Kenmore adopts shoreline plan, sets height limits
September 16, 2010 · Updated 10:26 AM
After roughly three years of debate, Kenmore City Council approved a new shoreline master program that perhaps most notably allows building heights of up to 75 feet along one stretch of Northeast Bothell Way.
In other locations, the new program, or plan, allows heights between 50 and 65 feet near city waterfronts.
The plan was adopted on a 5-2 vote, with Mayor David Baker and Councilman John Hendrickson casting the negative ballots. The Washington Department of Ecology must still sign off on the plan and some further altering of the rules is possible as the state approval process moves forward.
“I think there’s still some unanswered questions,” Baker said as he cast his vote against the plan.
He later added that he was still uncomfortable with the height limits imposed, fearing they could block shoreline development.
Without going into details, Baker said one existing shoreline business, Plywood Supply, has development plans that could be hurt by the imposed height restrictions.
Further, Baker talked about the height limits hurting the potential of the proposed LakePointe development, which in theory could place a 45-acre mixed-use development just east of Kenmore Air. The ambitious plan could include 1,200 residential units and 350,000 square feet of office space.
“I just want to make sure we get the maximum use of that land,” Baker said, adding that doesn’t mean he’s opposed to protecting or restoring Kenmore’s waterways.
If Baker was pushing for more liberal height limits, some local activists urged the opposite tact. President of People for an Environmentally Responsible Kenmore, Elizabeth Mooney said leaders will end up regretting any increased height restrictions.
As for those leaders, several argued the restrictions in the plan represent a worthy compromise between the council and the Kenmore Planning Commission, which proposed strict 35-foot limits on all city shorelines.
“We tried to balance environmental issues with development issues with property rights,” said Deputy Mayor Milton Curtis, who added there comes a time when the city simply has to act. Curtis made the motions needed to adopt the program.
For the most part, the basic height restrictions along shorelines were set at 35 feet. Higher limits are allowed under certain conditions, including a requirement that the proposed structure not block the shoreline view of a substantial number of residences. The proposed location must also be in one of the four zones where heights above the base limit are allowed.
Essentially, according to a map provided by the city, the zones are all more or less clustered around Bothell Way and 68th Avenue Northeast. The highest limits are possible in an area southwest of that intersection, between Bothell Way and the water. Limits of 65 feet are allowable southeast of the intersection along the Sammamish River and, judging from the map, in one spot further north in what is apparently the shoreline of Swamp Creek.
While height restrictions garnered a lot of attention, officials insisted the shoreline program took steps to help protect and restore Kenmore’s waters.
“We’re not making things better overnight, but we are turning the ship in the right direction,” said Mark Johnson, a senior associate for ESA Adolson, an outside consultant hired by the city to help develop the new program.
Some environmental steps mentioned by Johnson and others include putting in place additional buffer zones along shorelines and creating various restoration plans.
Overall, the shoreline program was described as just one layer of the city’s planning and zoning scheme, designed to compliment Kenmore’s comprehensive master plan.