Buffers and property rights discussed at second Burien Shoreline Master Program public forum
The second of the two Burien Shoreline Master Program public forums became heated as the topic changed from the science to what this could mean for shoreline homeowners.
The speakers consisted of Bob Fritzen from the Department of Ecology, Gordon Buchan, president and CEO of GVA Kidder Mathews, Derek House, vice president and manager of Wells Fargo Insurance and Burien Senior Planner David Johanson representing the City.
Buchan, who owns a home on Three Tree Point, spoke to the potential impact of making the majority of shoreline homes nonconforming by increasing the buffer from 20 feet to 50 feet.
He said in his professional opinion having a home that is nonconforming is a negative.
“It creates doubt and it creates concern,” Buchan said. Adding he felt making a structure nonconforming would negatively affect its property values.
However after he made those statements he admitted he was unclear whether the language in the proposed Shoreline Master Program would allow nonconforming home destroyed more than 75 percent of the assessed value to be rebuilt.
Buchan also said nonconformance must be disclosed when selling the house, as well as the restrictions placed on the house because of the nonconformance.
Bob Fritzen, a shoreline planner with the department of ecology, said he questioned that uncertainty. The regulations regarding nonconforming structures is clear, he said.
Burien Senior Planner David Johanson in his presentation earlier said any nonconforming home destroyed more than 75 percent of the assessed value could be rebuilt as long as it met certain guidelines.
Many homeowners in the audience asked for a clear definition of what some of the requirements meant, and to the language perfectly clear a homeowner could rebuild their home like it was on their original footprint. People asked for the exact requirements of the vegetation standards required to rebuild a destroyed nonconforming structure, as well as the legal description of the construction of new structure could not have an impact on ecological functions.
Some examples were given, but the exact requirements and what the regulations would practically mean for homeowners was not.
Johanson told one homeowner, who has concrete from his house to the water, that if his house was destroyed he would be required to put in vegetation between his house and the water.
Former councilmember, and owner of a home along a cliff overlooking the water, Stephen Lamphear said new building codes and the critical areas ordinance made his and his neighbors homes nonconforming and he had not seen any problems.
He said he had refinanced his home seven times since his home became nonconforming, and had switched to a different insurance company and gotten a better policy for cheaper.
“I haven’t lost a thing,” Lamphear said.
Johanson also told the audience bulkheads could be maintained and rebuilt at their original size, and new bulkheads could be put in if a need could be shown. New bulkheads would be designed to minimize the wave action.
Councilmember Gordon Shaw questioned the effectiveness of the 50-foot buffer, especially where there were bulkheads.
I just do not see there is any ecological gain to be made by buffers where there is a bulkhead,” Shaw said.
He suggested the City look for different alternatives.
When Fritzen was asked about the effectiveness of the 50-foot buffer, especially as it compared to other jurisdictions he said you could not compare one buffer to another simply based on size because they are much more than that. Each jurisdictions buffer has different regulations and requirements built in, he said.