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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Mar

24

One of the joys of owning waterfront real estate is your proximity to the beauty and recreation made possible by the water itself. However, in a generally small portion of waterfront locations there is the potential for floods. Waterfront property owners in these locations have long been able to rely on flood insurance for peace of mind and for help when the worst happens.  But last year the 2012 Biggert-Waters law went into effect, which left some homeowners reeling over flood insurance premium increases. Thankfully, Congress has crafted and passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act to help waterfront property owners by correcting the problems that the Biggert-Waters law created.

Why the Biggert-Waters Law Was Created

The National Flood Insurance Program is run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees dozens of private insurance companies that offer flood insurance coverage to waterfront property owners. In the past, the income from premiums failed to cover the program’s costs during years in which widespread major flooding occurred. In fact, after the U.S. was hit by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005, FEMA had to temporarily stop making payments on legitimate claims due to lack of funds. The Biggert-Waters law set out to address the National Flood Insurance Program’s $24 billion debt by gradually phasing out flood insurance policy subsidies.  But when the law was enacted, it became apparent that for many waterfront homeowners the effect was not gradual at all.

How the New Act Helps Waterfront Property Owners

The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act will implement the following:

  • –     Set a limit on annual flood insurance premium rate increases
  • –     Repeal the “property sales trigger” that allowed higher premiums to be set when property was sold, which Realtors feared was depressing the value of some waterfront real estate
  • –     Repeal the “new policy sales trigger,” which allowed higher premiums to be set if a waterfront property owner chose a different policy or went to a different insurance provider for coverage
  • –     Refund premiums to homeowners who overpaid when then the 2012 Biggert-Waters law went into effect

This new act will still address the concerns of the original Biggert-Waters law, but will do so in a way that is more manageable to those who live on the waterfront. The focus is on making this a gradual transition that affected homeowners can plan for, rather than an unexpectedly large bill that is immediately due.

What This Means for You

This new law, which is expected to be signed by the President when it reaches the White House, will still result in eliminating subsidies and addressing debt created by the National Flood Insurance Program. However, existing waterfront property owners in the Seattle area and those who are buying waterfront real estate will still benefit from the program as it is gradually phased out rather than being suddenly taken away. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that not only are you covered by flood insurance, if you are in an area where you even desire to have flood insurance, but you will also be better able to afford insurance in the future for your waterfront home.

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Feb

24

Floating homes and houseboats are an iconic part of Seattle waterfront living, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t come under fire in recent years. Three years ago, the city of Seattle undertook a rewriting of shorelines policies that led to questions about whether owners would be able to continue to live in their houseboats in Lake Union and elsewhere. In 2011, a Washington senate bill offered grandfathered protection to stationary floating houses. But the bill’s sponsor, Senator Jamie Pedersen, said he unintentionally excluded live-aboard vessels and barges. He recently introduced a new bill to extend the same protection to moveable houseboats that stationary floating homes now enjoy.

Controversy Along the Waterfront

Stationary floating houses not only stay in one place, they are also typically hooked in to local utilities. Floating vessels, on the other hand, are able to move from place to place along the waterfront. However, most rent space from a marina to have a reliable place to dock for the long term. When the 2011 senate bill passed, many interpreted the omission of live-aboard vessels to mean that local governments should not continue to accommodate houseboats and other floating vessels in waterfront property decisions. Lake Union Liveaboard Association president Mauri Shuler described houseboat owners as having “massive trouble” in dealing with the City of Seattle and the state Department of Ecology, which are in charge of shoreline regulations. State officials acknowledged a preference to lease seriously limited marina space to smaller recreational vehicles rather than larger, live-aboard vessels.

Clarifying Lawmakers’ Intent

Senator Pedersen has introduced Senate Bill 6450 to clear up the lingering confusion. An amendment to the Shoreline Management Act of 1971 will extend protections to floating vessels that are used or were designed as a residence, providing the owner had leased moorage space prior to July 1, 2014. This waterfront bill passed the senate unanimously and is awaiting a vote in the house.

