A Town Council workshop was held in the Rec Hall on June 21 to meet with the Department of Ecology to discuss some of the issues in Coupeville’s draft version of its Shoreline Master Plan.
This workshop was very informative. Perhaps the most important fact we walked home with was that there is some misinformation circulating around town about what might happen to the historic buildings on Front Street. Based on information we were given by the town and its employees, we might think that if any Front Street buildings were damaged or destroyed they could not be rebuilt to their previous condition.
Then we were further mislead, and told that the only way to allow our cherished old Front Street buildings to be repaired or rebuilt was to change the Shoreline Master Plan to allow more new over-water construction wherever there is an open lot downtown. This is not so.
A council person quoted some statistics from a supposedly reliable questionnaire that had been circulated last year by town hall. She said that this questionnaire indicated that the majority of the respondents wanted to permit new over-water construction. Unfortunately she didn’t mention that town hall had provided the same misinformation described above to the recipients of the questionnaire and this has now led to the meaningless results based on those faulty assumptions.
The misinformation provided by the town hall is that the buildings on Front Street are non-compliant with existing regulations and can not be rebuilt in their current form should they be damaged. It is true that they are non-compliant, but RCW 90.58.030 states that “normal maintenance or repair of existing structures or developments, including damage by accident, fire, or elements are exempt from this prohibition.”
Now, we certainly want our Front Street merchants to be able to operate their businesses.
These businesses are the core of Front Street and much of the reason that we are blessed with all of our visitors. Obviously we would want the owners to be able to rebuild or repair in the event of some misfortune.
Anyone might have responded that new over-water building was fine had they believed that it was necessary in order for the existing owners to rebuild.
It is difficult to believe that our mayor and her planner have missed such meaningful information accidentally.
The City of Port Townsend recently approved a Shoreline Plan that does exactly what we need to do here; allow our existing historic buildings to be repaired and rebuilt if damaged. It is as simple as that.