Apr

21

Recently in the Puget Sound area, there was talk about new oil trains that are planned to run through parts of Washington State. Concerned homeowners are worried about the effect the trains will have on their communities. Right now, protesters in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia are delaying 11 miles of trains that could potentially clog the Pacific Northwest railway system every day.

 

Why Stop the Oil Trains?

Protesters are not only concerned about the eyesore and noise the trains would create. They’re also worried about potential spills and accidents the trains could cause. At full capacity, the trains would carry 785,000 barrels of oil every day. The trains would come from Alberta as well as North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming.

 

Currently, there are 10 proposed or on-the-way oil-by-rail projects planned for Washington State. Residents of the Puget Sound area and other parts of Washington will have a chance to learn more about the projects this April. Since July of last year, there was a steady stream of derailments along the train lines, most of them outside of Washington. Some residents, however, are concerned these derailments will increase in Washington if the trains are allowed to run through the state.

 

Environmental Issues

Washington has always been concerned and involved with environmental and climate issues in the past. Some residents of Puget Sound feel the oil industry may cause harm to the environment. Spilled oil can damage the environment and kill animals. The pollution caused by trains may also cause issues.

 

Public speaking events are to be conducted across Washington with focus in cities where the oil-by-rail projects are planned. At these meetings, people can share their concerns if they would like their city councils to take a stand and support a statewide moratorium on oil-by-rail shipping. City councils in both Spokane and Bellingham have made such resolutions. Protesters who plan to attend the latest community meeting in Seattle hope Gov. Jay Inslee also approves a resolution to “freeze all pending oil-by-rail projects until environmental and safety concerns have been addressed,” as noted in the Bainbridge Review.

 

The Puget Sound and waterfront cities throughout Washington might band together to stop the trains from running. Right now, it’s unclear how long it will take for the safety and environmental concerns to be addressed and people are unsure what will happen once the issues are taken care of. Either the oil-by-rail projects will be completed or the citizens of Washington will veto the projects. If this happens, the oil industry will be forced to find other states to comply and other avenues to transport oil.

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Aug

13

There’s an issue being discussed by the city of Bellevue and Washington State’s Department of Ecology. At stake is Bellevue’s shoreline plan, which is a document that outlines how to protect the city’s bodies of water, including Lake Washington, Lake Sammamish, and Phantom Lake. While there’s nothing objectionable in the intent of the plan, which is to protect the lakes within Bellevue’s borders, it’s become a problem with waterfront property homeowners who feel that certain provisions would create an unnecessary and unfair restriction on the usage of their own property.

The Waterfront Property Shoreline Plan

What was contained in the shoreline plan that irked many owners of waterfront houses along Lake Sammamish? In an early draft of the plan, the Department of Ecology asked for clear criteria for a property owner to show that an erosion-control structure is necessary in order to protect a home. It also called for limits on a process that could exempt property owners from some regulations. The Shoreline Master Program must be approved by Ecology before it will become law, which is where the conflict is coming in. Homeowners are worried the new plan would overly complicate the process of remodeling their homes or building new features like patios and docks, as it requires new houses to be situated at least 50 feet from the water and creates a 25-feet “vegetation conservation area” where native plants must be retained or replaced as needed.

Further Conflict

While existing homes are usually grandfathered in to their existing footprints, the plan still seems too invasive and controlling for many Lake Sammamish property owners, because of the onerous restrictions on new construction. This backlash led to the proposal being rewritten by Bellevue’s Planning Commission, which shook up and reformed appointments of many waterfront property-rights advocates. The inevitable problem was that the state Department of Ecology not only didn’t agree with the changes, but actually viewed many of them as violations of state regulations and was irritated at not being kept informed of the changes as they occurred. In fact, officials cited 101 elements of the plan that they deemed out of compliance.

