Shoreline plan taking shape; City Council review Feb. 8

POULSBO -- While the Poulsbo City Council took a crack at the draft Shoreline Master Program on Jan. 11, they asked for direction from planners before they discuss it again Feb. 8.

The council did, however, discuss the reason behind the updates and what sections are priorities to them — particularly, how to treat existing waterfront buildings that would be non-conforming under updated rules.

The Shoreline Master Program's purpose is first to protect and preserve the ecological function of an area’s shoreline. Poulsbo’s shoreline includes Liberty Bay within the city limits, Dogfish Creek, and 200 feet (from the ordinary high-water mark) upland from the bay and Dogfish Creek.

The second function of the Shoreline Master Program, or SMP, is to regulate water-oriented uses. This includes water-dependent uses, which are adjacent to or in the water, such as marina boat slips; water-related uses, which are not in or on the water but need to be close for economic viability, such as kayak rental shops; and water-enjoyment uses, which promote or enhance public ability to access or view the shoreline.

As members of the council pointed out, the majority of businesses along Liberty Bay are downtown and are not water-oriented, and are therefore classified as non-conforming uses. The new SMP will restrict new development of non-conforming uses, but will grandfather in current uses and buildings. That means, if a waterfront building was destroyed by fire, it could be rebullt to its current specifications.

Associate Planner Keri Weaver, who began drafting the SMP two years ago, said the city wanted it to be clear that all uses now will be allowed under the new SMP.

Planning Director Barry Berezowsky emphasized to the council, and the public, that there would be no new major changes to the rules of existing structures along Poulsbo’s waterfront. In fact, the new SMP rules are often less restrictive to changes than current rules.

The two areas along Liberty Bay that most concern the council are the downtown waterfront and Liberty Bay Auto Center at the head of the bay; those areas are known as high-intensity areas. Council members Ed Stern and Linda Berry-Maraist expressed concern for current and future use at the head of Liberty Bay, where Liberty Bay Auto Center sits.

“I don’t think there is a worse use for the waterfront than a parking lot for cars,” she said.

But instead of restricting the future development to only preserve ecological function, Stern agreed with Berry-Maraist about allowing some flexibility.

“A great deal of the head [of the bay] is not water-related, but mud related,” he said. Structural changes can be found under the Commercial Land Use and Nonconforming Shoreline Uses sections of the SMP, which is available online.

Weaver said staff members will color-code the document to show the council where the wiggle room is for change. The council is tentatively set to review the draft again on Feb. 8. The city is required to submit an updated SMP to the Department of Ecology for approval by the end of the year.


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