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Coupeville approves shoreline plan

After more than five years of meetings and public hearings, Coupeville’s Shoreline Management Plan took a final step forward when the Town Council approved it Tuesday night.

Even though the plan encompasses the 2.4-mile stretch of the town’s shoreline, the focal point of resident’s attention remains the vacant waterfront lots on historic Front Street.

Those lots, two of which the town recently purchased thanks to a community fundraising effort, were the subject of a controversy over what types of buildings the plan would allow to be built on them.

The town originally wrote in provisions that would have allowed construction of such buildings as a restaurant. Critics wanted a tighter provision that would have required new buildings to have a “water dependent” use. Town officials eventually dropped the original, expanded provision after Department of Ecology officials said the town would have to come up with a compelling argument for it to be approved.

One Coupeville resident said the town should have done more to fight for the regulation.

“Why didn’t you fight a little more to maintain the soul of Coupeville?” resident Betty Gewald asked. “You’re going to destroy the ambiance of Coupeville.”

She said the town has more of a Victorian history and the downtown has been home to mercantiles, butcher shops and other buildings that wouldn’t qualify as a water dependent use.

Recently-elected town council member Ann Dannhauer wanted to put further restrictions on the waterfront by establishing a 25-foot setback from the high water mark. However, no other council member would second her motion.

Town Planner Larry Kwarsick said putting in a such a restriction would take away the economic values of the affected properties. It would be difficult for a building with a water dependent use to be built on Front Street because of all of the environmental constraints.

In the end, the town council approved the town’s shoreline plan by a 4-to-1 margin. Dannhauer voted against the plan.

Now with the council’s approval, it heads to the Department of Ecology for review and another public hearing, but a date hasn’t been set yet.

The other Town Council members were pleased with the plan they approved. Council member Bob Clay pointed out the Shoreline Management plans covers more than the several blocks comprising downtown. He added that the town has heard little from residents along the shoreline who are effected by the plan.

Kwarsick outlined several features of the plan during Tuesday’s meeting.

The plan provides protections for the current buildings on the waterside of Front Street where they can be restored, renovated or even rebuilt. In addition to the protections, there are provisions allowing for a single-family residence to be maintained in the buildings.

For new over-water structures, more than half of the building should be dedicated to a water dependent use.

He also touched upon regulations for mitigating the loss of public access and view to development through a dedicated alternate means.

Tuesday’s meeting wrapped up nearly five years of work on the town’s end.

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