Tag Archive | "SMP"

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A Second Coalition Files Petition for Review of SMP, This One About Aquaculture

Two coalitions filed different petitions for review of the Bainbridge Shoreline Master Plan on October 7. As we reported yesterday (October 8), one of these was made up primarily of Preserve Responsible Shoreline Management LLC. Their petition focused on perceived inconsistencies in the SMP, perceived violations of the RCW, and alleged undue burdens placed upon shoreline homeowners.

The other coalition to file is made up of the Bainbridge Alliance for Puget Sound (BAPS), the Association of Bainbridge Communities (ABC), and the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat. Their focus is on aquaculture, and their petition to the Growth Management Hearings Board identifies nearly three dozen issues within four primary areas of dispute with the Department of Ecology:

  • SMP aquaculture provisions forced on the city by DOE allow aquaculture on 100 percent of the Island’s tidelands, which will cause unacceptable environmental harm.
  • The allowance of aquaculture on 100 percent of the Island’s tidelands will cause unacceptable conflict with residential uses along most of the Island’s shorelands.
  • DOE lacked an adequate scientific record for the aquaculture provisions it forced on the city.
  • DOE acted beyond its authority in overriding the SMP aquaculture provisions Bainbridge had developed through an extensive public and scientific review process.

Coalition members argue that the plan submitted to Ecology “restricted various types of aquaculture from miles of the more fragile shorelines (on 61 percent of the island).” The petitioners complain that “At the end of the process, the Department of Ecology required the City to open almost 100 percent of its shorelines to intensive aquaculture.”

Maradel Gale, a member of the Bainbridge Alliance for Puget Sound, explained that, given DOE’s actions, “We have no alternative but to act to protect the shoreline environment, meet the SMA (Shoreline Management Act) mandate of “no net loss,” and ensure the public’s right to the use of our public waters.”

Laura Hendricks of the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat described some of the impacts of industrial aquaculture already evident in the South Sound:

  • Plastic marine debris (40,000+ PVC tubes per acre, canopy netting, and plastic oyster bags).
  • Removal of aquatic life such as sand dollars, seastars, crabs, moon snails, cockles.
  • Restrictions on public use of public waters for recreation such as kayaking and swimming.
  • Disruption of birds, aquatic life, and residential enjoyment of property from the noise and light of industrial geoduck operations.
  • Degradation of habitat and aquatic vegetation for salmon and forage fish.

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Aquaculture Arrives on Bainbridge: Potential Environmental Disaster or Economic Boon?

Now that the Shoreline Master Plan has been approved by the Department of Ecology, Bainbridge Island is open for offshore aquaculture, or fish and shellfish farming. The first and so far only applicant, a community shellfish farm project of the Puget Sound restoration Fund, was submitted and approved back in 2009 and subsequently received its conditional use permit. There has been no applicant since the recent passage of the SMP. What does this beginning signify for Bainbridge?

Background

The Bainbridge Island Shoreline Master Plan, when submitted to the Department of Ecology for review earlier this year, contained the following text about aquaculture:

Prohibit aquaculture where it would result in a net loss of shoreline ecological functions; adversely affect the quality or extent of habitat for native species including eelgrass, kelp, and other macroalgae; adversely impact City and state critical habitat areas and other habitat conservation areas.

Ecology, whose stated mission is “to protect, preserve, and enhance Washington’s environment and to promote the wise management of our air, land, and water for the benefit of current and future generations,” asked that it be deleted, and it was. Why would an organization with such a mission want to delete the prohibition of an activity when and where it could harm the environment?

The answer lies partly in the Washington Shellfish Initiative, which was introduced by former Governor Christine Gregoire. The initiative is a merger of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Shellfish Initiative and the State’s “interest in promoting a critical clean water industry.” Aquaculture was described by the Initiative as a way to protect the health of the Sound and create jobs and revenue for the State.

Governor Inslee has echoed that view of aquaculture. In a response today to a request for comment, he said, about the potential for individually tailoring aquaculture to each community, “This is one reason our office is working to advance the goals of the Washington Shellfish Initiative. The initiative recognizes the importance of shellfish to Washington State—the economic benefits of a strong shellfish industry and the environmental benefits that come with responsible aquaculture. Improving water quality and addressing ocean acidification are two key parts of the Initiative.”

Negative Reports

But the current reality doesn’t sound quite as good. Negative reports, some of which are being shared tonight with the Bainbridge City Council, have been emerging from the South Sound where shellfish farming companies conduct their fish farming operations on beachfront leased from property owners. Some of these property owners are voicing their concerns, and regrets, just in time for Bainbridge Islanders to determine if this is something we want here and what we want it to look like.

For example, the President of the Case Inlet Shoreline Association in Vaughn, Washington, alleges that “Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has turned a blind eye while Taylor [Shellfish Farms] has been illegally farming on state owned land, a minimum of 16 acres in Totten Inlet, without a lease for over 10 years.”

The Association for the Protection of Hammersley, Eld and Totten Inlets, APHETI, monitors Aquaculture in the South Sound and maintains a website with an Inlet Watch page featuring the negative consequences of aquaculture.

The Coalition to Protect Puget Sound has strong words about the Shellfish Initiative: “Washington tidelands are under covert attack by the shellfish industry as they implement the industry created State Shellfish Initiative supported by Governor Inslee.”

The nonprofit Protect Our Shoreline supports “a requirement of peer reviewed science and environmental impact study evaluation prior to shellfish aquaculture.

Oyster

Oyster nets

What Is Offshore Aquaculture?

First, it’s important to understand the elements of open ocean or offshore aquaculture. Farmers build solid-frame cages or even floating, partly submerged netting systems offshore. The fish are raised inside.

For geoduck farming, PVC tubes are pushed into the sandy substrate of a beach’s intertidal zone. Four to five juvenile geoducks are planted in each one. Netting is placed over the tubes to prevent predation.

The farmers put up signage along the beach to prevent trespassing. Often, plastic fencing is used to keep people off the beach.

When the geoducks are well established, after a couple of seasons, the tubes are removed. After about five to seven years, when it’s time for harvesting, workers loosen the substrate around them with water shot from a high-pressure hose and nozzle.

What Are the Implications of Offshore Aquaculture?

A report prepared for the Pew Oceans Commission titled “Marine Aquaculture in the United States: Environmental Impacts and Policy Options” offers what seems to be a balanced and impartial analysis of the effects of this industry. The conclusion reached by the authors is that “Aquaculture has a number of economic and other benefits. But if it is done without adequate environmental safeguards it can cause environmental degradation.”

The report refers specifically to five potential dangers:

1. Biological Pollution. The report finds that “Fish that escape from aquaculture facilities may harm wild fish populations through competition and inter-breeding, or by spreading diseases and parasites. The authors added, “Historically, a number of diseases and parasites were introduced through aquaculture operations, and aquaculture can magnify the level of those diseases already present (NMFS/FWS, 2000). In the early 1900s, for example, the Japanese oyster drill and a predatory flatworm were introduced to the West Coast with the Pacific oyster, and at that time they contributed to the decline of native oyster stocks (Clugston, 1990).”

2. Fish for Fish Feeds. Because certain aquaculture uses wild-caught fish to feed farmed fish, the practice can actually contribute to the degradation of fish populations.

3. Organic Pollution. The report calls aquaculture’s contribution to nutrient loading in the oceans “small” but potentially “locally significant.” The pollution happens when fish wastes and uneaten feed is washed into the ocean from the cages or PVC tubes.

The authors report that “nutrient pollution, particularly nitrogen pollution, is a primary cause of environmental degradation in marine waters (NRC, 2000; Boesch et al., 2001).” They write that the adverse effects are “low dissolved oxygen levels, murky water, death of seagrasses and corals, fish kills, low- or no-oxygen ‘dead zones,’ and possibly harmful algal blooms (Boesch et al., 2001; EPA, 2001).”

They report that up to 70 percent of the phosphorus and 80 percent of the nitrogen fed to fish may be released into the water through organic wastes (Beveridge, 1996). What does that mean? The example they give is of a salmon farm of 200,000 fish, which “releases an amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and fecal matter roughly equivalent to the nutrient waste in the untreated sewage from 20,000, 25,000, and 65,000 people, respectively (Hardy, 2000b).”

This is especially bad news for Puget Sound where, in 1997, “four of about twelve salmon netpens in Washington State discharged 93 percent of the amount of ‘total suspended solids’ into Puget Sound as the sewage treatment plant serving the city of Seattle (Whiteley, pers. comm.).”

Underneath the floating cages there can be dead zones surrounded by areas extending out 500 feet of decreased diversity (Beveridge, 1996).

4. Chemical Pollution. Antibiotics, parasiticides (parasite-killing drugs), pesticides, hormones, anesthetics, various pigments, minerals, and vitamins are all used in aquaculture. Farmers have been spraying Carbaryl, a pesticide, in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor for years. The Environmental Protection Agency has registered imidacloprid for use on commercial shellfish beds in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor for the control of burrowing shrimp. Imidacloprid is a neurotoxin banned in Germany, Italy, France, and Slovenia that has been linked to Colony Collapse Disorder among bees (see Honeybee disaster, April 2012 Sound Consumer).

