EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated April 2 to reflect the Council's decision to delay final action and hold more public hearings in the summer.
The Pierce County Council seeks public input as it prepares to update its shoreline development regulations for the first time since the 1970s.
Based on changes to state law enacted by the Washington State Legislature in 2003, the county must regulate development along marine waters, rivers, wetlands, floodplains, and certain lakes and streams. State law also establishes a schedule for all cities and counties to update their shoreline management programs.
Various Pierce County stakeholders have been working on a draft proposal since 2008, and it's nearing completion. The Pierce County Council's Community Development Committee has scheduled a series of meetings around the county to gather public comment on the draft.
"This update to shoreline regulations affects approximately 12,000 properties in Pierce County," said County Councilmember Rick Talbert (District 5), chair of the Community Development Committee. "We know this is a sensitive issue. We are trying to craft an update that complies with state law while protecting individual property rights. We encourage interested parties to review these updates and provide the Council with their comments."
State law includes a requirement that development result in "no net loss of shoreline ecological function." The law also includes criteria for shoreline vegetation conservation. Pierce County proposes to comply with the law by establishing a shoreline buffer.
These new buffer standards would not apply retroactively. For example, legally existing residential development is defined as a "conforming use" and would not be subject to new shoreline buffer requirements. Legally existing lawns, gardens and established landscaping also could be maintained within shoreline buffer areas.
All future development and redevelopment within shoreline jurisdiction would need to comply with the county's updated Shoreline Master Program. Typical examples of development that would be reviewed for compliance with the updated shoreline regulations include: residential development and associated accessory uses, docks, piers and floats, bulkheads and retaining walls, boat launching ramps, recreational development, marinas and aquaculture uses.
Here is the schedule of Community Development Committee meetings:
• March 6, 5:30 p.m., North Lake Tapps Middle School, 20029 12th St. E, Lake Tapps.
• March 20, 5:30 p.m., Pacific Lutheran University, Scandinavian Cultural Center, 12180 Park Ave. S.
• April 3, 5:30 p.m., Peninsula High School auditorium, 14105 Purdy Dr. NW, Gig Harbor.
• April 7, 1:30 p.m., County-City Building, Room 1045, 930 Tacoma Ave. S, Tacoma.
The full County Council was originally scheduled to vote on the updated regulations on April 22, but it decided to postpone the final vote and hold more hearings over the summer. Dates will be announced when they are confirmed.
The County Council will accept testimony orally and in writing. For more information about Ordinance 2013-45 or to submit a comment, go to www.piercecountywa.org/council.
Debby Hyde, Planning and Land Services
Mike Kruger, County Council legislative analyst