Plan adds cultural resource protection

Cultural resources will receive more protection in Coupeville, even if most people don’t know where they’re located.

After nearly five years of effort, work on Coupeville’s Shoreline Master Plan is nearing an end. Several revisions have been written into the plan that is currently undergoing public comment.

Town Planner Larry Kwarsick pointed out the substantial changes that have been made to the plan during the Tuesday evening Town Council meeting. He said the cultural resource protection regulations were changed due to comments raised by various tribes, the state Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation, local residents and the National Park Service.

Kwarsick said there are six or seven sites within Coupeville that have historic and cultural artifacts on them. He wouldn’t say where those sites are, presumably to protect them. But anyone wishing to develop within 500-feet of any of those sites will have to undertake studies to see what artifacts are on the property. If resources are found that would require additional protection, then the property would have to go through a more intensive cultural resources management process, Kwarsick said.

People aren’t generally aware of the locations of the “cultural resources,” presumably Indian and pioneer artifacts, and they are kept confidential, though Kwarsick said that the locations affect a significant portion of the town. Coupeville’s shoreline plan covers everything within 200 yards of the shoreline.

Kwarsick said the information is held in trust by the department of Archeology and Historic Preservation. For access to the information, the town agrees to keep it confidential. He said that is necessary out of fear someone may destroy the items located on the sites.

There are also provisions in the plan to protect the current buildings that are built over the water on Front Street.

He said the plan protects the owners by allowing them to continue to use their buildings for its historic uses. Generally, new buildings have to have some sort of “water dependent” use. None of the buildings currently on Front Street would qualify.

However, he said that owners would have to apply for a shoreline conditional use permit if they want to change how their building is used. That could prove to be a lengthy process because it would have to go before the Planning Commission, Town Council, and the state Department of Ecology. He said that process may affect the economic soundness of a building.

Council member Ann Dannhauer said she supported a long review process, while council member Molly Hughes questioned what would be the environmental impact if a business switched from selling jewelry to selling shoes.

There is also language in the plan that would allow an owner to replace the building if it is destroyed.

“My goal is to protect the historic structures,” Kwarsick said.

In addition to the provisions concerning the existing buildings, there are also provisions mitigating the loss of public views and beach access along the historic waterfront.

During the meeting, Dannhauer asked about the possibility of adding a 25-foot buffer from the high water mark on Front Street in Coupeville, which would effectively prohibit any development on the shoreline in downtown.

Kwarsick said such a provision would render affected properties useless and leave the town open to litigation as an unconstitutional taking of property.

The Town Council held a workshop Tuesday evening to discuss the current form of the shoreline plan. Dannhauer wanted the council to take more public input during the workshop. No other member of the council would second the motion.

Council member Bob Clay said he was sick of all the public hearings that have already taken place and wants to vote on it. Work on the proposed plan started in 2003. The draft sparked controversy beginning in late 2006 when some residents were critical of provisions that would have allowed new buildings to be constructed over the water on Front Street for a “water enjoyment” use. Ultimately, that provision was removed after the town met with Ecology officials last summer.

The Town Council will hold a public hearing in March and then the plan heads to the state Department of Ecology for its review.

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