By Matt Batcheldor, January 23, 2013, The Olympian
A standing-room-only crowd of more than 70 people packed Olympia City Hall on Tuesday night to tell the City Council what they think of placing new restrictions on the city shoreline.
Views ranged from worry that the proposed Shoreline Management Program was too strict and limiting to development to concern it was too loose and would allow too much development and not enough protection from expected sea-level rise.
The council developed the draft plan, which the state is mandating, after more than three years of community discussion, most of that at the Olympia Planning Commission. It all came to a head during a public hearing Tuesday night.
Jack Horton, president of the Woodland Trail Greenway Association, told the council that a proposed 30-foot building setback should be at least doubled. The waterfront vista is important for bringing workers to the community, he said. “We attract workers from all over the country to here with their salaries because they want to live here,” he said.
But Jay Brady of Tumwater, one of many members of the Olympia Yacht Club to speak, expressed concern that “if you start moving the setbacks way back, then we’re going to be greatly restricted in our ability to maintain” the club, which is more than 100 years old.
Representatives of the Port of Olympia and Olympia Master Builders also expressed concerns, but shared no specifics. They said they would send letters later.
Kevin Stormans, an owner of Bayview Thriftway, said he was concerned about the impact of use restrictions, setbacks, height limits and other requirements on his downtown grocery.
But other residents said the restrictions didn’t go far enough to protect the environment and scenic views, guard against sea-level rise and allow for a waterfront trail. They favored a plan closer to the Olympia Planning Commission’s recommendations, which called for setbacks of 150 feet in some places.
Former Mayor Bob Jacobs, a member of Friends of the Waterfront, advocated for 70-foot setbacks. “Please think broadly and long-term as you shape the final document,” he said.
Walt Jorgensen suggested 150-foot setbacks, calling out the Port of Olympia as a “rogue government that preys on the taxpayers of Thurston County.”
No decisions were made Tuesday night; changes could still be made based on public comment. The council is expected to approve the plan this year and send it to the state Department of Ecology, which will have the final say. It could take up to a year for the state to tweak the plan and send it back to the council to implement it.