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Shoreline management row heats up
"As a series of county shorelines meetings moves through Central Kitsap this week, some community members continue to argue officials are misleading the public about the effects shorelines management regulations could have on property owners.The county commissioners maintain area residents will not accept the Department of Ecology's 100-foot buffer proposal and organized 26 forums to gather input on how to respond to state and federal shorelines-conservation proposals.Never have we said a 100-foot buffer is appropriate, Commissioner Tim Botkin told the audience at the Aug. 28 commissioners' meeting.The public meetings are intended to spur shorelines management discussion, though Botkin warned against excessive negative feedback. We hope folks continue to participate, giving options and suggestions, he said. We can hear all day what people don't want to do, but, ultimately, we'll have to do something.But while the shorelines meetings have been well attended, North Kitsap Republican commissioner candidate Scott Henden said, I don't think they've been effective.He said county administrators seem to flip-flop on the issue of how liable people will be under a shorelines proposal. If a house were to burn down, for example, Henden wondered if a property owner would be allowed to rebuild near the shoreline.I don't think the county's being up front with people, he said.He said people at the meetings consistently have raised issues of compensation for unusable property, salmon harvest from the shoreline and a lack of scientific backing proving shoreline management is necessary.It's unfair to say there's no scientific backing, Botkin said, (but) I was one of the first to say there was not enough scientific backing. When NMFS came out with a 100-foot buffer, I asked where was the scientific backing because shorelines are very different from streams.If NMFS takes these restrictions on people's property before it shows us the science, I won't go there.As for compensation, he said the law already dictates property owners would be compensated for unusable land.Vivian Henderson, the governmental affairs and land use director for the Kitsap County Association of Realtors, said the county is doing a big snowjob.I don't think the county's telling people the whole story, she said. The shoreline guidelines aren't mandates. Kitsap County rolls over every time the federal government or state government wants something. They don't even wait half the time.The county's requirement to abide by state and federal mandates stems from the Critical Areas Ordinance, which she said must be changed to protect the county. We need to say we will determine what is endangered, she said.Botkin said the critical areas ordinance isn't entirely to blame. The CAO was the tool that caused the initial county response to endangered species act issues about streams (and) it applies somewhat to the county's response about shorelines. But the thing that's coming up for (shorelines management plans) is not CAO, it's the shorelines management process. It's a state process. It's a little different, he said.Henderson, too, said people are concerned about their avenues of recourse under the shorelines management guidelines should a septic tank fail or a house burn down. And, while nobody is going to have to leave property they currently own, she said, county administrators have been unclear on how much people can change or expand existing structures once ordinances go into effect.She cited a requisite to maintain or restore properties to properly functioning conditions, which, she said, means pristine or pre-European. Now, what in the hell does that mean? she said.While the commissioners have already said they're not going with Plan B - the plan adopting 100-foot buffers - Henderson said she was equally concerned with Plan A - a plan allowing the county to come up with its own shoreline management strategy.She said she fears county administrators might come up with a restrictive plan requiring people to get permits to make changes to their properties.Plan A is a Pandora's box. They can make a Plan B out of Plan A, she said. What we're afraid of is degrees. Once you get a permit, (they've) got you by the balls. "