Special council meetings on Shoreline Master Program commence on each island

The legislative hearing room was full of concerned citizens at a special council meeting on the Shoreline Master Program Tuesday, Jan. 12.

The meeting, which will be replicated on Orcas and Lopez Island, came about after a number of islanders came to the council and asked for more time for public input and better explanations of the changes from the 1998 updates to the SMP.

The SMP is a required document under the state Shoreline Management Act, adopted in Washington in 1972. San Juan County created their first SMP in 1978, and has done major updates since 1998. For the islands, the SMP is particularly important to the San Juan’s 400 miles of coastline, as it dictates what sort of development is allowed, protects sensitive areas and promotes public access to the shore.

The SMP applies to land 200 feet inland from the ordinary high water mark, and then seaward from the ordinary high water mark to the county line.

The current draft is the work of four years of public hearings, meetings with stakeholders, a citizen Planning Commission in 2011, and county council workshops.

On Tuesday, members of the San Juan County Department of Community Development presented a slideshow that detailed the SMP process and some important changes that were being made. Most of the changes, according to the staff that presented, were to simplify the SMP while adhering to the original goals.

Some major points of contention that were raised by concerned citizens were the elimination of dual designation below the ordinary high water mark, the amount of time allowed for the final step in the public process and changes to nonconforming use regulations.

Director of the department of Erika Shook said that the dual designations were eliminated because they were complex and hard to understand, and that the staff found it difficult to administer. According the their presentation, aquatic uses will be consistent with uses allowed in adjacent upland designations.

“The dual designation is gone, but the protections are still there,” Shook said.

Planning manager and deputy director Linda Kuller and planner Colin Maycock were also present to answer submitted questions. After answering 24 questions, they opened it up to the public to ask questions.

Though the council took the audience’s questions into consideration, the public comment period has officially closed. Stephens said the council will only reopen public testimony if substantial enough changes are made to the SMP draft.

Stephens thanked Maycock and Kuller, who were on vacation at the time that the meetings were set up.

“I hope it’s been fruitful to get your questions clarified and answered,” said chairman Jamie Stephens.

To see a full video of the session, including the departments presentation and question and answer session watch here. See a full list of the SMP documents here, and a YouTube video of islanders explaining sections of the SMP here.

Meetings on Orcas and Lopez will be as follows:

Wednesday, January 13, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m., Eastsound Fire Station, 45 Lavender Lane, Orcas Island

Thursday, January 14, 4:30 – 6:30 p.m., Lopez Center for Community and the Arts, 204 Village Road, Lopez Island