Update: Disparity in compromise highlighted as Burien council approves new shoreline plan
Update: The ad hoc committee was tasked with trying to resolve four areas of contention between the city of Burien's originally submitted Shoreline Master Program and the state Department of Ecology. One of these areas was the buffer and setback requirements for the marine shoreline. The city and DOE had already agreed on the Lake Burien setbacks.
Here is our previous coverage
Yet another hitch appeared June 3 as Burien lawmakers appeared ready to approve a compromise shoreline master plan and resubmit it to the state Department of Ecology (DOE).
Three Burien council members voiced concern the compromise granted more lenient conditions for Puget Sound property owners over Lake Burien residents.
But the prospect of dragging the five-year-long process along for even one more council meeting caused two of the three dissenters to decide to approve the plan in hopes it may be amended later.
Councilmember Rose Clark commented that while the council has focused on the Lake Burien and marine properties shore plan, “the rest of the city has been ignored.”
The vote was 6-1 with Councilmember Jack Block Jr. the lone dissenter.
Under a compromise worked out by an ad hoc committee headed by Burien Marine Homeowners Association president Michael Noakes, private property near the shore would be divided into two zones.
In the first zone nearest the shore, any new adverse impacts would be severely limited, according to Noakes. In the second zone, some adverse impacts would be allowed if mitigated by restoration in the first zone.
Properties along the marine shoreline would be divided into three categories, depending on how altered they had become. Zone 1 measurements would vary from 20 feet to 50 feet. Zone 2 measurements vary from 15 feet to 100 feet.
For Lake Burien, the setbacks are 30 feet for Zone 1 and 15 feet for Zone 2. Some lake residents have pushed to eliminate the zones on the lake and have the 45-foot buffer be considered a single entity.
Burien lawmakers previously submitted a plan to the DOE establishing a 20-foot setback between the ordinary high water mark and a home or other building on marine properties. The DOE rejected that part of the plan and insisted on a 65-foot setback (50-foot buffer plus an additional 15-foot setback.)
As a result of the standoff, Burien council members appointed the ad hoc committee, which came up with the compromise which Burien officials say is likely to receive the required approval from DOE.
But the June 3 hitch came when Councilmember Joan McGilton said she was concerned about the fairness of the compromise.
“I want to make sure it is absolutely consistent between Lake Burien and the marine properties,” McGilton said.
In a later interview with the Highline Times, senior planner David Johanson sought to clarify the complicated compromise.
Johanson said in Lake Burien’s Zone 1 (the 30 feet nearest the lake,) homeowners would not be able to make many alterations beyond maintaining existing structures.
In Zone 2 (15 feet) homeowners may be able to construct “at-grade” structures such as a patio or deck. The structures could not be over 18 inches high. However, the homeowner would have to mitigate for the structure in Zone 1. Mitigation could include adding native vegetation.
On the Puget Sound (marine) shoreline, homeowners could “potentially” add on to their home in Zone 2 “depending on the location of the house,” according to Johanson. Homeowners could possibly expand their home toward the water inside of Zone 2.
Johanson emphasized the word, “potentially.” A worksheet has been developed that lists requirements and mitigation needs.
During the council meeting, McGilton said the nuance was important to bring up but she wanted to move ahead with a vote. She noted there are eight properties on Lake Burien with homes close to the 45-foot setback requirement.
Clark also expressed reservations about the disparity between requirements for Lake Burien and marine properties but decided to vote for approval.
Mayor Brian Bennett said the compromise was “unprecedented.” He praised the city of Burien and Noakes for pushing back against the DOE without resorting to a lawsuit and, instead, working with the state agency.
Bennett, who lives on Lake Burien, said he knows neighbors who no longer talk to each other because of the controversy.
“If we are not able to work together, we won’t be able to move forward,” the mayor declared.