Stream protections get a boost
Council panel endorses wider buffers
Thursday, December 8, 2005
By JENNIFER LANGSTON
The buffers around Seattle streams where building is forbidden would get
bigger under changes approved by a City Council committee Wednesday, though
not as big as environmental groups had hoped.
But a raft of concerns prompted the committee to delay until January a
final vote on new rules for the city's ecologically sensitive or potentially
dangerous "critical areas."
Those rules typically restrict what homeowners or developers can build
near wetlands, steep slopes, flood plains, geological hazards, river corridors
and wildlife habitat.
The issues prompting the council's Energy and Environmental Policy
Committee to take more time with the state-mandated update include:
Whether new fish and wildlife protections would make it difficult for
waterfront industries and cargo terminals to operate.
When the city should allow pesticide use on public golf courses and
areas infested with invasive plants.
Why the plan doesn't identify vulnerable areas that could be inundated by
tsunamis or volcano eruptions.
Whether the city should allow building on top of creeks shunted
through underground pipes, removing the chance they'll see daylight
Tim Trohimovich, planning director for Futurewise, which advocates growth
management, told city officials that given Seattle's reputation for leading
the way on environmental issues, the proposal "doesn't reflect the caliber of
your usual work."
Others said the tighter restrictions would make it difficult to build in
the city and meet growth management goals. Some homeowners on smaller lots
with critical areas could also find it more difficult to build decks, patios,
garages or expansions.
The committee, of which Councilwoman Jean Godden is chairwoman, endorsed
her proposal to widen development-free buffers from 50 to 75 feet around
larger salmon-bearing streams and from 35 to 50 feet around smaller
Under Mayor Greg Nickels' proposal, those who build or clear vegetation
within a new 100-foot shoreline buffer would have to create fish and wildlife
habitat elsewhere on the property. The council committee clarified that the
work should be done as close to the water's edge as possible but stopped short
of requiring it there, as some groups had hoped.
The provision has the Port of Seattle and many maritime industries
alarmed that routine operations could now trigger environmental restoration
work. They want a clearer exemption for developed, paved-over areas, such as
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