The National Pesticide Information Center reports that

“farm workers reported skin or eye irritation, dizziness, breathlessness, confusion, or vomiting after they were exposed to pesticides containing imidacloprid. Pet owners have sometimes had skin irritation after they applied flea control products containing imidacloprid to their pets. Animals have vomited or drooled a lot after oral exposure to imidacloprid. If animals swallow enough imidacloprid, they may have trouble walking, develop tremors, and seem overly tired. Sometimes animals have skin reactions to pet products containing imidacloprid.”

Aquaculture by Jeff lawdawg1

Rescuers try to help an immature eagle stuck in a geoduck farming net.

5. Habitat Modification. One of the most obvious habitat effects of aquaculture is the entrapment of marine predators in the sea nets used by fish farming operations. Ironically, because it creates aggregations of fish, aquaculture attracts the predators that the nets are designed to discourage. In fact, the nets, although they prevent the predation, do not discourage predators and instead sometimes trap and suffocate them (Moore and Wieting, 1999; Wursig, 2001). The report says that cormorants and great blue herons are the animals most frequently killed (Rueggerberg and Booth, 1989).

Other predator discouragement techniques such as “seal bombs” and acoustic harassment or deterrent devices (Wursig, 2001) may “cause disorientation, pain, or hearing loss in marine species, including fish, sea turtles, and marine mammals (Hastings et al., 1996; NRDC, 1999). This noise pollution affects the surrounding marine habitat, causing other marine mammals that do not prey on farmed salmon (e.g., killer whales) to avoid the area (Morton and Symonds, in review).”

NOAA confirms the use of predator deterrents. In a report titled “Aquaculture and the Environment,” the agency reports that “The primary deterrent is the use of predator nets. These nets are hung outside of the net-pens and are made of a large, strong mesh that the predator cannot bite through. Bull rails (knee high fences developed by marine mammal biologists to keep sea lions off of docks) are also used to discourage marine mammals from getting onto net pen structures. In extreme cases an electric fence is added to the bull rails.”

Geoduck farm by Jeff Lawdawg1

Geoduck farm on Hartstine Island

Another habitat consideration is the addition of massive amounts of plastic to our oceans and beaches. An article published in 2012 in Sound Consumer (Washington Shellfish Initiative: Is It Sustainable?) cites the findings of the Case Inlet Shoreline Association (CISA) that the geoduck industry plants about eight miles of PVC plastic pipe per acre in Puget Sound intertidal habitat areas. Other plastic detritus associated with the farming often gets left behind on beaches.

The Washington Shellfish Initiative: Is It Sustainable? says that the high-volume hoses used to unearth the geoducks from the sand have the effect of “turning the beach upside down,” disturbing habitat.

Want to know what geoduck harvesting looks like? Click here for a slideshow put together by Protect Our Shoreline.org. Here is another one by the Case Inlet Shoreline Association.

What Are the Benefits of Offshore Aquaculture?

Proponents of aquaculture talk about the benefits to the Washington State economy, including taxes. But Washington Shellfish Initiative: Is It Sustainable? quotes Laura Hendricks, chair of Washington State’s Sierra Club Marine Ecosystem Campaign: “Since the shellfish industry pays little tax, boosting revenues to the state is unlikely. Increasing exports would be nice for the Governor but wouldn’t pay for all the government time the shellfish industry uses—or the natural resources.”

Oyster Harvesting in France

Oyster Harvesting in France

Proponents also tout the industry’s role in Puget Sound restoration by cleaning the water—the shellfish are said to clean the water because they are “filter feeders.” The article quotes CISA vice president Curt Puddicombe on this matter: “There is no scientific evidence that geoduck or mussel farming is good for the water and the marine environment in Puget Sound. The opposite is true. We know geoduck aquaculture results in plastic pollution.”

Ongoing Research 

Research on aquaculture in the Pacific Northwest is limited but growing and some of it is taking a look at how to decrease the harmful effects of it. For example, a study completed through a collaboration of NOAA and the Pacific Shellfish Institute examined ways to mitigate the damage done to eelgrass via submerged shellfish depuration. The study reports that eelgrass “provides critical ecological functions such as removing nutrients and stabilizing fine sediments.” Because eelgrass is on the decline along the West Coast, finding ways to prevent further decline is essential. The research concluded that there is one change that can be made to help with the eelgrass problem: “Direct effects of cages are minimal during short-term gear soaks . . . ; longer term soaks have been shown to cause damage.”

Information like this will be essential to guiding aquaculture as the industry grows and expands throughout the Sound. But without the legislative clout of legislative restrictions intended to protect habitat, there will be no impetus to adopt improved processes backed by research.

The Rest of the Story

We contacted the Department of Ecology to ask why the agency wanted that paragraph deleted from the SMP. Barbara Nightingale, Shoreline Planner for the Department of Ecology, and Larry Aletose, Regional Spokesperson for the Agency, first wanted to stress that any applicants for aquaculture operations on the Island have to address three criteria: habitat, net loss, and cumulative effects. And these are delineated in the SMP.

The reason, Nightingale explained, for the deletion of the SMP paragraph is the use of the word Prohibit. She said, “We can’t prohibit it. It is a water-dependent preferred use according to the Shoreline Management Act.” But a specific applicant can be refused based on a number of criteria including location. Nightingale said, “You couldn’t do it on an eelgrass bed, for example.”

Governor Inslee’s Office expressed confidence in the SMP as it was finally accepted by Ecology: “The SMP is clear that priority habitats are to be protected. The language in the BI SMP was simply redundant” [before the paragraph was removed].

In response to the complaints emerging from the South Sound, Nightingale explained that the situation there differs from whatever would happen on Bainbridge in that the farms to the south were “grandfathered in” and “there are new rules now affecting new aquaculture operations.”

Aletose pointed out that applicants on Bainbridge would also need to meet Fish & Wildlife and Department of Natural Resources guidelines. And Department of Ecology personnel would be required to conduct a site visit before issuing any permits.

When asked about people’s ability to walk the beach at low tide when a geoduck farm is in the way, Nightingale pointed out that public beaches could not be farmed. But what happens to low-tide beach beyond the extent of a person’s property has to be established by the City’s CUP requirements.

When asked if a geoduck farm would be allowed to have nets over its PVC tubes if those nets were trapping juvenile eagles, Nightingale said no, that would be considered a net loss. However, she again emphasized what goes into the the CUP: The rule about nets and animals would first have to be written into the City’s Conditional Use Permit.

She added about Bainbridge Islanders, “From what I’ve seen from people who have voiced concerns, these are very intelligent people. I’d like to see them work with the City to determine criteria for the Conditional Use Permit to help the CUP be more effective, to assist in implementing aquaculture and working out the details.”

The Governor’s Office also echoed Nightingale’s advice about citizen involvement in the development of BI Conditional Use language: “Each shoreline program is tailored to a town, city, or county’s needs. The governor supports an approach that takes into account those individual needs and differences.”

However, Ecology has already removed some aquaculture-specific regulations from the SMP, such as the requirement that “aquacultural developments approved on an experimental basis shall not exceed five (5) acres in area, except anchorage for floating systems, and five (5) years in duration.” Also removed was language stating that “Aquacultural proposals that include net-pens or rafts shall not be located closer than one (1) nautical mile to any other aquacultural facility that includes net-pens or rafts.” Ecology also removed language requiring community aquaculture gardens to be “no greater than 400 square feet in area.”

Even if an applicant is issued a Conditional Use Permit, there is no guarantee that he or she will get permission from a property owner to lease the land. And that’s where education comes in—people need to learn specifically what they would be getting into before agreeing to a land lease.

Here is a video on local aquaculture from the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound:

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Photos by Jeff Lawdawg1, Allan Hughes, eutrophication&hypoxia, and the USDA.

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Council Approves SMP, Waterfront Property Rights Activist Talks About Suing

Less than 24 hours after the City Council approved the Shoreline Master Plan as amended by the Department of Ecology, Islander Gary Tripp used his e-mail list, Bainbridge News Wire, to call on waterfront property owners to meet “to develop a strategy to take legal action against the city over the adoption of the SMP.”

At last night’s, July 14, City Council Meeting, all the Councilmembers expressed to some extent or another their dissatisfaction with the final product. Councilmember Sarah Blossom voiced her frustration with the aquaculture regulations added by the DOE. Councilmember Val Tollefson agreed and shared his belief that people are beginning to organize statewide to oppose the DOE’s stance that aquaculture is a preferred use.

Councilmember Steve Bonkowski wondered if any other communities had challenged DOE on the aquaculture regulations. DOE’s Barbara Nightingale said that Jefferson County had. It had taken them eight years and they had then agreed to go along with the regulations.

Blossom conveyed her pointed anger with this Council and the previous one for failure to address the challenges to property owners in being able to rebuild their existing homes.

City Planning Director Kathy Cook clarified for the Council that they could approve the SMP and then later request limited amendments. She said if they proposed any major changes at this point, the City would fail to meet the state-imposed deadline.

Tollefson moved to approve the SMP update. In doing so, he acknowledged it was imperfect and said he wanted to change some things in the future.

