150-foot shoreline buffer is subject for debate
By Jack Kintner
The same state-mandated 150-foot shoreline buffer that has caused such strong opposition at the county level will be considered by the Blaine Planning Commission at a public hearing next Thursday, November 13, in the council chambers at city hall.
The proposed zoning change would prohibit new structures within 150 feet of a marine shoreline, class one streams or lakes greater than 20 acres in size. For Blaine, that includes the shoreline along Drayton Harbor and Semiahmoo Bay and property along Dakota Creek.
Blaine’s community development director Terry Galvin said that while Blaine must comply with state laws, he is committed to finding “a way to make this all work” for waterfront land owners within the city limits. The trigger for this, he explained, is a state statute that requires using the best available science in updating the zoning regulations in critical areas such as shorelines, something that the growth management act requires cities and counties to do every 10 years.
“Using that, they came up with a 150-buffer along shorelines where new construction or hard structures would be prohibited,” Galvin said, “but that doesn’t mean we can’t apply a number of variations, or variances.”
The chief impact of the proposal inside Blaine would be on undeveloped residential lots. “We don’t have a lot of property that’s affected by this, mostly in the Montfort Park neighborhood. We need to comply with the state requirements but my job is to help people find ways to develop their property in a reasonable and economically sound manner. We need to keep in mind that people build near shorelines for the views and access,” Galvin said.
New or rebuilt construction could come no closer than 150 feet to a shoreline, including new additions to existing construction and other hard structures such as bulkheads. An existing structure could be expanded away from the shoreline, but expanding laterally, or parallel to the shoreline, could pose problems if the existing structure is within the 150-foot buffer. Expanding an existing structure further into the buffer, or toward the shoreline, would be prohibited.
The planning commission hearing is set for 7 p.m. The staff report outlining the proposed changes is available on the city’s website at www.ci.blaine.wa.us.