In June, former City Councilmember Bill Knobloch sent a letter to Bainbridge Island shoreline property owners that starts out with an apology: Knobloch says in the letter that he’s sorry he wasn’t still on Council last year because, if he had been, the Shoreline Master Program (SMP) wouldn’t have passed. He writes, “I’m sorry I wasn’t still on the Council to protect you, your family and your rights, and for that I ask your forgiveness.”
Knobloch then goes on to call the SMP “a travesty” and warns property owners that, among other things, it gives the Planning Department “police powers” and requires people to apply to the City for permission to play badminton on their property or to weed.
At the end of the letter, Knobloch makes a fundraising pitch for Preserve Reasonable Shoreline Management, IRS Tax ID 47-1869162. In the letter he never directly says what the money would be used for, but he does say that the finding for the City in the recent appeal to the Growth Management Hearings Board over the SMP was expected. He explains that GMHB is “biased toward state and local government,” and “the major issues are Constitutional—we believe the SMP violates both the State and Federal Constitutions—and the GMHB cannot rule on constitutional issues.”
Knobloch says that “the law tells us that we have to go through the GMHB first, before we can go to the Superior Court. We did, and now we’re ready to take it to the Superior Court—the Supreme Court if we have to.”
He concludes the letter by saying, “We’re ready to go to war for you; all we need is a little help.”
We contacted the City to get their responses to the specific allegations in Knobloch’s letter. The City addressed each one in writing. We present the allegations paired with the responses and applicable sections of the SMP (when possible—some sections are too long to include here) below:
Knobloch: “They can now fine you $500 for each and every day you fail to get City approval for everyday activities.” Up to 30 days jail time could be given for repeat offenses.
- City: “There are enforcement provisions in the SMP that allow the City to fine individuals who fail to comply with regulations. Enforcement provisions are not applicable to everyday activities, such as watering, weeding, or badminton. The enforcement provisions are consistent with the authority provided to the City in the Washington State Shoreline Management Act. However, it is City policy that staff first work with individuals to come into voluntary compliance. A fine would only be issued if an individual failed to comply after working with City staff.”
Knobloch: You need City pre-approval to trim a tree or cut down blackberries inside a buffer.
- City: “Vegetation management standards do not apply retroactively to existing lawfully established uses and developments, including maintenance of existing residential landscaping, such as lawns and gardens. In short, you do not need pre-approval to trim back blackberries that you’ve been regularly maintaining. Property owners are strongly encouraged to voluntarily improve shoreline vegetation conditions over the long term.”
Knobloch: You need City pre-approval to have a party within the 200 feet shoreline jurisdiction.
- City: “You do not need City approval to have a party within the 200-foot shoreline jurisdiction.”
Knobloch: You need City pre-approval to play badminton within the 200 feet shoreline jurisdiction.
- City: “You do not need City approval to play badminton, bocce, croquet, volleyball, or any other yard game in the 200-foot shoreline jurisdiction.”
Knobloch: You need City pre-approval to remove any vegetation or part of vegetation within the 200 feet shoreline jurisdiction. This includes weeding.
- City: “Maintenance of existing residential landscaping is not regulated by the SMP. This includes weeding.”
- SMP: “For extensive clearing and grading proposals, a clearing and grading plan addressing native species removal, erosion and sedimentation control, and protection of sensitive area native vegetation zones should be required.”
Knobloch: When you get a permit to take down a dead tree, you must leave the dead tree in your yard and you must replace the tree with one from the City-approved list.
- City: “Unless it remains as a wildlife snag, a dead tree that is taken down within the shoreline jurisdiction must be retained on site to provide or enhance wildlife or marine habitat. The City does not have an approved list of replacement trees but does offer a list of recommended plants for mitigation and revegetation.”
Knobloch: You need permission to prune your trees.
- City: “There are provisions within the SMP that allow for pruning without permission. Vegetation management standards do not apply to maintenance of existing residential landscaping. Maintenance trimming of vegetation that has a main stem or supporting structure less than three inches in diameter, except for tree topping, is specifically exempt from vegetation management standards. Minor pruning within the shoreline buffer, including thinning of branches to enhance views, is allowed with a clearing permit. A clearing permit can be obtained for no cost, and in most cases over-the-counter, from the Department of Planning and Community Development at City Hall.”
Knobloch: Docks are “virtually prohibited in Priority Aquatic ‘near’ Natural Conservancy areas.”
- City: “Overwater structures, including docks, are prohibited in areas where critical ecological and/or physical limitations exist to avoid adverse impacts to shoreline ecological functions and ecosystem-wide processes. Docks are allowed in the Priority Aquatic B designation if salt marsh vegetation does not exist. The Natural shoreline designation is comprised of only .01 percent of the island’s shoreline parcels. If you need assistance in determining your shoreline designation, call the Planning Department at (206) 842-2552.”
- SMP: “Boating facilities are prohibited in the Natural, Conservancy, and Aquatic Conservancy environments. Boating facilities shall be permitted in the Aquatic environment if permitted in the adjacent upland environment, allowed as a conditional use if so allowed in the adjacent upland environment, and prohibited if prohibited in the adjacent upland environment.”
Knobloch: The stated goal of the SMP is to phase out all single-family docks over time.