Councilmember Dave Ward listed the three issues that prevented him from supporting the SMP: the “onerous aquaculture regulations” made “at the eleventh hour” after pressure from “effective industry lobbying”; the rebuilding of existing structures issue; and a “scientifically irresponsible”  and “sudden” opinion on the compliance monitoring program.

Mayor Anne Blair said she too was dissatisfied in some ways with the update, but she said she was confident in the “work that’s gone on for five years” and called it a “thoughtful process.”

In the end, the motion passed 4-3, with Blossom, Ward, and Bonkowski casting the dissenting votes.

After the vote, Blair handed out bouquets of flowers including sunflowers signaling her appreciation for the hard work of so many people on the SMP. She gave flowers to the Council, to Nightingale, to Interim City Attorney Jim Haney, to activist Elise Wright, to Cook, to shoreline planner Ryan Erickson, and to Tripp.

To Tripp she expressed her appreciation for the work he’s done in “opposition to many of the ideas brought forward.” She said he had  challenged their thinking and that she knew the hours he and she had “spent over the phone and over coffee, which had “taught her a lot and expanded her understanding.”

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DOE Issues SMP Changes & Responses to Last Summer’s Public Comments

The always controversial Shoreline Master Plan is about to get more attention. On June 23 the Department of Ecology issued a report reviewing the SMP and its history, sharing the Department’s findings, listing required and recommended changes for the City’s SMP update (to which the City must respond within 30 days), and responding to public comments made in July and August of 2013. Now the City is inviting the public to a hearing.

Findings and Conclusions

In the findings and conclusions section of their report, DOE wrote that “Bainbridge Island was thorough and careful in evaluating and characterizing the current conditions of its shoreline areas through interactive GIS and science-based process.” It also approved of the City’s categorization of shoreline type (urban, shoreline residential, shoreline residential conservancy, island conservancy, natural, aquatic, and priority aquatic).

DOE determined that the City “thoughtfully and deliberately evaluated reasonably foreseeable future development and sought to ensure that ownership rights were protected while meeting the requisite regulatory limitations on adverse impacts” and “thoughtfully addressed the need for maintaining and increasing opportunities for the public to access shoreline areas, both visually and for direct access.”

DOE concluded that the City followed SMP Guidelines requirements for limiting the modification of shorelines and “thoughtfully evaluated the existing and likely degree of expanding aquaculture uses in its jurisdiction.” It also determined that the City’s Shoreline Restoration Plan “can serve as a tool . . . to collectively improve shoreline conditions ecologically in a better organized manner over time.”

Required Changes

Of the 51 changes listed, 6 are new additions. The list of six makes for some dry reading. Four of them are for purposes of consistency only and so will make little difference to homeowners. But the last two will slightly lessen the potential impact of the SMP on shoreline residents:

  • 1. DOE wants the word nonconforming removed from one section for consistency with the rest of the SMP.
  • 2 & 3. DOE asked that the section on requiring public access be included as a condition of approval for any new shoreline development that diminishes existing public access or increases demand for public access be broken into two sections, one for private and one for public development. The reason given was to make it consistent with the Washington Administrative Code.
  • 4. DOE wants two changes to the three tests for determining whether new shoreline development should include public access: They want to remove from the list “new development or a use located on public land or managed by a public entity,” and they want added to the list “Any uses, except for single-family residential development with four or fewer dwelling units or building lots located in the Urban designation.” The reason given was to make it consistent with the Washington Administrative Code.
  • 5 & 6: DOE wants to remove in two instances the prohibition on overwater structures in areas of frequent high wind, wave, or current exposure. The reason given was that “Areas of high wind, wave, and current exposure have not been defined and therefore this regulation cannot be implemented at this time.”

Responses to Public Comment

The report issued the following responses to public comments:

  • SMP does not allow rebuild of existing homes: DOE said that the SMP clearly states in Section 4.2.1.2, 4.2.1.3, and 4.2.1.4 that existing homes not meeting SMP standards can be rebuilt.
  • SMP is retroactive: DOE said that the SMP is clearly not retroactive as shown in Sections 1.3.5.2, 4.1.3.1, and 4.1.3.4.
  • Labeling a property non-conforming devalues the existing home: DOE reported that a study of Bainbridge Island home sales over a period of one year “found that the assessor’s value is not based on a structure’s nonconforming status relative to a CAO or shoreline buffer. Rather, it is based on the structure being a legal structure and a conforming use in a given neighborhood or zone.” DOE reported that, of 33 homes sold along the shorelines between July 2010 and July 2011, 17 were conforming and 16 were nonconforming. The average sale price was in fact higher for the nonconforming homes.
  • SMP buffers are not based on science: DOE listed five “scientific and technical” sources “supporting the shoreline buffer standards.”
  • SMP buffers are too large: DOE discussed how buffer sizes are determined.
  • SMP buffers are too small and should be increased from the minimum 30-foot width to a minimum 50-foot width: DOE limited its response to voicing support for the City’s “flexible buffer system,” which they expect will “protect existing riparian vegetation while also providing tools and incentives for vegetation enhancement with future redevelopment.”
  • Section 4.1.3.5(3), allowing site-specific vegetation management with no buffer widths, should be deleted: DOE argued that 4.1.3.5(3) does not ”relieve the property owner from providing vegetation management” and allows variations from the standard buffer only if no net loss is achieved and only “if a vegetation management plan is developed by the owner using all scientific and technical information available.”
  • The City should protect highly functioning aquatic areas by designating them with Priority Aquatic A or B in this SMP Update rather than waiting until later: DOE did not respond to this.
  • The City should require that native species be required for compensatory mitigation plantings: DOE responded that nonnative species must meet numerous criteria before being approved. They must be similar to the associated native species in diversity, type, density, wildlife habitat value, water quality characteristics, and slope-stabilizing qualities” and may not be noxious/invasive species. They added, “Although the City has provided flexibility for the unusual possibility that a non-native may provide the same functions [as a native], it might be a difficult thing to prove.” . . .
  • The City should prohibit clearing of vegetation for new views and allow clearing only for existing views: DOE listed all the conditions that apply to clearing for views.
  • Homes should be classified as water-dependent: DOE responded that WAC 173-26-020 defines water-dependent use as “a use or portion of a use which cannot exist in a location that is not adjacent to the water and which is dependent on the water by reason of the intrinsic nature of its operations.” They argued that “Residential use does not require a location adjacent to the water and it does not depend on the water by reason of the intrinsic nature of its operations.”
  • The City is seeking to phase out residential uses through the SMP: DOE argued that the Shoreline Management Act recognizes single-family residences as a priority use of the shoreline. They added that, just like the SMA the SMP “accommodates and plans for residential uses and explicitly states that in Section 5.9.3 Residential Development: ‘Consider single-family residential use as a priority use in the shoreline.’”
  • Dock prohibitions and standards prohibit docks on 75 percent of shorelines: DOE countered that the “City has been consistent with WAC 173-26-231(3)(b), which requires that piers and docks be restricted to the minimum size necessary,” and the SMP is “consistent with current state and federal standards for single-family residential docks.”
  • The public access section demonstrates that the City intends to turn private property into parks: DOE responded that “The SMA requires local jurisdictions to protect and facilitate public access to the shoreline.” They added that ”The public access provisions must be implemented and applied consistent with constitutional protections for private property. This is reflected in the language of the SMP which does not require public access on private property, unless there is an increased demand or diminishment of public access caused by the development.”
  • SMP must declare existing, lawfully built homes to be conforming structures per SSB 5451: DOE pointed out that the Revised Code of Washington says that an “SMP may include provisions authorizing lawfully built residences to be ‘conforming’ structures” but that it does not have to. DOE added that the Bainbridge SMP doesn’t use the term “nonconforming.”
  • Stormwater pollution is a major source of contamination. SMP is virtually silent on this: DOE directed the commenters to Section 4.1.6.  of the SMP where water quality and stormwater are covered. They added that local jurisdictions use Stormwater Management Programs  and NPDES permits to address the Clean Water Act provisions, and BI’s SMP in fact meets those requirements as well as those of the SMA and WAC.
  • Section 7 was a surprise with no public hearing: DOE said that Section 7 had been inadvertently left out of the copy used for the May 8, 2013, public hearing.
  • Section 7 criminalizes behavior such as weeding and lawn-mowing: DOE renounces this interpretation of the SMP by pointing out that Section 4.1.3.4 states that “vegetation management standards shall not apply retroactively to existing lawfully established conforming and nonconforming uses and developments, including maintenance of existing residential landscaping, such as lawns and gardens.”
  • There is draconian punishment for personal conduct where there isn’t any proof of damage and where there is no right to trial: DOE argued that “RCW 90.58 and WAC 173-27 SMA Permit and Enforcement Procedures require an SMP to include violations and enforcement sections.” They added that “The City’s penalties and procedures in response to violations are consistent with WAC 173-26-240 through 300 and RCW 90.58.200 through 230, which establish the rights of local jurisdictions to set up such regulations and penalties. Any person receiving an infraction citation has the right to request a hearing in municipal court under Title 1.26.030.”
  • A ban on bulkheads puts homeowners at risk: DOE disagreed with the premise of the comment, and argued that the SMP does not ban bulkheads. They wrote, “as hard stabilization can have negative impacts to shoreline health, it is important to select a form of stabilization that avoids or minimizes negative environmental impacts, while still providing effective protection.”
  • The City has made seventeen substantive changes after public notice and the hearing and so the DOE should return the Draft SMP to the City: DOE responded that “WAC 173-26-100 (1) requires local government to ‘conduct at least one public hearing to consider the draft proposal.’” They then provided evidence of one such public hearing and added, “The City’s extensive and robust public participation process provides a model for public participation for other jurisdictions across the state. The City provided for early and continuous public participation through broad dissemination of informative materials, development of proposals and alternatives, strong use of citizen workgroups in the development of SMP policies and regulations, opportunity for written comments, over 100 public meetings, provision of opportunities for open discussion and consideration of and response to public comments.”
  • The Shoreline Residential Conservancy designation is objectionable because “Rural Conservancy” does not apply to Bainbridge Island: DOE said that the SRC designation is not based on WAC 173-26-211(5)(b) Rural Conservancy but instead on WAC 173-26-211(5)(e) Urban Conservancy for incorporated areas.
  • SMP requires monitoring but it is not clear who is responsible for monitoring: DOE replied, “The City is continuing to work on developing a tracking system to monitor for no net loss. This will involve the City staff and the City’s Environmental Technical Committee (ETAC). They wrote, “The SMA requires local governments to conduct a review of their master programs 8 years following the statutory due date for the comprehensive update,” which in Bainbridge’s case will be 2020. Finally, according to DOE, individual mitigation monitoring requirements are the responsibility of the property owner.
  • Aquaculture is a preferred water-dependent use in the Shoreline Residential and Shoreline Residential Conservancy designations so the SMP must contain policies to promote this use and protect it from activities that threaten water quality and critical saltwater habitat: DOE said the City agreed to designate aquaculture a preferred use “when consistent with control of pollution and prevention of damage to the environment.” But the Master Plan “prohibits aquaculture practices known to be potentially harmful to surrounding waters and requires a CUP for almost all aquaculture projects, with the City having the authority to consider and address cumulative impacts and require mitigation or set conditions to reduce impacts.”
  • New covered moorages and boat houses are not allowed on state-owned aquatic lands: DOE agreed.
  • The floating home definition should be changed to the Washington Department of Natural Resources “floating house” definition for consistency: DOE agreed and said the City changed the definition as requested.
  • The shoreline designation for Bainbridge Island Marina (Whiskey Creek) should not be changed: DOE said that “the area adjacent to the west side of the marina is more consistent with the extension of Urban rather than Shoreline Residential Conservancy or a Natural designation.”
  • The SMP is too big and complex to read: DOE responded that size doesn’t matter and that consistency with the SMA is the most important criterion. They added that the City has created a Single Family Residence Shoreline Mitigation Manual and will provide a Vegetation Management Manual to facilitate comprehension.
  • Vegetated buffers pose wildlife dangers to humans: DOE said the commenter had provided no evidence for her statement.
  • There is a need for increased public access to shorelines: DOE responded that the SMP provides for such access.
  • There is a need to protect natural resources: DOE responded that the SMP provides for such protection.

