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County agrees to 'conforming' status for shoreline structures

Homes and structures considered non-conforming under Kitsap County’s Shoreline Master Plan may soon be designated as conforming uses, in line with suggestions from the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners, a group that has an ongoing lawsuit against the county over shoreline regulations.

“I’m so excited about this turn of events,” KAPO executive director Jackie Rossworn said Wednesday. “It was not expected at all.”

County commissioners, at an afternoon briefing Monday, recommended that support staff begin working to craft language to “make existing residential and appurtenant structures ‘conforming,’ consistent with SSB-5451.”

The bill — which Gov. Chris Gregoire signed May 12 and took effect July 22 — defines appurtenant structures as garages, sheds and other legally established structures.

The bill had sponsors from leadership in both political parties and initially cleared the Senate by a vote of 47-0. The House passed the bill by a vote of 77-19, with amendments. The Senate concurred with the amendments and finally passed it 48-0.

The bill “recognizes that there is concern from property owners regarding the legal status of existing legally developed shoreline structures under updated shoreline master programs,” according to its digest, and “clarifies the legal status of these structures that will apply after shoreline regulations are updated.”

It only allows approval of shoreline master programs that:

• authorize qualifying residential and appurtenant structures as conforming structures and

• authorize redevelopment, expansion, change with class of occupancy or replacement of the residential structure consistent with the master program.

To implement the bill, the county’s Department of Community Development plans to commission a task force to examine two main options. The county could either change the language of the Shoreline Master Plan to define all existing uses as conforming or use existing language.

The Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners has fought the county to make the properties “conforming” through the legal system. The state Supreme Court declined to hear group’s lawsuit, but attorneys representing KAPO recently petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

KAPO hasn’t decided to drop its Supreme Court bid, in spite of the new designation.

“It will continue, as far as I know,” Rossworn said. “The board of directors has not had a meeting about that, but I don’t see why they wouldn’t continue.”

At another point in the conversation, Rossworn said the county commissioners “were not protecting property owners from the Department of Ecology.”

The designation of “conforming” or “non-conforming” has a profound impact on property values, she said.

“Why would you buy a house on the shoreline, if you can’t use the front yard, and you can’t put up a toolshed or these type of things?” she said.

Kitsap County Com-missioner Charlotte Garrido couldn’t be reached before presstime for a comment about the decision.

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