Program affects shoreline zoning in Federal Way

Since 2006, Federal Way city staff have been working on creating and revising a Shoreline Master Program (SMP) for all of the shorelines within city limits.

These shorelines include the marine shoreline along Puget Sound, and also the shorelines of Steel Lake, North Lake, and the northern edge of Lake Kilarney.

The SMP could, in the future, pertain to the shorelines of Star Lake, Lake Doloff, Lake Geneva and Five Mile Lake, if and when the city ever decides to annex those areas into city limits.

SMP’s are the local element of the state’s overall Shoreline Management Act, according to the Department of Ecology (DOE). They are intended to be the local guidelines for cities and towns that have significant shorelines, and are also meant to help residents and towns figure out the balance between preservation and development.

These guidelines can be contentious at times because of property owners’ desire to develop their land in the way they see fit — versus what the city, and by proxy the DOE, tells them they can and cannot do.

Senior planner Janet Shull gave a brief presentation to the Federal Way City Council on Oct. 18, saying the SMP is essentially finished, but needed two small revisions as requested by the DOE.

“We have two changes to consider. The first change that’s being requested by the Department of Ecology is to add a requirement for a shoreline variance when a proposal would reduce the wetland buffer width by more than 25 percent in a designated shoreline environment,” Shull said. “The second change we’re being asked to make is to increase our native vegetation and tree retention percentages within a setback area in a shoreline residential and urban conservancy environment.”

Shull noted these changes do not affect the developable areas of shoreline properties, only those buffer areas that are required by state and local law. She said that city staff found the revisions to be reasonable, and that Federal Way was relatively fortunate, given some other local cities and the changes they were being asked to make by the DOE.

The council unanimously approved the two changes recommended by the DOE, and will have a second reading of the Shoreline Master Program on Nov. 1.


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