Communication and Compromise on the Waterfront

Ultimately, the key to a future where these bodies of water and happy waterfront real estate owners can peacefully coexist is dependent on communication and compromise. While it’s not too pressing of an issue for existing homeowners who don’t feel the need to do any major remodels or near-water construction projects, the fact remains that the proposal would put major burdens on future waterfront property buyers. Since owning property along the lake is a fixture of the Seattle community, it’s really up to the Bellevue Planning Commission and Washington’s Department of Ecology to work out a compromise that won’t alienate existing and future homeowners along the water but will still get the job of protecting the water done right. On the positive side, both the Planning Commission in Bellevue and Ecology are prepared to reinitiate communication with each other on the proposal until the issue is resolved. In the end, both sides hope it will be better for everybody, including waterfront homeowners.

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Jan

7

A precedent setting dispute and complicated situation for property rights just came to a close. On one side of the dispute was the owner (a former American League baseball player) of a Clyde Hill home who wanted his view of Lake Washington and Seattle improved by having the trees on his neighbors’ property cut down. On the other side of the dispute were the owners of the adjoining property and trees; they wanted to keep their trees (which had been there long before the other neighbor purchased his home). The unique factor: Clyde Hill has a 1991 view obstruction and tree removal ordinance in place.

The view-desiring neighbors had law on their side. The tree-owning neighbors had property rights and 50 year old pre-existing trees on their side. In the end, law won. However, the view-desiring neighbors had to pay about $63,000 to remove and replace the trees, although a professional appraisal found that the improved view will increase the market value of their $4 million home by $255,000. So, it was a good return on investment for resale, if not for neighbor relations.

In the end, it does demonstrate the value of our area’s gorgeous water views, and what people will do to get it or keep it.

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May

23

The Enatai neighborhood has long been a really interesting waterfront community option for living on or by Lake Washington. Its location is very convenient for commuting to either the Eastside or to downtown Seattle, and yet it retains the character of an older established neighborhood with big trees, nearby parks, and a sense of community.

Located just north of I-90 and on the west / Lake Washington side of I-405, it is bounded by the lake, Mercer Slough Park, Beaux Arts Village, and Bellevue. There are many home options here both on the lake or with easy nearby lake access, plus a wide range of home prices to choose from.

The Seattle Times published a nice informative article about Enatai neighborhood today. Check it out, and let me know if you have any questions or interest in Enatai.

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Apr

11

The previously reported battle between the city of Bellevue versus a resident of Newport Shores and his community association came to a legal head recently when a federal judge ruled against the resident and Newport Shores / Newport Yacht Club.

At issue was whether or not Bellevue met its obligations in managing stormwater runoff and sediment issues in Coal Creek, and also whether or not the resident created improper salmon habitat enhancement, all of which was part of a prior settlement. Bellevue was found to have met its obligations and the resident was found to have not created an actual salmon habitat enhancement on their property as specified, but instead to have effectively created a small salmon hatchery for introducing new fish into the creek.

And the battle continues on: The resident has been prevented from moving into his home for a long time now; he still needs to figure out how he can legally occupy his newly built – but never lived in – home. The city plans to file for reimbursement of their attorney fees. No winners in that protracted battle!

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Sep

24

Want to see two immovable forces battle over riparian zone and salmon related permit issues? The Seattle Times reported about the legal battle between a Bellevue/Newport Shores attorney and the city of Bellevue over the construction of his home beside Coal Creek.

There are some interesting twists to this story, a bit different than the usual disputes over buffer zones, pervious surfaces, geotech, and such. The two opposing sides had a prior dispute 5 years ago, and are at it again. The home owner has built a nice new home beside Coal Creek and actually installed what amounts to a small salmon hatchery plus water-filtration plant with sump pumps to feed an artificial stream and holding pond! He even has a bridge over Coal Creek. The city claims he exceeded the size and location of disturbance zones around the home, plus says the mini salmon hatchery was never approved and he also did not create required flood mitigation berms. Bellevue is holding back his occupancy permit, and the home owner says he may not be able to move into his new pad for another 5 years.

Wow, what a convoluted mess there for everyone involved. Hope they get it all worked out.

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