Waterfront views worth preserving — up to a point

Our natural inclination is to take the side of property owners over government and oppose changes to the law that materially affect the value of the home or land someone bought in good faith.

That said, we’re not entirely in agreement with property owners near downtown Port Orchard and Manchester who object to the development of taller buildings in both communities for the perfectly understandable reason that such structures would block their treasured waterfront views.

In both places — but especially on Bay Street in Port Orchard — political leaders are grappling with the question of balancing the desire to be fair to nearby homeowners against the need for commercial development.

There’s little question something needs to be done along Bay Street as buildings there age and deteriorate and merchants work hard to overcome the challenges of their location. And there seems to be plenty of new, exciting development in the works — once the city council decides how fair it needs to be with the property owners used to looking out their windows and seeing Sinclair Inlet rather than the back of someone’s building.

The picture is a little different in Manchester, where the need for commercial development isn’t the point so much as is the right of several property owners to develop their parcels as they see fit without being constrained by neighbors whose views would be threatened by the construction.

In both places, however, one fact you can’t get away from is that when you buy your waterfront property, in most cases you only buy the land it sits on, not the sky above it — let alone the sky above your neighbor’s property. Just because there’s nothing blocking your view today doesn’t mean you have an absolute right to expect things to stay that way forever.

Simply put, we can sympathize with anyone who’s grown accustomed either emotionally or financially to the benefits of a waterfront view, and we commend city and county officials for working with Port Orchard and Manchester residents, respectively, to try and broker a compromise that works for everyone.

But at the end of the day, we don’t believe a relative handful of residents of either community should be permitted to block badly needed development just to preserve property rights they didn’t pay for or impose their own vision on property they don’t own.

Without getting into the minutiae of the regulations and proposed regulations in either place, our general philosophy is that if you didn’t buy the properties around you or make some provision ahead of time that your waterfront view would be preserved in perpetuity, you’re in a pretty weak position to come back and make demands after the fact.

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