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Sammamish City Council Gives Green Light to Shoreline Master Program Revisions

The move on Monday clears the way for what city officials hope will be the final approval by the state Department of Ecology.

The Sammamish took a major step forward in completing the Shoreline Master Program on Monday, as elected leaders approved revisions which will be presented to state Department of Ecology officials for review.

The vote capped hours of discussion, as residents including ones from SHO, or Sammamish Homeowners, and lawmakers questioned specific proposals that would affect people specifically living along Lake Sammamish, Pine Lake and Beaver Lake.

But among all the issues, which include building setback distances on Lake Sammamish and additional vegetation, it appeared that no revision requested by state officials was large enough to postpone the vote or derail the process. The City Council holds its next meeting in September.

The City Council, though, wanted scientific information from state officials as to why grating on docks at Pine Lake and Beaver Lake is necessary.

For property owners who have docks on Lake Sammamish, the state is requiring grating for 40 percent light transmission through a dock to help threatened species in the water. Predator species often hide in the shade.

Several elected officials and a few residents noted that they do not believe that those other two lakes have species that are recognized as threatened by the federal government. 

One key issue that made headway, even before the Monday meeting, was the issue of house setback distance on Lake Sammamish. This applies to vacant or underdeveloped lots on Lake Sammamish, Kamuron Gurol, city community development director, said.

The state wanted a 25-foot setback. But the city supported a distance of 20 feet, because in part, scenic views could be affected given the constrained property lot size for some owners along Lake Sammamish. The standard is 50 feet.

But in order to have a house closer to the water, a property owner would need to follow a setback table, which calls for vegetation between the structure and the water, and for a portion, on the sides of the building.

The vegetation area, Gurol said, is basically a 15-foot area that has native plants to help the habitat and water quality. "That's been the key issue and I think we got there," he said at the meeting.

He noted that state Department of Ecology officials worked with the city to remain flexible on dock dimensions for Pine Lake and Beaver Lake. Instead of a four-feet width for the dock walkway, the width could be six feet. But the total walkway and platform area needs to under 480 square feet, he said.

The Shoreline Master Program is necessary because the state has an interest in cities that have shorelines on lakes that are 20 acres or larger, Gurol said. They have been called "shorelines of the state."

The Shoreline Master Program is essentially a land use document and tries to balance protecting the environment and safeguarding a property owner's rights, he said.

Before the discussion started, City Manager Ben Yazici told elected representatives and about 30 people in the audience that he had received an email from the state that the Sammamish plan is "approvable."

He and Gurol have been meeting with state Department of Ecology officials to discuss the plan, requests and changes.

Getting to this point has been arduous, as city officials noted. The process started in 2006, Gurol said. In October 2009, the city leaders adopted the Shoreline Master Program. In May, the city received conditional approval from the state.

Since May, the City Council, city staff, residents and state officials have been discussing those conditions.

At one point on Monday, there was talk among City Councilmembers as to whether questions were so large that they needed to be addressed at another meeting.

Councilman John James encouraged his colleagues not to discard everything that was on the table. Mayor Don Gerend said that the questions "shouldn't be a line in the sand."

Rather, he said, questions could be addressed through meetings or other forms of communication.

Gerend, for example, had a question about one part of the plan and whether the dock width was wide enough, especially if people carry a canoe out to the water.

Residents, many who live along Lake Sammamish, came prepared with charts and statistics to make their case for changes or to help inform the discussion.

Several said they realize that the Shoreline Master Program was not a perfect document. One woman asked the City Council to remember that they represent the residents of Sammamish - and not the viewpoint of state officials.

After the Monday vote, people in the audience applauded.

Councilmembers Michele Petitti and Mark Cross did not attend the meeting because they were out of town.

On Wednesday, Gerend called the result a "great collaboration" involving city staff, elected officials and residents.

"It's great to have gotten past this milestone," Gurol said Wednesday. "We hope that the state will quickly approve the plan so we can move on to other priorities."

Already, he said, he has received phone calls from builders and architects who expressed interest in following the new plan. Permit applicants also are waiting for final state approval, he said.

Gurol hopes state officials will approve the city ordinance of approved amendments quickly.

"I'm trying to get the package to them this week," he said.

Editor's note: The Shoreline Master Program has many details. To see more information, visit the city of Sammamish website. The meeting agenda packet has the most details. This story was revised on Aug. 23 to give the official title for the plan.

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