The update to the City’s SMP, which was submitted to DOE on June 7, 2013, was required by the Shoreline Management Act. The original SMP was created in 1996.

Sift through it all yourself here. 

The Shoreline Master Program Update public hearing is scheduled for July 14 at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.

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Lube

Well-Oiled Council Gets 22 Things Done Wednesday Night

Maybe it was the relief of the elections being over. Maybe it was the impending end of the tenure of three council members. Or maybe, and this is perhaps the most likely explanation, it was the relative simplicity of the agenda items. Whatever the cause, at last night’s meeting, November 13, the City Council sailed through its agenda, mostly in unanimity, without tension or squabbles, and ticked 22 items off the list.

1-3. After a 30-minute executive session, the Council swiftly eliminated automatic fee adjustments for the city’s three utilities—water, sewer, and surface and stormwater.

4-8. Five Comprehensive Plan amendments were submitted for first reading following review and discussion at a prior meeting. These included one from the Historic Preservation Commission that would, among other things, add a new category for historic structures; map and language changes to the Non-Motorized Transportation Plan; a name change for the Business/Industrial complex, correction of three City Land Use Map errors in Lynwood Center; and a rezone of two residential properties in Eagle Harbor as water-dependent industrial. All were forwarded for a second reading and public comment.

9. Police Chief Matt Hamner introduced an ordinance for a change in the policy for reserve officers that would enable pay for reserve officers during special events on the island, such as the Fourth of July Parade or the Chilly Hilly. City Manager Doug Schulze addressed concerns that these reserve officers might supplant regular officers, and he identified the checks in place that would prevent such misuse of reserve officers, including the existence of a strong Police Guild. The Council set the item for an upcoming consent agenda.

10. The Council set the public hearing date, November 20, for adoption of the City of Bainbridge Island Shoreline Master Program. Council Member Dave Ward dissented without explanation.

11. Sara L. McCulloch was confirmed as the new Municipal Court Judge, and her contract was approved. Ward and Council Member Bob Scales commended Schulze on the process he used to select McCulloch.

12. Alan Granger was reappointed to Position 5 and Mark Epstein was appointed to Position 4 of the Design Review Board. Council Members Anne Blair and Steven Bonkowski had interviewed the four candidates and made the selection of the two. The motion carried unanimously.

13. The Council approved a short-term loan from the General Fund to the Capital Construction Fund in anticipation of receipt of claims against grants of up to $500,000. The money is to be repaid by the end of 2014. Bonkowski clarified that the money must be spent and bills submitted before the grants can be paid by the granting agencies, necessitating the loan. The resolution was forwarded to the consent agenda.

14. Assistant City Manager Morgan Smith provided an update on the lease of the open water marina space and public dock at Waterfront Park, a lease provided by the Department of Natural Resources because the areas include state aquatic lands. The lease will expire in 2023. But a project at Waterfront Park will require clarification of City ownership for at least 25 years. So, Smith explained, the lease must be renegotiated for a longer term. DNR has already provided specific guidance about design items such as materials, fish habitat, and buffers. The Council indicated support of this negotiation going forward.

15. Bonkowski reviewed the history of Schulze’s selection as Manager and his tenure, pointing out that a unanimous vote selected him a year ago. Bonkowski said he’s accomplished a lot, including selecting a new Police Chief, a new Public Works Director, and a new Municipal Court Judge; securing $2 million in grants; repairing roads; making headway in terms of quality of service; and reducing the time it takes City Hall to do things. Bonkowski said Schulze still has a lot to do, but the current High Performance Training program at City Hall will help. The Mayor said he has confidence Schulze will do even better next year. Ward moved to approve the Council’s performance review of Schulze, and it was approved unanimously.

16. The Council discussed proposed budget adjustments for 2014. The Council approved the addition of two budget adjustments for consideration—$10,000 for public art and a budget-neutral adjustment for emergency rental assistance.

17-21. The Council approved five items for the consent agenda.

22.  Mayor Bonkowski, with City Council approval, signed a proclamation making December Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

The meeting ended an hour early. Next week’s meeting will feature a public hearing on the DOE’s recommended changes and other changes to the SMP. That one might run long.

Photo by Richard Masoner.

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Mailbox

Letter to the Editor: Don’t Be Manipulated During This Election Campaign

History is being rewritten, rehashed, and cherry picked in an attempt to manipulate voters into voting for three candidates who have vowed to deliver more of the very same dysfunction and destruction currently plaguing our City Council.

The stakes couldn’t be higher for all of us who love this Island, who believe in good government, and who are passionate about protecting our environment and the unique quality of life that we enjoy.

Waving the banners of  “dysfunctional government “ and “change,” the Common Sense Bainbridge PAC—founded by far right-leaning , property rights activist Gary Tripp—and the individual campaigns of the candidates it is promoting are reaching back in time five and six years and more into the old form of government for examples of mismanagement and waste, manipulating current statistics, and even outright fabricating facts in order to  draw attention away from what is really happening at City Hall and what values we desperately need in our next generation of City Councilpersons.

It’s a recipe that worked in 2011, and our City has suffered the consequences ever since.

Mr. Tripp, most recently known for his campaign of fear and misinformation about the Shoreline Master Program Update, his PAC, and the candidates they are supporting, are counting on the fact that most voters are so focused on making a living, caring for their families, and worrying about state and national politics that they really don’t know much about city government.

Voters may have a sense that something always seems to be wrong with their City Council, but they often don’t know why or who is to blame. Playing upon that perennial sense of dissatisfaction but not differentiating between wildly different players, political perspectives, or even eras, Gary Tripp and his PAC are fabricating a smokescreen of hyperbole and misstatements of fact to obscure the truth.

For example, the City is not borrowing from the utility funds to make ends meet. We have had robust reserves for several years—currently around $3.7 million dollars in just our General Fund stability reserve—due entirely to significant budget reform that began to be implemented in 2011 with our first budget under the new form of government.

In awarding a rating of AA3 to a City of Bainbridge Island bond issued in August of this year, Moody’s described  ”the city’s continuing trend of improvement in its financial operations” and its “strong management team and conservative financial policies.”        .

The City did not spend $800,000 on the SMP. In fact, $207,000 was spent on outside technical consultants over three and a half years. These costs and staff time was offset in large part by the $240,000 in grants we received from the state.

