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State Gives Green Light to Shoreline Master Program for Sammamish

The plan is required by state law and was a compromise between protecting the environment and shoreline development, a city official said.

Sammamish residents who own property along Lake Sammamish, Pine Lake or Beaver Lake - or people who plan to do so - now have clarity on land use rules, given the state's approval of the Shoreline Master Program.

The state Department of Ecology gave its nod of approval to the state-required plan for the city in an Aug. 17 letter, city officials said Monday. The plan will take effect on Aug. 31.

The state approval caps policy work which began in 2006 and sets forth requirements for dock width, setback distance for building in a vacant lot along Lake Sammamish and additional vegetation.

"There shall be no further modifications to the City's proposal," state Department of Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant wrote in the letter.

"It's a compromise or balance between raising the bar in terms of protecting the environment but also providing different options for local residents in terms of how they actually build out their site," Kamuron Gurol, city community development director, said Monday.

For example, state officials originally called for a 25-foot setback for new buildings along Lake Sammamish. The standard distance is 50 feet. But the city asked for - and received - a 20-foot setback because many lots along that lake are constrained by the , Gurol said.

But a property owner would have to add a vegetation area with native plants. "A few feet make all the difference in the world," Gurol said, referring to views and compact lots.

City officials, he added, will release a user guide to explain the plan details and requirements to residents. The guide is expected in the coming months.

Gurol acknowledged that the final policy was the result of give-and-take among residents, the City Council and state officials. He realizes that there will be some people who are not completely satisfied.

"If you end up in a standoff, nobody benefits," he said.

In theory, he added, the state could have written the Shoreline Master Program for the city but he had not heard of that being done for any municipality. If a party, though, is unhappy with the plan, there is a 60-day window after an Aug. 25 notice is published to file an appeal.

State ecology officials said the plan, which affects 12 miles of shoreline along the three lakes in the city boundaries, helps restore and protect the Puget Sound, supports migrating salmon which the federal government requires and enhances waterfronts.   

"The City’s updated program will provide significant improvements in the protection, use, development, and restoration," state officials said in their statement.

"It will also promote the protection and restoration of shoreline habitat, accommodate historic land use patterns, and support public parks along the City’s shorelines."

City Manager Ben Yazici expressed pleasure with the state approval, especially given that the process began five years ago and involved numerous talks with residents, environmentalists and the state.

"It was a long and challenging process, but our residents and city staff got it done," he said in a statement.

Gurol added that the plan gives a new zoning designation for some property owners of "shoreline residential," instead of "rural." That designation should give owners more flexibility on what they can do with their lakefront land. 

Another element of the plan was the width for a dock walkway for Pine Lake and Beaver Lake. State officials were flexible, Gurol said, with the final dock walkway width of six feet. Originally, there was a call for a four-feet width for the walkway. Still, some residents wanted a wider walkway width for safety reasons.  

At a , elected leaders raised questions about the plan details and asked whether an additional gathering in September was needed to discuss them. Members of SHO, or Sammamish Homeowners, also commented on and questioned the plan.

But the City Council opted to vote on the Shoreline Master Program instead of waiting until next month to continue the process. Mayor Don Gerend said the questions should not become a "line in the sand."

This shoreline policy also is an element of the city's comprehensive plan. The state, Gurol said, has an interest in cities that have shorelines on lakes that are 20 acres or larger. Such waterfront areas have been dubbed "shorelines of the state."

Sammamish joins Kirkland and Redmond in receiving state approval of their respective Shoreline Master Plans. The state reported that the city's shoreline plan had not been updated since Sammamish was incorporated in 1999.

Since that time, state officials said, the city had followed King County guidelines.

Editor's note: The state Department of Ecology has posted its statement, letter and supporting documents for the Shoreline Master Program for Sammamish. Residents who have questions about the plan can call the at 425-295-0500. This story has been revised since it was originally published to give the plan's official title.  

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