Our area saltwater shoreline is a priceless community asset, and way of life in Olympia and the surrounding area.
Over time, city councils, design review boards, planning commissions, and other advisory and regulatory boards change.
Zoning can always be changed, as demonstrated by the isthmus. However, the guidelines in the Shoreline Master Act and the local Shoreline Master Plan must be complied with under state law.
A careful reading of the Olympia SMP draft reveals that reduced setbacks down to zero would be available on downtown reaches in exchange for various mitigations and amenities — a trail, for example, or a vegetation conservation area (VCA).
These are laudable goals, but they need not take place on site, except for possibly the trail, which could be located in a building or behind it.
To me, that kind of trail would not constitute true public access. It’s possible a developer could pay a fee in lieu of mitigation.
Possible height bonuses for the portion of a development in the second 100 feet would be a preferable way to encourage these mitigations and amenities.
In many cases, the SMP would only apply to redevelopment, which will be of crucial importance in shaping our beautiful downtown waterfront. A 50-foot setback, including space for a trail and a VCA, should be the minimum setback. No net loss isn’t enough for our unique saltwater shoreline.
In this SMP revision, we should strive to improve the shoreline, not merely maintain the degraded conditions that exist.