Council takes comments on shoreline plan

More than 40 Eastside residents struggled with their allotted time to comment Monday on the land use code and comprehensive plan changes they want to see made to improve the city of Bellevue's draft shoreline master program.

The city continues to work on its shoreline master plan, which soon will be sent to the Washington Department of Ecology for review and potential approval, but a number of residents with waterfront property stated Monday they want to make sure it guarantees environmental protections for shorelines ahead of future development and redevelopment.

One resident on West Lake Sammamish Parkway argued waves have become higher on Lake Sammamish, and bulkheads continue to be necessary to protect waterfront properties and docks. Bulkheads — vertical concrete barriers along shorelines — will not be allowed to be replaced under the shoreline plan, which instead favors a rocky slope, unless they are determined to be the only feasible option.

Members of the group, Save Lake Sammamish, expressed concerns about adjusting setbacks to 25 feet rather than the current 53-foot setback, which they said would result in a loss of trees and shrubs. They added the program being considered does not provide enough protections for native vegetation, allowing lawns to make up vegetative restoration. Issaquah and Sammamish have completed their shoreline master programs, with setbacks at 35 feet and 50 feet, respectively. Save Lake Sammamish representatives said Bellevue should keep its setback to avoid clashing with those other communities' programs.

Attorney Rick Aramburu, legal counsel for SLS, told Bellevue councilmembers the city's draft master program includes "legal defects" that include no cumulative measurement for what constitutes "no net loss," as required by the ecology department.

Aaron Dichter with the Meydenbauer Bay Neighbors Association spoke to the city's plans for a Meydenbauer Bay Park, advocating the group's position that development in the area be limited to what was approved in the park's master plan.

Laurie Lyford, president of the Washington Sensible Shorelines Association, voiced the group's support of the shoreline master program, understanding that some compromise would be necessary on both sides of the issue — the city's and waterfront residents. She added the greenscape element will be key for the SMP's success. WSSA board member Marty Nizlek commended the city for its hiring of Dick Settle, an attorney specializing in environmental and land use law with Foster Pepper PLLC, to assist in preparing the SMP for ecology review.

Mayor Claudia Balducci said this was one of two public hearings that will take place, and Monday's hearing was planned early in the process to address the issues brought forth by the community. She said this is her 11th year on the council and she has seen how large-scale plans like these play out.

"I have never, and I mean never, seen something come to us in this amount of detail that doesn't change at least somewhat," she said. "… We're going to engage with these issues, and I don't know where it's going to go, but we're going to have some discussion. There will probably be some changes. We want a balanced plan at the end."


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