- City: “There is no stated goal in the SMP to phase out all single-family docks over time. The regulations in the SMP, not the goals or policies, are part of the City’s development regulations. The goals are not regulations in themselves and, therefore, do not impose requirements beyond those set forth in the regulations. The Cumulative Impacts Analysis completed for the SMP determined that a total of 155 new docks could be constructed within the City’s shoreline jurisdiction based on existing site conditions and SMP provisions that limit areas where docks may be constructed.”
- SMP: “It is the intent of this program to manage the shorelines of Bainbridge Island, giving preference to water-dependent and water-related uses and to encourage development and other activities to co-exist in harmony with the natural conditions. Uses that result in long-term over short-term benefits are preferred, as are uses which promote sustainable development.”
Knobloch: “Bulkhead repair is now severely restricted and limited to 50% repair every five years.”
- City: “Damaged structural stabilization may be repaired up to fifty percent (50 percent) of the linear length within a five year period. A repair area that exceeds 50 percent is considered a replacement and falls under applicable regulations.”
- SMP: “The Shoreline Management Act exempts from the substantial development permit (SSFP) process the construction or repair of a normal, protective revetment or bulkhead when it is necessary to protect an existing single-family residence.”
Knobloch: “The written intent of the SMP is to phase out all homes and docks on the shoreline over time.”
- City: “This is false. The stated overarching goal of the SMP is to ‘ensure that future use and development of the City’s shoreline maintain a balance between competing uses, results in no net loss of shoreline ecological functions, and achieve a net ecosystem improvement over time.'”
Knobloch: “The SMP now forbids the use of motor boats in ‘mud flat areas’ including Fletcher Bay, Eagle Harbor, Port Madison, Point Monroe, and Blakely Harbor.”
- City: “The use of motor boats is not forbidden in Fletcher Bay, Eagle Harbor, Port Madison, Point Monroe, or Blakely Harbor.”
Knobloch: “Virtually every home along the shore is now ‘non-conforming’ and you will have to disclose that to potential buyers. Many lenders won’t lend on a ‘non-conforming’ home.”
- City: “Single-family residential development is a permitted use in every shoreline designation except Natural. Existing shoreline homes that were legally established but that do not meet the present regulations or standards of the SMP are allowed to remain in place and may be repaired, maintained, and remodeled and, in some cases, expanded.”
Knobloch: “You will now need to disclose that any new structure cannot exceed 25% of the existing footprint.”
- City: “Enlargement or expansion of an existing primary residential structure within the shoreline buffer cannot exceed 25 percent of the existing building footprint. Increases in building footprint outside the shoreline buffer are allowed even if all or a portion of the existing footprint is within the shoreline buffer.”
Knobloch: “If your home is unoccupied for 12 months in a row, you forfeit the right to live in that house.”
- City: “This is false. Living in your home is a residential use. Single-family residential use is a permitted use in all shoreline designations except Natural. You do not forfeit the right to live in your house if it is unoccupied 12 months in a row or for any amount of time. A non-conforming use is one that is not permitted in the underlying shoreline designation. For example, a commercial amusement facility is not permitted in the Island Conservancy designation. As a non-conforming use, the commercial facility would be allowed to remain until such time the use is discontinued for 12 consecutive months.”
The City reports that since the effective date of the new SMP (July 30, 2014), more than 50 shoreline permits have been submitted and nearly 30 issued. Community Engagement Specialist Kellie Stickney wanted to share that “City staff is developing a comprehensive ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ based on our experience over the last year to provide information and guidance and answer the questions we hear most. City staff is available during counter hours or by phone or e-mail to answer any questions from the public on how the SMP might impact their property.”
If you have questions about how the SMP impacts your property or potential project, Stickney encourages you to contact Christy Carr, Associate Planner, at (206) 780-3719, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or in-person at the City Hall Planning Counter (Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., and Wednesday and Thursday, 8 a.m.-12 p.m.).
Feel like tackling your own research into the meaning of the SMP? The whole whopping 400-page document can be found here. Enjoy.
- Legal Challenge Against City Over SMP Fails
- Council Settles for Medium-Level Monitoring of Shoreline “Net Loss”
- Shoreline Property Owners Secede from Bainbridge, Incorporate as “Vista City”
- More Than 150 Shoreline Owners March on City Hall in Protest, Confront Council
- A Second Coalition Files Petition for Review of SMP, This One About Aquaculture
- Islanders File Petition for Review of SMP
- Aquaculture Arrives on Bainbridge: Potential Environmental Disaster or Economic Boon?
- Beware of Clamzilla! Clamming Prohibited into Perpetuity at Fay Bainbridge Park
- Council Approves SMP, Waterfront Property Rights Activist Talks About Suing
- DOE Issues SMP Changes & Responses to Last Summer’s Public Comments
- Climate Change on Bainbridge: We’re Talking Wyckoff, Visconsi, SMP & Waterfront Park
- Letter to the Editor: The Facts About the SMP
- Letter to the Editor: SMP Complicated by Misinformation
- The SMP Saga Ends (at Least for Now) with Council Approval of Update
- SMP-Related Ethics Complaint Against Councilmember Reviewed at Meeting
- City Council Jive Talkin': The Utilities and SMP Hustle
- Knobloch Accused of Being Behind Inflammatory Memo Calling City Staff Liars
- City Employee Charged with Unethical Conduct Is Cleared
- Bauer Is Out; Scuffle Erupts at City Council Meeting
- City to Pay Officer for 2011 Suspension and to Pay Related Legal and Arbitration Fees
- Police Chief Suspends Officer for Surveilling City Councilmember
Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region.