Olympia council votes to keep 30-foot setback

Members talk about other shoreline issues, watch visualization of how West Bay may look

Staff writerMarch 21, 2013 

The Olympia City Council voted 5-2 late Tuesday night to keep its earlier recommendation of a 30-foot development setback on about the northern half of West Bay.

During deliberations on the proposed Shoreline Master Program, Councilman Nathaniel Jones proposed changing development restrictions to within 50 feet from the shoreline, which is more restrictive than the council’s position stated earlier this month. He suggested that the setback could be reduced to 30 feet if developers provided certain amenities, similar to an approach the council has recommended for other parts of the shoreline.

But the majority of council members suggested sticking with the 30-foot setback. Mayor Stephen Buxbaum and council members Julie Hankins, Steve Langer, Karen Rogers and Jim Cooper voted to keep the limit at 30 feet. Jones and Councilwoman Jeannine Roe voted no.

The council talked about the shoreline plan for about three hours Tuesday night, then delayed more discussion until next Tuesday’s meeting. Jones said he had a number of other issues to address, including building-height limits, conflict in documents related to parking requirements and a discussion of whether residential is permitted in aquatic designations.

Jones said he also was concerned about building-height limits on the southwest and south edges of East Bay, which allows 65-foot tall buildings near the shoreline.

“I think that’s building a wall right along our shoreline,” he said.

Langer disagreed, noting that the allowed buildings would be on the other side of the road from the shoreline. “So it’s not right next to the waterfront,” he said.

Those discussions are scheduled to continue Tuesday.

It’s unclear when the council will be finished with its deliberations on the state-mandated shoreline plan. The council had agreed to a schedule in which it would approve the plan this month and transmit it to the state Department of Ecology next month. But that’s not going to happen.

The Department of Ecology will have the final say on the plan.

Also Tuesday night, the full council got its first look at a $16,250 computer visualization of how its shoreline plan could make West Bay look. The visualization, from the Seattle-based Mithun architectural firm, got mixed reviews. It showed moving pictures, side-by-side, of how a bicyclist on a hoped-for west side waterfront trail would see potential development on the shoreline. One side represented council recommendations for shoreline restrictions, the other represented the Olympia Planning Commission’s more stringent restrictions.

The images moved quickly, and Roe said “it was a little nauseating to watch.”

Langer said the side-by-side comparisons were helpful. But Buxbaum, who has earlier criticized the visualization as subjective, warned that its interpretation of possible development didn’t consider market conditions.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869

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