Poulsbo leads Kitsap with new shorelines plan

Poulsbo is the first local jurisdiction in Kitsap County to update its Shoreline Master Program, as required by state law, and send it on to the Washington Department of Ecology for ratification.

The Poulsbo City Council approved the document Wednesday, as reported by Kitsap Sun reporter Amy Phan.

As required by formal state policies, the shorelines plan adopts numerous new regulations to accomplish these basic goals:

  • Protect the quality of water and the natural environment to achieve “no net loss” of ecological function as time goes on,
  • Encourage water-dependent uses along the shoreline while discouraging uses that are not connected to the water,
  • Preserve and enhance public access and recreational uses along the shoreline.
Poulsbo shoreline designations (Click to download full size (PDF 976 kb).)

Keri Weaver, Poulsbo’s associate planner, does a good job outlining the content of the Poulsbo Shoreline Master Program in her staff report (PDF 224 kb) submitted to the City Council. The full SMP (PDF 552 kb) is more revealing and not difficult to read.

The document lists five “shoreline environments,” defined by ecological characteristics and current uses, each with its own development rules:

  • Shoreline residential
  • High intensity
  • Urban conservancy
  • Natural
  • Aquatic

Check out the shoreline maps to locate each of the environments.

The always-controversial issue of buffers was settled during the previous update of Poulsbo’s Critical Areas Ordinance. The City Council saw no reason to revisit its justification for 100-foot buffers along the city’s saltwater shoreline on Liberty Bay and 150-foot buffers along Dogfish Creek, the largest stream draining into bay. In addition, 25-foot setbacks expand the no-building zone, but water-dependent uses and public access may be exempt from those setbacks.

In Poulsbo, a number of structures are prohibited everywhere along the shoreline. They include boat launches, haul-outs and docks except in marinas; private boat houses; dikes; fill except for habitat restoration; and in-stream structures except for public access, public utilities and habitat restoration.

Existing piers, docks and boat launches outside of boating facilities may be maintained, however.

Bulkheads and other shore-stabilization structures will be allowed only when shown that a primary structure, such as a house, is in danger from waves, tidal action or currents. The applicant must show that damage would occur within three years unless quick action could avoid ecological damage at a later time. Soft-bank protection, such as placement of anchored logs and rocks, is the preferred method of stabilization.

Minor repairs and replacements of a bulkhead would be allowed, but if replacement involves more than 50 percent of the structure, the owner may need to prove that the repair is needed to protect a primary structure.

Shoreline trees and native vegetation are protected in the Poulsbo shoreline plan to maintain ecological function. Danger trees may be removed, subject to city approval and mitigation. Other vegetation must be maintained with exceptions for water-related uses, public recreation, city-approved view corridors, utilities and roads. To enhance views or improve a tree’s health, no more than one-fifth of the tree’s original crown may be removed. Non-native vegetation may be removed, provided it does not cause environmental damage.

As for whether an existing residential structure should be considered a “conforming” use, property owners are entitled to submit evidence showing that the structure was legally permitted when it was built.

In addition to the regulatory sections of the SMP, the City Council approved a new Restoration Plan (PDF 2.2 mb), which focuses mainly on further restoration opportunities at Poulsbo Fish Park, existing and future city parks and road ends.

A required Cumulative Impact Analysis (PDF 4.6 mb) supports the idea of “no net loss” by making sure that new development does not degrade the shoreline environment or else makes up for the damage through “mitigation sequencing”: 1) avoiding impacts where possible, 2) minimizing impacts on the property, and 3) conducting mitigation projects where needed.

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