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Shoreline master

By the end of May, the Coupeville Town Council will likely approve a new series of regulations concerning the town’s shoreline.

Before that can happen, they have to answer concerns some residents have expressed about the plan.

Nearly 50 people attended the Tuesday evening Town Council meeting to testify in a public hearing about the shoreline master plan, critical areas regulations and flood damage prevention regulations.

Residents in attendance were concerned about regulations dealing with construction over the water on historic Front Street and the impacts such development would have on area views.

The proposed 157-page ordinance allows for construction of new buildings over the water on Front Street between Alexander and Coveland streets that is consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan. New buildings could extend 20 feet over the water.

Town Planner Larry Kwarsick said the new regulations also help protect existing structures. The regulations would require people who develop over the water to contribute financially to shoreline restoration areas in other parts of the town.

“We’re looking at a way to allow minimum developments and finance restoration efforts,” Kwarsick told the crowd.

There are four vacant lots in the downtown Coupeville waterfront that could be developed. A new restaurant sited next to Toby’s Tavern is currently going through the approval process.

Coupeville resident Will Jones said during the hearing that he was concerned that new buildings on the waterfront would compromise downtown’s historic character and alter public views.

“My main concern with the plan is building more buildings over the water on Front Street,” Jones said.

Steve Erickson, with the Whidbey Environmental Action Network, wanted to see a “no net loss of public view space” and said allowing commercial structures built over the water isn’t consistent with state shoreline regulations. He would like to see only water-dependent use structures allowed over the water.

In an interview after the meeting, Kwarsick said the waterfront buildings don’t have a history of water dependent uses. He added that many water-dependent uses would require construction of a pier, which wouldn’t be appropriate for the downtown area.

WEAN member Marianne Edain said the vacant lots are the only place west of the Cascades that have Rocky Mountain maples growing on them.

“I’d hate to lose those trees,” Edain said, adding that paying for shoreline mitigation doesn’t work because the money involved doesn’t make up the difference.

Coupeville resident Lisa Tichy said that the town should complete a comprehensive study of retail services before approving a regulation allowing more commercial development.

Sarah Schmidt said the town should preserve the lot between Windjammer Gallery and Kingfisher Books to save a view of Penn Cove in downtown.

Mayor Nancy Conard said the town offered to buy the lot a couple of years ago, but the offer was refused.

Others attending the meeting were concerned that new construction in Coupeville is changing the town’s character.

The town has been working for the past two years to develop the new master plan. In that time, 12 public meetings with the Coupeville Planning Commission and an open house were held to help develop the document.

The Coupeville Town Council approved a first reading of the proposed regulations Tuesday evening. Council members Molly Hughes, Dianne Binder and Jim Phay approved the motion. Council members Bob Clay and Marshal Bronson were absent.

Because there was so much comment Tuesday night, the council decided to continue the public hearing May 23. At that meeting, the council can take action to approve the regulations.

Once approved, the documents head to the Washington State Department of Ecology for examination. It will hold another 30-day public comment period and an optional public hearing before sending the plan, and comments, back to the town. Town officials have 45 days to respond to any issues that come up.

The director of the Department of Ecology approves the document and any appeals are made to the Growth Management Hearings Board.

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