Ecology’s proposed rules irk Tapps residents

Lake Tapps residents are speaking out loudly against proposed changes to shoreline policies, including a buffer restriction they say would limit development and hurt their property values.

About 150 people turned out Thursday night at North Tapps Middle School for the first of three community meetings before a Pierce County Council committee.

Nearly two dozen people rose from their seats and voiced frustration to council members, objecting to shoreline rules they said shouldn’t apply to a man-made reservoir.

“Don’t think that you need a piece of raw land to be affected by this,” Lewis Pugh warned. People’s houses, lawns, docks and bulkheads “at some point in time will be affected — in your lives, your children’s lives, and definitely your grandchildren’s lives,” he said.

Pugh said the state Department of Ecology “is cramming this down our throats, and they’re cramming it down Pierce County’s throats, and you guys are letting them. Wake up.”

One county councilman agreed that the county was pressured by the state to adopt new rules.

Council Chairman Dan Roach, a Bonney Lake Republican whose district includes Lake Tapps, said the Department of Ecology has “a gun pointed to our head, and they say, ‘Either you’re going to do it or we’re going to do it for you.’”

If the council doesn’t approve some measure, Roach said, the state will impose regulations “even more punitive and onerous on property owners.”

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 for unincorporated areas — the first such changes in 40 years.

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.

A buffer is a relatively undisturbed area with vegetation that separates development from the shoreline. A setback is a less restrictive designation that permits features such as decks and gazebos.

After meetings in Parkland on March 20 and in Gig Harbor on April 3, the full council plans to take final action April 22 on the state-mandated Shoreline Master Program update.

Frustration spilled over Thursday night when Rick Talbert, chairman of the council’s Community Development Committee, asked Ralph Mason to summarize his comments when his two minutes to speak were up.

“No, I really can’t quite yet,” Mason said. He fired back the council has had two years to develop its proposal.

Karlyne McGinnis said she fears she and her husband won’t be able to build their retirement home on their land on Lake Tapps.

“It is going to make it much more difficult to develop the property, and we may not be able to develop the home that we have in mind,” she said.

Ken Castile, who’s lived on the lake since 1964, warned that if the revisions are approved, Pierce County would lose millions in tax dollars because of a decline in property values and thwarted development.

Kristal Cowger questioned the purpose of the proposed restrictions, given that Lake Tapps is man-made and fish are brought in by truck.

“What is the ecological function that we are trying to protect by restricting these residents from building and developing their properties?” she asked.

Council member Jim McCune, R-Graham, told the crowd he won’t vote for the shoreline proposal, charging that it violates the state and U.S. constitutions.

“I will not vote for a regulation that restricts your property rights,” said McCune, whose remarks drew a standing ovation.