Dredging up ancient history and describing it as “recent” campaign literature and emails supportive of the three PAC candidates have made a point of highlighting wasteful spending on Winslow Tomorrow-related soft costs. As an activist who worked for two years exposing that waste, I know that, indeed, a lot of money was spent on planning for Winslow Way—five years ago, under the old form of government. That sort of spending was one of the drivers behind the change to the Council-Manager form of government, and as one who worked on the Council-Manager campaign and who then ran for office to ensure that budget reform would follow, I can state unequivocally that business conducted under the Strong Mayor form of government is completely irrelevant to City business in 2013.

The reason that these folks don’t want you to see what is behind all the noise that they are generating is that there really is something gravely wrong at City Hall, and that is that this antigovernment, far-right-leaning faction has already had sway over the majority on City Council for nearly two years, and the result has been utterly disastrous for our community.

After campaigning for the Council-Manager form of government and then serving the first half of my City Council term with a Council majority that worked hard to implement that positive, community-mandated change, bringing the City back from the edge of insolvency and adopting a full breadth of best practices for professional government, it has been my unfortunate fate to have had a front row seat to watch, from a minority position, the last two years of unprofessionalism and political gamesmanship that has crippled our City Council.

Time that might have been spent strengthening our environmental protections or finding ways to fund projects that the community needs and wants has been wasted on micromanaging and undermining City managers and staff, promoting conflict between the community and the City, and refusing to follow the most basic tenets of the Council-Manager form of government.

The good news is that voters are being given a clear choice in this election and the opportunity to get back on track to a professional, collaborative city government. There are three candidates who are not endorsed by the antigovernment PAC and who have each been endorsed by the 23rd legislative district Democrats and the Sierra Club: Val Tolefson, Roger Townsend, and Wayne Roth. I urge you to join me in voting for all three of these candidates and, in so doing, getting our Council back to work on the real issues that matter to us all.

—Kirsten Hytopoulos, Bainbridge Island City Councilmember

Photo by Tracy O.

 

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Shoreline by DVD RW

Letter to the Editor: The Facts About the SMP

1. Bainbridge Island has recently submitted an updated Shoreline Master Program (SMP) to the Washington Department of Ecology for approval. This SMP was the result of over three years of intensive public input into the requirements of the SMP and review by large numbers of citizens of our community.

2. The SMP is required by Washington State law, having been mandated by a public initiative in 1972, sponsored by the people of the state, that became the Shoreline Management Act (SMA). The SMA is an environmental protection law, and the required SMPs are intended to help restore the viability of our Puget Sound. As such, the SMA addresses many of the causes of decline in the productivity of the Puget Sound. Some of these are discussed in the points that follow. The current update process by cities and counties is also required by law, and the key mandate is that future shoreline development result in “no net loss” of shoreline function.

3. Bainbridge Island sits in the middle of our Sound, containing 53 miles of shoreline. Much of this shoreline has already been developed, mostly with residential uses, and much of it is already armored (it has bulkheads, riprap, or other non-natural structures along the shore). Residential use is a preferred use of developed state shoreline properties, and remains so through the update process.

4. Zoning was developed in this country in the 1920s as a means to protect land uses from other land uses. This method of control of land use was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1926 in Euclid v. Ambler Realty. Without zoning, each property owner would be able to do whatever s/he wanted with the land, which means that a residential neighborhood could suddenly find a bowling alley being built on land in the midst of the neighborhood. Zoning was adopted to protect property owners from incompatible uses.

5. When land is zoned under a comprehensive land use plan, some uses and some structures become “non-conforming.” This simply means that under the new law, these uses would not be allowed or some aspect of the structure would not be allowed, with many exceptions. Non-conformity has existed since the beginning of zoning. Once a use exists, or a structure is built, even if subsequent zoning laws make it non-conforming, it is allowed to remain as it is. When it is destroyed or the use is discontinued, the land owner is required to conform to the law in effect at the time of rebuilding. However, in our SMP, non-conforming structures destroyed by calamity—fire, landslide or earthquake, for example—may be rebuilt just as they were. This is an exemption not allowed in non-shoreline areas, where rebuilding for any reason must follow current zoning laws and building codes. Remodeling in any area must follow current building codes, but only for the area of the home actually being remodeled or added on.

6. There are two types of non-conformity: use and structure. As an example, if a pre-existing commercial use such as an auto repair shop is in an area zoned strictly for residential use, the auto repair shop may continue to function in its current form. However, if the property owner decides to change the type of use and become a fish processing plant, such a change will not be allowed. At the time a change is proposed, the land must be used as designated in the current zoning, so only a residential use would be allowed upon closure of the auto repair shop.

7. In a structural example of non-conformity, a parcel of land may be too small to accommodate the required setbacks for front and side yards. However, the permit will allow a home to be built, since people have the right to have some economic value from their property. In this case, the structure is non-conforming because the home is built within the setback area. It should be noted that non-conformity of structure, since the structure can be rebuilt, does not negatively affect the value of the property. In fact, in many cases the opposite is true, inasmuch as an undeveloped property would not be able to build as close to the shoreline, for example. That gives added value to the existing home, which enjoys a grandfathered benefit. On Bainbridge, 35 percent of shoreline properties are non-conforming under the current SMP, which has been in effect since 1996.

8. Since most of the Bainbridge Island shoreline property is already developed for residential use, the effect of the SMP is largely limited to undeveloped property where future development would be required to meet the new standards of the SMP. Again, there are exceptions where the nature of the land does not allow the full incorporation of the zoning requirements, such as a lot that is encumbered by a wetland.

9. In the case of an owner of an existing property who wishes to remodel, up to 50 percent of the home may be remodeled within the existing footprint, and the home may be expanded up to 25 percent landward into the buffer (one time only) with compensatory mitigation (typically this means adding native vegetation).

10. Where a homeowner proposes major changes on the property, such as the tear-down of the existing residence and replacement with a new house, the new SMP will govern such matters as the placement of the home in relation to the shoreline, type and amount of vegetation along the shoreline, and other non-shoreline zoning matters such as set-backs, height, etc.

11. Shoreline armoring (bulkhead, rip-rap, groins) changes significantly the features of the nearshore area, particularly the movement of sediments along the shoreline, and the provision of habitat for our salmonid species and their prey, which depend on our nearshore area. For this reason, there are strong requirements related to future armoring of intact natural shoreline. This is a resource that is very valuable to the Puget Sound, and for that reason any request for new armoring must meet high standards. There is a hierarchy of types of shoreline protection that are to be reviewed for ways to meet the need for armoring, so that the least destructive type is employed. Existing bulkheads may be rebuilt, repaired, or replaced, and a geotechnical report may be required to demonstrate potential harm to the primary structure within five years. The state guidelines suggest this should be a three-year threshold for potential harm; our SMP is more liberal than the state recommends.

12. Our shorelines are an integral part of the overall Puget Sound environment and a part of the particular ecosystem in which we live. For that reason, there are requirements for vegetation retention and planting within the first 30 feet of setback from the mean high tide line; these requirements will help keep the shoreline as protective of the wildlife species as possible. Native vegetation, the sorts of plants that occur naturally in our environment, are preferred for the benefits they provide the sea life. Trees along the shoreline provide shading, insects drop off of the trees and shrubs into the water and are an important food source for fish, and vegetation provides shoreline stabilization for the upland owner. The SMP does not require property owners to replant their yards with native vegetation until and unless there are changes made to the property that alter the existing situation. In those instances, a buffer zone of native vegetation can be required to be planted. An example would be to replace part of a lawn with small native plants such as salal and Oregon grape. Some trees may be removed in order to protect views.

13. Overwater structures create a number of issues along our shorelines. An area of bay covered by docks extending out into the water is less navigable for all waterborne users. The shading that occurs in strips covered by the docks is a hazard for juvenile salmonid species, as their eyes do not adjust to the changes in light they encounter passing under an area covered by docks, and they swim into deeper unshaded water where they are more vulnerable to predators. On the outer shores of our island, strong currents, shallow sloping shores, and seasonal high winds create conditions that can be hazardous to docks. For that reason, docks are primarily limited to enclosed bays and inlets. Existing docks may be repaired and replaced, using best environmental technology (grating, no creosote pilings, etc.).

14. If you have questions about the content of the SMP update that was submitted to the Department of Ecology, here is a link where you can read it in its entirety: http://www.ci.bainbridge-isl.wa.us/smp_update.aspx.

—Maradel Gale, Elise Wright, and Marcia Lagerloef

Maradel Gale has been working on shoreline management issues since 1969, first in Oregon and most recently on Bainbridge Island where she is a member of the Planning Commission and served as a liaison to the citizen workgroups and task force charged with drafting the SMP update. In December of 2012, she was unanimously re-appointed to the Planning Commission by the Bainbridge City Council.

Elise Wright first became involved in Island shoreline issues in 1975. Since then she has advocated for environmental protection for Blakely Harbor and for Critical Areas, and she spent three years on the Citizens Workgroup on Buffers and Vegetation Management for the SMP update.

Marcia Lagerloef is an oceanographer and shoreline homeowner. She was a member of the Shoreline Modification Work Group that worked with city staff to develop the first draft of the SMP update. She also helped write the SMP that was adopted in 1996.

