Kitsap shorelines always good for surprises

Shoreline buffers are us, no doubt about it.

As one case involving Kitsap County’s shorelines waits on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, a whole new issue has sprung out of a state law written to resolve confusion created during the earlier lawsuit.

Until Kitsap County adopts a new shorelines plan next year, conflicts between the Shorelines Management Act and the Growth Management Act could go on. After that, expect a new round of appeals.

The latest issue arises out of a little-known provision of a state law passed in 2010. The overall intent of the law was to allow a local Critical Areas Ordinance to provide shoreline protections until a new shorelines plan is drafted. For background, see Water Ways from Jan. 6 of this year.

There is an exception in the law, however, listed in Subsection 3(c) of RCW 36.70A.480, which allows for “redevelopment or modification” of a structure as long as it is consistent with the local shoreline master program and it is shown that “no net loss of ecological function” would result.

Sure enough, a Kitsap County property owner who wants to tear down a house and build a new one closer to the shore was able to make use of that special provision.

Kitsap County Hearing Examiner Kimberly Allen, who approved the redevelopment, said her ruling “rests on a complex and very fact-specific set of interactions” between three different laws. For details, check out my story published in today’s Kitsap Sun or read the hearing examiner’s decision (PDF 1.3 mb) for yourself.

The case on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners v. Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board, raises questions about whether large, uniform buffers violate the “takings clause” of the Fifth Amendment. KAPO contends that Kitsap County requires property owners to dedicate “large tracts of private land to public use as environmental conservation buffers” without a clear showing that such buffers protect the environment.

The case has yet to be accepted by the Supreme Court, but one can get a good understanding of the arguments by reading the petition for writ of certiorari (PDF 152 kb), posted on the website of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which is representing KAPO.

Meanwhile, the task force working to update Kitsap’s shorelines plan has reconvened, taking up buffers and other controversial issues, after a hiatus through most of the summer and fall. For the latest on those deliberations, see stories I wrote for the Kitsap Sun Nov. 7 and 13:

Shoreline task force to tackle thorny issues

Shoreline buffers move to front burner

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