Approved on October 30, 2017.
The final amendments to the original 2016 Shoreline Master Plan have now been approved by the State Department of Ecology. Getting here has been years in the making, but it is finally done.
Historically, much of our waterfront has been zoned Rural, Rural Residential, Rural Farm Forest, Nature and Conservancy, among the most prominent designations. It appears, from the revised County zoning maps, that the percentage of shoreline now under the restrictive Conservancy zoning has been dramatically increased.
To explain, surrounding every island is a 200’ shoreline zone that overlays every waterfront parcel of land. When I use the word “overlays”, I mean that the 200’ shoreline area may now be zoned differently than the upland portion of the same property. In the past, two zoning designations on a single parcel was uncommon.
The Conservancy zoning is intended to protect our shoreline ecology. It does this by limiting the uses permitted on lands of this zoning. Most uses other than single family dwellings are discouraged, including any commercial use, even vacation rental of shoreline homes.
I would encourage every shoreline property owner to look at the new shoreline zoning maps posted on the County’s website. Do this by going to the Community Development Department at SanJuanco.com, pull up the “maps” section and click on the map of your island. Then view your shoreline designation, to verify if your property is one affected by zoning change.
A good outcome of the Master Plan seems to be that single family residential construction within the shoreline zone may be more broadly allowed than has been the case for the last 5 plus years. There seems to be more freedom to develop shoreline residential property. Of course there are definite limits to this freedom, as is always the case. The proof will be in how the new rules are interpreted by our County officials.
San Juan County’s shoreline now meets State standards of protection against degrading and harming the shoreline environment. Only time will tell the full story. I plan updates on this issue as I learn more as to how it is being applied.
John Dunning, Designated Broker/Owner