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Qualitycommonsense

Two PACS Face off in Bainbridge City Council Race

Common Sense or Quality? Pick one.

Last month, Islander Gary Tripp, the man behind the Bainbridge Defense Fund e-mail list and the organizer of the Shoreline Master Program protest march on City Hall, and Glenn Avery, the chairman of the 36th district Republican Party organization in Seattle, formed a Political Action Committee called Common Sense Bainbridge. The purpose of the PAC is to support the City Council candidacies of Arlene Buetow, Dick Haugan, and Dee McComb. Tripp is the Chairman and Avery is the Treasurer.

Yesterday, the formation of a new PAC was announced to support the candidacies of the three other candidates: Wayne Roth, Roger Townsend, and Val Tollefson. This PAC, known as Quality Bainbridge, is being organized by Islanders John Ellis and Gloria Sayler. Ellis is one of the founders of The EDGE Improv and one of the people involved in the fight to keep the Municipal Court on Bainbridge. Sayler is a licensed Social Worker who has organized numerous speakers series at the public library.

Over the next month, the two PACS will square off, each advancing its own view of what Bainbridge government should look like.

Tripp’s call to action e-mail sent to a select group of his readers started off with a reference to “the SMP disaster” and later mentioned our “dysfunctional city.” He went on to write, “If we get a couple [sic] good City Council members, they can get a lot done straightening out the city, fixing the roads, and prioritizing the budget.” Tripp explained in his e-mail that he hired Sharon Gilpin of TheGilpinGroup to run the campaign. In 1997, Gilpin was a petitioner against the City of Bainbridge Island and the State Department of Ecology, challenging the DOE’s approval of COBI’s amendment to the Shoreline Master Plan (the petition was eventually dismissed with prejudice by the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board).

In a press release today, Quality Bainbridge organizers announced that their goals are to “advocate for good, smart, local government; celebrate widely-shared Bainbridge values”; and endorse “good candidates.” On their website they list those widely-shared Bainbridge values as falling into three categories:  improving and protecting the environment, maintaining a functioning infrastructure, and improving and preserving public life including schools, the arts, and government.

They also said that they want to alert the community to what “appears to be an unprecedented attempt by a PAC to buy the election and control the City Council for years.” What they’re referring to is the money Common Sense Bainbridge has so far raised for the three candidates: $21,050 according to reports filed with the Public Disclosure Commission. Ellis described this amount as “far more than most candidates on our island have historically spent on their entire campaign,” and he described CSB candidate Dick Haugan’s war chest of $23,000 as “exceeding the most money ever assembled for a Council election.” Ellis went on to criticize Common Sense Bainbridge for “substituting big-money PAC politics . . . for the small-town person-to-person campaigns we’ve appreciated on Bainbridge Island in the past.” He added, “A big-money PAC with an off-island officer is a threat to the local values and culture that makes our island so special.”

So, in response, Quality Bainbridge will jump into the fray–to raise not money but awareness.

Haugan has already exceed the largest amount raised by a candidate in 2011: $11,456 by Steven Bonkowski. So has his opponent, Val Tollefson, who so far has raised $13,365. According to the Public Disclosure Commission, the rest of the candidates line up as follows: Wayne Roth, $9,840; Roger Townsend, $8,929; Arlene Buetow, $4,494; and Dee McComb, $733.

In terms of spending, Tollefson is leading the way with $8,447, followed by Roger Townsend, $4,779; Dick Haugan, $2,863; Arlene Buetow, $1,299; Wayne Roth, $1,297; and Dee McComb, $266.

To support Common Sense Bainbridge, you can send a check to Common Sense Bainbridge, P.O. Box 11560, Bainbridge, WA 98110. To contact Quality Bainbridge, visit their website. Or you can inform yourself and vote when your ballot arrives in the mail.

Photos by Kevin KB35 and TigerGirl.

 

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break the rules

Council Members Again Overlook Rules of Governance, Debate Policies for “Issues of Substance”

At the very end of the Wednesday (June 19) City Council meeting, during the review of upcoming council meeting agendas, Councilmember Scales asked for a point of order because, he said, Mayor Steve Bonkowski had earlier committed a violation of Section 8.9b of the Governance Manual.

What he was referring to is Bonkowski’s request that three items be added to the agenda for next week. The three items concerned the Council’s decision about the water utility, and one of the items would be actionable in a vote about cutting water utility rates. Councilmembers Hytopoulos and Scales had expressed concern that next week was too soon as the Council had not thoroughly explored what kinds of capital projects might be required by the utility before making the cuts.

Councilmember Blair said she supported a rate cut but said she was comfortable waiting until more information could be obtained. Bonkowski argued that ratepayers needed to have access to that money now if it was available for them. Councilmember Lester argued that they should all be ready to make the decision as they had discussed it so extensively and because half a million dollars had been moved into reserves, which meant there were funds for a rate cut.

So Bonkowski asked that the items be added. Scales asked if Bonkowski could make a motion. Bonkowski seemed confused so Scales explained that a motion was required to add the items.

Lester disagreed, saying that the Governance Manual says that, if three councilmembers request an item, it can be added to the agenda.

Hytopoulos explained that the three-member rule is the way to get an item of interest before the council, not to determine a substantive issue.

Scales next moved that the items be added to the July 1 agenda instead. Nobody seconded the motion. Councilmember Ward said he wouldn’t be there on July 1, and Scales said, “Too bad.” He then moved that Bonkowski’s motions be scheduled at a time when all councilmembers could be present. Bonkowski said Scales, who would not be at the next week’s meeting, could call in to make his vote known. He added, “I will not support this issue being kicked down the road.”

Scales said he didn’t want to call in his vote and that he wanted all councilmembers present for a lively debate. He said, “The water utility is not going to turn into a pumpkin if we wait until all seven councilmembers can be present. It’s also important to give the community adequate notice.” He added, “We’re talking about making a major utility decision with no staff input or community input.”

The Council voted on Scales’s motion, which failed. So Lester requested the three items be added to the agenda, and she started on the next topic.

But Scales called a point of order. Ward said with irritation, “Point of order. She’s moved on with the agenda. We’re done talking about the water system, okay?”

Scales said, “I didn’t know you were chairing, Dave.”

Rules of Governance

Not only do the councilmembers frequently disagree on substantive issues, but they also disagree on the rules and policies that govern and guide their arguing about and voting on those issues, and this has been the case since the start of the terms of the newest councilmembers, Blair, Blossom, Bonkowski, and Ward. A good example of this happened two weeks ago, when Bonkowski subverted the meeting agenda by supplanting a scheduled presentation by the City Manager with one of his own.

Some councilmembers’ attitudes about rules of governance might best be encapsulated by something Ward said at one point Wednesday night: “It’s a free country. You can put something on the agenda.” But the Governance Manual would appear to disagree. The Bainbridge Island Manual of City Governance: Policies, Procedures and Guidelines, adopted March 10, 2010, via Resolution No. 2010-15, addresses the conduct of study sessions or workshops. In Section 8.9b, it specifically discusses the vetting of agenda items in this way:

This element of a Study Session involves a vetting and review of agenda items that are expected to appear for Council action on the agenda of the next ensuing Council Business Meeting. This element of the Study Session may include: review of clarity and completeness of issues presented; discussion of the merits of the proposal; and a procedural vote to determine whether the agenda item shall be advanced to an ensuing Business Meeting of the Council.

Scales read that passage to the Council Wednesday night and then said, “I couldn’t find any section that three councilmembers may decide what goes on the Council’s agenda.” In response, Bonkowski made a motion to add those items to the agenda for next week, as required by the Manual. It was seconded by Ward. There was no discussion, and through a procedural vote, the Council voted down the motion, meaning that, when almost all was said and done, the items were not added.

Bonkowski then said, “Just so everyone is clear, I will move next week to add them to the agenda.”

Scales said, “You can do that.”

Bonkowski replied, “Absolutely I can do that and I intend to do that.” He then argued that he thought it was a disservice to the community not to add the items to the agenda in advance so that people would know about them.

Scales countered that if Bonkowski didn’t have the votes to get the items on the agenda, that was his responsibility, not that of the people who didn’t want it on the agenda. “Nobody is forcing you to add this to the agenda next week,” he said.

Issues of Substance

At the heart of this particular disagreement is not just the Rules of Governance but also whether and why voting on a substantive issue requires or deserves the presence of the full Council. Hytopoulos warned that Bonkowski would get pushback from the community by trying to make something as important as a vote on water rates go through without participation of the full Council. She also said, “Apparently there is a difference of opinion on this Council because I’ve seen it before about understanding and belief about what the roles, duties, and rights of councilmembers are when it comes to votes—whether they are simply a recording of three to four or whether it is an opportunity for dissenting voices to be heard because they take their duties seriously.”

Bonkowski said he agreed with Hytopoulos, but, he said, that is not what happened on the SMP. He said the minority wasn’t allowed to be heard on that issue or even to make a presentation.

Hytopoulos passionately countered that Bonkowski had had 90 minutes of her “personal time” to make all of his points on the SMP. She said, “You were present and you were heard. We just didn’t agree with the motions.”

