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Coupeville shoreline plan concerns state

How development will take place in downtown Coupeville is one of the issues leaders are grappling with as they fine-tune a draft of the town’s shoreline management plan.

One contentious issue concerns how development occurs on historic Front Street. Provisions in the draft plan would allow construction of new buildings to extend 20 feet over the water. There are four lots on the water side of Front Street that are currently empty.

The Coupeville Town Council met with Department of Ecology officials in a workshop last week to learn their impressions of the draft. The DOE has to approve the shoreline plan before it can be instituted.

Peter Skowlund, state shoreline planning policy lead for the Department of Ecology, said the town’s proposal concerning new buildings over the water appears more expansive than state regulations allow.

“It’s not wholly consistent with the guidelines as they are written right now,” Skowlund said.

He said the town’s proposal used the term “water oriented,” which could allow for such uses as the construction of a new restaurant over the water, rather than the preferred “water dependent,” which limits the types of uses that could be built over the water.

Betty Renkor, shoreline planner for the DOE, said the town would have to come up with a compelling argument that meets the policy written in the Shoreline Management Act. The town would have to show why over-water construction is needed.

Another component would affect current buildings standing over the water on Front Street. The town is writing in a provision that would allow for reconstruction or restoration of buildings should they be damaged.

Skowlund said he generally didn’t have a problem with the reconstruction proposal. He said the department is more concerned with future development. However, he said there should be a percentage written in that outlines the point a damaged building should be replaced with a conforming water dependent structure.

The future of over water development on historic Front Street has been a contested subject between residents. During a public meeting in October 2006, several residents were critical of the proposal to allow new buildings over the water.

Renkor and Skowlund said they are going to take their concerns and share them with the state Attorney General’s office to get their impressions of the town’s shoreline plan.

Skowlund said it’s best to work with the town to develop the plan so that it’s legally defensible if someone appeals. If someone appeals the town’s plan, then the Department of Ecology and the town would both have to defend it.

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