weaver said they may hit a problem with the state’s standards, as the state is who sets the definition for a non-conforming structure and non-conforming use. Also, changing the damage percentage would technically be reversing what was set in the 1970s.

“The problem is when you do something that appears to have less protection [of the shoreline], you have to justify that [with science],” she said. By challenging the definition of a non-conforming structure, “it negates the value of setting a buffer,” Weaver added later. “There will probably be a push back from [the Department of] Ecology on that.” The commission voted to make the changes and let the council decide.

“Having a healthy, good clean bay makes sense, but it’s not only ecology that matters,” said Chairman Ray Stevens — the shoreline must also maintain Poulsbo’s cultural heritage and economic viability.

The commission also discussed commercial activities at marinas. Currently, all commercial activities require a conditional use permit, but Commissioner James Coleman pointed out it was not clear in the updated land use table where commercial activities were even allowed.

Weaver said she would clarify in the program that if a commercial activity was permitted on land, it extended to the dock and water as well. For example, she said, the Port of Poulsbo is zoned a High Intensity, where commercial activities currently require a conditional use permit, but will be permitted outright in the updated program. In addition, she said, if an activity is happening now, it will be “grandfathered” in.

So fishermen who currently sell their wares at the port’s dock, from their boat, or on land, will be able to continue. Private marinas, which are zoned residential and are recreational, will continue to require a shoreline conditional permit.

The plan is expected to be reviewed by the city council in January, and adoption in March 2012, according to Weaver. When drafting the shoreline program, the city will take three elements into consideration: public access, environmental restoration and water-dependent uses.

Planning Director Barry Berezowsky previously said the shoreline program will incorporate some of the changes made to the city’s Critical Areas Ordinances, updated in 2007.

 

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