Scales added that the Council had made sure all councilmembers were present for the SMP vote. He accused certain councilmembers of “using a majority to make procedural moves to marginalize and silence or cut councilmembers that they disagree with out of the conversation.” He said you can use Robert’s Rules of Order “as a shield or a sword.”

Scales’s comments reveal his belief that the perceived flouting of the rules is a deliberate strategy. But it is unclear whether that is the case or whether some councilmembers are instead unfamiliar with the rules and/or simply don’t care about them.

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City Hall

The SMP Saga Ends (at Least for Now) with Council Approval of Update

After three years and by a rough count 28 study sessions, 47 public meetings, and one protest march, the Bainbridge Island City Council has, at least for now, laid the Shoreline Master Program to rest with a 4-3 vote approving the update at last night’s (Wednesday, May 15) City Council meeting. What happens next is that the State Department of Ecology will review the update to ensure that it meets the requirements of the amended Shoreline Management Act and the Growth Management Act. The State Attorney General will review it to ensure it doesn’t violate property rights.

At last night’s meeting, Councilmembers Blair, Hytopoulos, Lester, and Scales voted for the update. It was opposed by Councilmembers Blossom, Bonkowski, and Ward.

The saga began in the spring of 2010 when  the Shoreline Management Act and the Washington Administrative Code passed by the State Legislature required the City of Bainbridge Island to update its Shoreline Master Program passed in 1996. The changes have been opposed by a vocal segment of shoreline property owners, culminating with a protest when they descended en masse upon a City Council meeting on March 13.

Last night’s resolution includes text affirming that the update will not result in a net loss to “shoreline ecological functions” and may, in fact, produce improvements through a program of incentive-based restoration, that it is consistent with the Bainbridge Island Comprehensive Plan, and that it does not sanction an unconstitutional taking of private property.

The Department of Ecology review will likely result in minor modifications to the update, so look for the saga to continue to some extent in the near future.

Photo by Sarah Lane.

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SMP Protest

More Than 150 Shoreline Owners March on City Hall in Protest, Confront Council

by Sarah Lane and Julie Hall

A visibly angry group marched on the City Council meeting Wednesday night to protest changes in the Bainbridge Island Shoreline Master Program (SMP). Protesters gathered in front of Town & Country and then marched down Winslow Way and up Madison, chanting that the SMP was unfair, ultimately milling at the foot of the City Hall steps just before 7 p.m. One of the group’s leaders, Joe Honick, who also chairs the City’s Ethics Board, drew cheers from the crowd as he touted their large numbers.

SMP ProtestPolice Lieutenant Chris Jensen instructed the group to limit the number of people entering the chambers to 95. They were also instructed to leave their signs outside. Those who didn’t make the cut pressed up against the doors and windows and filled the antechamber to listen in to the proceedings, some of them pushing their signs against the glass so they could be read from the inside. Many of those who got in signed up to speak during public comment.

The meeting itself started out with a certain amount of tension when Councilmember Kirsten Hytopoulos pointed out that the portion of the meeting devoted to the SMP was merely a study session and recommended that public speakers be limited to two minutes each since they would have a much longer future opportunity, an open forum, to address the Council about their votes. The crowd grumbled loudly and Councilmember Dave Ward argued that during past study sessions they had accommodated as many people as possible. Hytopoulos countered that she was worried about setting unrealistic expectations for those gathered.

SMP ProtestTempers flared on numerous other occasions throughout the evening such as when Island attorney Dennis Reynolds demanded an apology from “the councilmember” who, in a letter to the Bainbridge Review, had accused SMP opposition of “half truths.” He then waited for a response which, Mayor Bonkowski explained to him, would not be forthcoming during public comment. Reynolds threatened to sue if he were called a liar to his face.

At one point, Honick stepped out from behind the speaker’s podium and approached the dais, unfurling a scroll that, he said, contained 1,041 signatures opposing the proposed SMP changes. He placed the scroll in front of Lester, Blair, and Hytopoulos. Hytopoulos complained, saying, “We’re heading down a dangerous slope here,” likely referring to the theatrics. Her comment was met with boos and laughter.

Shoreline property owner Tom Golon accused Councilmember Anne Blair of flip-flopping and compared the members of the SMP advisory committee to professional lobbyists, saying that the committee had been stacked against shoreline property owners.

SMP ProtestRecurring concern expressed by protesting shoreline property owners was over the use of the term nonconforming in the SMP. Some speakers expressed fear about what it might mean to have property labeled nonconforming. Others wondered if, as they had been told, nonconforming was merely a term and nothing to fear, why some people were fighting so hard to make sure it was included in the SMP changes.

Much of the concerns were expressed with historical overtones. Honick implored the Council not to “brand people in a way that segregates them.” Another speaker said he felt they were being treated like “second class citizens.” Dick Haugan said that the 4:13 ratio of waterfront homeowners to others on the SMP advisory committee was like “taxation without representation.” Chris Adironski said there was “liberty and justice for all” except waterfront dwellers.

SMP ProtestDespite the large numbers of protesters in chambers, not all of the speakers were opposed to the SMP changes. Among the supporters were land use attorney Dave Bricklin and Coal-Free Bainbridge’s Erika Shriner who separately argued the same point, that the term nonconforming has been in use for hundreds of years and need not be met with concern and fear in the context of the SMP changes. Brickland pointed out that after increased awareness about shorelines around the state being “nibbled to death,” the “cumulative effect is devastating and hasn’t gotten better.” In response to Reynolds’ request that councilmembers take into account the social sciences as well as the physical sciences when deciding how to vote, Shriner said, “Puget Sound is suffering real problems, not social ones.” A teenager named Kiera said, “I’m scared. If this is where the political energy lies, we are in trouble.” She implored the Council, “Please do what is right for all Bainbridge Islanders and not just shoreline homeowners.”

SMP ProtestPeople cheered when Eric Fredericks, buoyed perhaps more by wishful thinking than evidence, said, “We’re all environmentalists.” But a similar sentiment was conveyed in a more personal way by Jack Sutherland, possibly the most eloquent speaker of the evening. He calmly listed all the truly impressive changes that he and his family had made to his waterfront property to protect the shoreline, including installing catchment basins, bioswales, and drain filters, among many other things. He said that, as a result, his property was better environmentally than many public streets and parking lots. He reminded the Council that the issue cannot be contained within “a one size fits all” approach and urged them to consider dealing with shoreline problems individually.

Photos by Sarah Lane.

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Hey Buoys and Gulls! Get Your Buoy Permit Now and Save $

Recreational buoy permits are not cheap. But starting in May they’re going to be a lot less cheap. Kathy Cook, the Bainbridge Island Director of Planning and Community Development, has announced that Bainbridge Island buoy permits will jump from $200 to $450 as of May 1st. But you still have time to renew at the old price as long as you meet the criteria of the City’s Programmatic Buoy System.

Two years ago, the system was created to expedite the application process. At that time the City also implemented a system to document nonconforming buoys, generally those installed before 1996. Cook says that the bulk of the work is done, and all buoys are either permitted or documented as nonconforming. The work consisted of reviewing 296 nonconforming buoys and 126 applications. Now, three-quarters of the buoys have been brought into compliance.

Of course, the SMP update may change that. Revisions will be made to the permit as required by the update.

The programmatic application and nonconforming form are available at http://www.ci.bainbridge-isl.wa.us/buoy_permits.aspx. Call the Buoy Hotline at 780-3731 with specific questions on buoy permitting.

Photo by Ell Brown.

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City Hall

City Council This Week: January 31, 2012

Councilmember Scales was not there at the outset, but there was a quorum. The meeting followed an Executive Session about the collective bargaining negotiations.

Councilmember Blair explained how a study session works. She said it’s more informal and includes community reports and commentary. She said it helps the Council to be briefed on issues. Staff, community groups, committees may bring the issues. She added that it’s also a regular meeting in that a vote may be taken.

Here were the elements of the Study Session:

A. Puget Sound Energy Briefing

A representative from PSE named Linda (sorry–couldn’t get that last name) spoke to the council.

1. 3-year commitment with community. The speaker reviewed this commitment, which is that if the community keeps energy use below the threshold of 58 megawatts, PSE will avoid the need for a new substation or a rebuild. She added the caveat that the threshold will exist unless they discover some significant operational stresses on that system that put customers at risk or their ability to serve them. She said that we did exceed the threshold twice, on December 13 (65.9) and on January 19 (64). She said that’s not a trigger but it is a reminder to the community to start lowering usage when the needle goes into the orange and red zone on the dashboard (which we have on our home page). She said there are a couple of risks that have surfaced:

  • She said our transformers between substations are exceeding their nameplate capacity (the recommended operating level), which could lead to equipment failure.
  • She said we had an oil leak and had to take the substation off line. So we were down to two substations. When that happened, the Port Madison sub peaked at 28.3. There were three other days of peaking on the Winslow substation. They are exceeding their recommended peak loads.
  • On November 30, PSE measured low voltage on several distribution lines. That’s a situation where there’s not enough capacity to meet the demand on an individual line. She said that can cause what customers see as problems with their electronics. The pumps at sewer treatment plant can trigger off, for example.

