Pierce County Council delays shoreline decision

7-year process extended 3 months after public complaints about proposed buffer changes affecting property rights

Staff writerApril 2, 2014 

Pierce County’s controversial revision of shoreline policies, which started seven years ago, will continue for at least three more months.

In response to public concerns that have emerged during the marathon process, the Pierce County Council voted Tuesday to delay a decision on adopting the changes until July 29. The council had been scheduled to vote April 22.

Council members postponed action after the public complained last month at community meetings about proposed buffer changes that could affect private property rights. People also complained about not being adequately informed.

Council Chairman Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake, said property owners are confused about what the changes would mean for them.

“There’s a lot of fear, a lot of questions,” Roach said.

Council members will hold another series of three community meetings to educate the public about the changes, including 16 proposed amendments. Those meetings will take place in July in the Lake Tapps, Parkland and Gig Harbor areas.

The council is still finishing its current round of meetings on the state-mandated update to the Shoreline Master Program. After holding previous sessions at Lake Tapps and Parkland, the third meeting will be held Thursday on the Gig Harbor Peninsula.

Lake Tapps residents spoke out against the changes March 6, saying the buffer restriction would limit development and hurt their property values.

Pierce County is proposing a 50-foot buffer along Lake Tapps in East Pierce County and a 75-foot buffer along Spanaway Lake as part of its revised changes to shoreline policies.

The county also plans to move forward with 75-foot buffers along saltwater lots designated as residential. The new shoreline buffer would replace 50-foot setbacks on county shorelines. The buffer applies only to new construction.

It’s not clear whether council members will ultimately adopt new shoreline policies — the first such changes in 40 years.

At the Lake Tapps meeting last month, Roach said the state Department of Ecology had the equivalent of “a gun pointed to our head.”

If the council doesn’t act, Ecology officials could draw up even stricter revisions or issue sanctions against the county.

If you go

Final session in current round of shoreline meetings:

 • 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Peninsula High School Auditorium, 14105 Purdy Drive NW, Gig Harbor.

Next round of shoreline meetings:

 • 5:30 p.m. July 10 at North Tapps Middle School, 20029 12th St. E., Lake Tapps.

 • 5:30 p.m. July 14 at the Scandinavian Cultural Center at Pacific Lutheran University, 12180 Park Ave. S., Parkland.

 • 5:30 p.m. July 17 at the Peninsula High School Auditorium, 14105 Purdy Drive NW, Gig Harbor.

Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647 steve.maynard@ thenewstribune.com @TNTstevemaynard

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