2. 2012 work plan. PSE is focusing on the distribution system this year:

  • Five treewire projects (treewire is coated electric line less susceptible to branches; it doesn’t trip out as easily): Miller between Arrow Point and New Brooklyn; Fletcher Bay between New Brooklyn and Bucklin; Eagle Harbor Drive; New Sweden, Taylor, and Blakely; and Baker Hill. These are all places where we have impacts from limbs.
  • Structural analysis on steel towers at Agate Pass.
  • Underground express feed to Winslow project, which will continue with Phase II of the project. The speaker said Phase I is complete, on time, underbudget. Some trees on Madison Avenue are in the way that may need to be replaced or relocated.
  • Annual tree trimming and maintenance (26.5 miles of distribution line, 7.5 miles of transmission) and the changing out of 51 poles.

3. Look ahead. PSE wants to start making multiyear plans (5 or 6 years out). The speaker said they’re trying to sequence with City capital improvement projects, for example. She showed a watch map, looking at data of outages in those areas.

Councilmember Hytopoulos asked about the potential tree removal in Murden Cove Phase II.

Mayor Lester pointed out that there is new stormwater load with the removal of some mature trees in the Murden Cove area and that we will need to look at that in the future.

A citizen from RAISE asked for data from PSE about capacity.

B. Unocal Site Park Project Update, AB 12-006

Mayor Lester said that in 2010 a citizen group formed to figure out what to do with the Unocal Property. The group included Rotarians, Women in Black, Arts and Humanities Council reps, and others.

Bruce Weiland spoke on behalf of that group. They’ve talked to Parks Department, they’ve reached out and expanded the membership of the original group, they received a 100 percent endorsement from Kitsap Transit, and they spoke with the Department of Energy (because of site issues).

Weiland reviewed the history. The property is jointly owned by COBI and Kitsap Transit. It was the site of a gas station. There was some leakage, as is typical of gas stations.

The initial vision is that this is a crossroads for the Island and a gateway to Kitsap and Olympics. He described it now as an embarrassment. Group is envisioning a passive, attractive design for the area. He clarified that it’s not about playgrounds or firepits. He described it as a landscape walkthrough with paths, benches, low-maintenance landscaping. Weiland said there are 60 groups on the roster including the Rotary. He said it would be privately funded, and he listed a range of group members.

He said he was hoping for formal approval from the Council. They’re scheduled to be on the agenda tomorrow with the Parks Board. He made four pledges:

  1. He emphasized it will not cost the City anything.
  2. He committed to a broad, public process involving asking the community what they think belongs in the park.
  3. He stressed that the Parks Dept. has tentatively said they will maintain the park.
  4. He promised they would do nothing environmentally irresponsible. He explained that the park would not slow down cleanup of the area and he explained how future remediation would work.

One citizen pointed requested that the City find out what specifically is in the soil there to avoid liability. She said there are grants available for cleanup. She thought the process could be completed quickly. Robert Dashiell said that the last monitoring was done in 2009 but that it had been monitored constantly before that. He said it is a safe site but that there are 43 other sites on the island that are dangerous. Weiland said that he supports the efforts to continue testing the site and that the improvements his group are proposing could easily be removed if needed down the road.

Ward wanted to know if Weiland and his group objected to the voluntary cleanup program of the DOE. Jill Johnson of Parametrix said that the only reason to avoid that is funding.

Lester moved to adopt Resolution No. 2012-02 regarding the park at the site. The Council voted to begin developing the park site (with the understanding that further exploration would be made into cleaning up the site).

C. Rockaway Beach Road Stabilization

Lance Newkirk of Public Works was the speaker. He explained what the city is planning to do to stabilize Rockaway Beach Road. He gave a historical over view of the slope failure. The city became aware in 1999 of the problem after a slide. There was a slope failure in 2005. Berger/Abam’s Bob Hernandez spoke about the design. He talked about the public safety issue and the pressure to get permits quickly. Because the Council declared this an emergency there is an obligation to follow through. He spoke about risks to the cost estimate. The council affirmed the proposed design approach. The Council voted to authorize the staff to negotiate phase II of the design.

D. Multi-Agency Police Response Interlocal Agreement, AB 12-010

Police Chief John Fehlman requested that the city authorize him and the city manager to sign the Kitsap County  investigative response team mutual aid agreement. The Council did so.

E. Shoreline Master Program Update Schedule

Morgan Smith presented the updated schedule. The planning commission will need 4 to 7 further meetings to complete the SMP and the Grow Community review. Then there would be four weeks to prepare for the public hearing. This would mean that the Council would be ready to consider the matter in June or July.

Councilmember Hytopoulos expressed “shock” and “concern” that the process was taking so long. She had understood that the Council would be reviewing this in February. An ad hoc committee was proposed to help push things along.

In citizen comment, Debbi Vann agreed with Hytopoulos that the Council would not be able to meet the SMP deadline if they weren’t presented with the draft until June or July. She encouraged councilmembers to begin educating themselves now on the complex issues involved.

F. City Manager’s Contract, AB 12-012

Councilmember Blair said that Councilmember Scales had asked to speak about the Executive Session on this matter. The Executive Session had preceded the Council meeting. Councilmember Scales moved that Executive Session confidentiality be waived from January 2012 for the limited purpose of discussing how the council reached its decision on the amendment. Mayor Lester seconded it.

The motion was unanimously approved. Blair said that the Council had asked Councilmember Bonkowski to be their spokesperson on this matter. He said that he, Scales, and Ward had been tasked to draft an amendment to the contract to enable them to seek a new manager.

In citizen comment, Barry Peters expressed concern about the city’s need for continuity and effective management. He said he was worried that the move to find a new manager would hurt the city. He asked the Council to reconsider its decision.

Debbi Vann thanked the council for taking its move on the manager issue.

Hillary Franz talked about what she described as Bauer’s leadership in transforming the city financially. She referred to a communication gap between the Council and the community. She warned the Council that they would be spending their tenure looking to rebuild the leadership they have right now with Bauer as manager.

Robert Dashiell said he had been hoping for transparency and openness when he voted for a change in government and deplored the lack of transparency that he perceives. Applause erupted after his words.

Yeta Hammer (sp?) wondered why the prior council needed a consultant to determine whether the manager was the right one. She said that transparency is very difficult to have. She said she was discouraged from speaking with the city attorney and is not so pleased with the city management.

Hytopoulos said that regardless of the different positions on the Council, the council worked together very well in their conversations. She said that some communitymembers have been worried about councilmembers’ ability to work together, but that so far she is impressed, that the outcome is the result of adult conversation. Ward agreed.

Bonkowski moved that the Council approve the amendment to the City Mangers’ contract. It was unanimously approved.

After a recess, Ward moved that they use a search firm to look for a replacement for Bauer and begin a study session on the matter.

Scales said he supported the amendment because he believed that it was in the best interest of the City because it provides for a transition period. He said there is no question that the Council has the authority to search for a new manager. He said that he believes he has a very different perspective on this issue from his colleagues. He said he has more experience on this council than his colleagues combined. He said he has been through the selection process before and that he understands how the departure of a key person can negatively impact operations and how the selection process often comes down to luck, that there’s no way to know if someone will be successful in that position.

Hytopoulos called a point of order. She said she was concerned that Scales was being allowed to state his position because the Council is not allowed to have this conversation within the confines of their agreement. She also said she was concerned that his words on the record would impact their future ability to secure a manager. Blair ruled that Scales could have 5 more minutes and that it should relate specifically to this motion.

Scales said he didn’t know that councilmembers could be limited in time and that he didn’t know if he would have time to complete his remarks. Blair said she would allow him 10 minutes.

Scales continued. He said you can’t turn in a city manager every 18 months like a used car. He said that no city manager candidate would knowingly enter into an abusive relationship, likening the relationship between city manager and council to that of a marriage.

Blair interrupted him. She said that his comments would be appropriate as part of the discussion next week about how to proceed. Scales said he did not understand why he wasn’t allowed to make his comments. He said it was outrageous. He said his comments were relevant to the decision to look for a new manager and so it was appropriate to the motion. Blair allowed him to continue.

He referred to the split vote on whether to make the manager’s position permanent as a destabilizing move. He referred to the Bainbridge Review and the Bainbridge Islander (we weren’t mentioned at all) as being singular in focus about one person and her accusations. A point of order was called again. Blair asked Scales to conclude by remaking his point. Scales said that the recent history on the Island will be extremely important to potential candidates and that this is why he doesn’t believe we will be able to attract a city manager.

The council moved to a vote to initiate a search for a new city manager and have a study session at the next meeting.

Hytopoulos said she wanted an opportunity to respond and make a comment. The council voted 5 to 2 to continue discussion. Scales complained again that he was being silenced and that he no longer felt it was productive to be there and he left.

Hytopoulos said it was absolutely unfair to the Council to be put in the position of not being able to explain how they reached their decision. She said there was a reason the Council could not be transparent about a private conversation. She said it was not serving the community’s interest to create a record of this not being a viable place for a candidate.

Hillary Franz returned to the podium. She said she went through three interview processes when she was a coucilmember. She said every one of them looked back through the newspapers and said,  “Can you explain the six years of bad press? This doesn’t look like a great place to work.” She told the Council they don’t have a history or a reputation to show to a potential candidate.

Hammer returned to the podium and said we did get to know the council through the election process.

 

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