What This Means for Waterfront Real Estate

In short, this assures current houseboat owners that they won’t be set adrift as shoreline regulations change. Taking a broader view, however, waterfront property owners will be relieved to know that some of the character and charm of lakeside life will carry on as always. But they may also now have additional questions about the availability of marina space for pleasure cruisers and other non-residential watercraft and about the environmental impact that moveable vessels will have on Lake Union and other areas of the Seattle waterfront. Those who live in houseboats and floating houses naturally share concerns with others who own waterfront real estate, which may make them allies as political maneuverings happen regarding plans for future development in the area.

The house has yet to act on the senate bill, but as it has already received unanimous approval from the senate and moved out of committee, it seems a foregone conclusion to suggest the bill will most likely pass.

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Jan

21

An organization for the waterfront neighborhood of Lake Burien filed an appeal this week against Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) and city of Burien. For years, DOE and Burien worked on negotiations that would update the city’s shoreline. While work began in 2008, disagreements kept it from moving forward. It was not until 2012, when the Burien Working Shoreline Group mediated, that DOE and Burien reached and approved an agreement in 2013.

The Shoreline Master Program

In 1971, Washington enacted the Shoreline Management Act. This required cities and counties with waterfront property to instate rules about the lakes, rivers, and other water bodies. Each city has a unique Shoreline Master Program that fulfills this. Due to old regulations, Washington and DOE asked the cities to update their program to meet today’s more modern needs. This updating is to be completed in a number of steps including:
• Shoreline and land use inventory such as transportation and public use sites
• Shoreline function identification
• Policy and regulation development
• Ecological shoreline analyzed with restoration ideas
• Shoreline Master Programs for each county and city with junctions working together
• Updates submitted to DOE for approval

Proposed Changes to Burien’s Shoreline Master Program

There are five and a half miles of waterfront land in the city of Burien. The last time Burien’s Shoreline Master Program was altered was in 1993 when it became incorporated. Burien first approved a proposed update that had followed a long local review. The city took inventory of land and collaborated with waterfront property owners, environmental agencies, and tribes among many other groups. This all occurred in 2010 and DOE did not approve of all the changes. Four issues became the prime point of interest:
• Regulations to manage Ordinary High Water Mark in new developments
• New renovations and maintenance of existing homes
• Changes to Shoreline Permit Matrix
• Water quality and Nonpoint Pollution

Burien Working Shoreline Group

After lengthy negotiations between DOE and the city of Burien showed no results, the Burien Working Shoreline Group formed. This group is comprised of local residents. It researched the issues and came up with a recommendation based on findings. Both the city and DOE agreed with the recommendation and the Burien Working Shoreline Group re-wrote the proposal to reflect this. The Shoreline Master Program was then approved in October of 2013.

Burien Shoreline Master Program Appeal

Details of the appeal have yet to be released, however, it is one of Lake Burien’s neighborhood groups that filed along with specific individuals. If past issues are taken into consideration, some of the points in the appeal may be:
• Public access concerns of existing waterfront home owners to privately enclosed Lake Burien
• Perhaps Puget Sound access relative to private property
• Incentives and/or condition to provide access

The Growth Management Hearings board will hear the appeal in May 2014. Until then, the project is again on hold. DOE, the city of Burien, and waterfront owners are hopeful the Shoreline Master Program issues will resolve and become enacted soon.

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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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Jun

3

Waterfront property in Seattle is one of the most attractive features of the area. Who else but waterfront homeowners have the chance to skip a horrendous commute and get to work by water taxi? Who else gets a gorgeous lake view that’s right outside the window? Who else has the luxury of being accessible to fireboats in the event of a fire? Yet despite all of these advantages, one persistent difficulty facing the waterfront real estate owner is the possibility of a flood. That’s why recent discussions and decisions about flood insurance policies are important to understand.

Extension of National Flood Insurance Program
Last July, the National Association of Realtors hailed the federal government’s decision to extend the National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP. The NFIP, originally created in 1968, was a response to the need for some kind of national flood insurance, as typical homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flooding, hurricanes, tropical storms, or heavy rains. The extension is positive because it will continue its function as a means for people with waterfront property to remain insured in the event of a flood. However, the most recent extension came with some changes that current or future owners of waterfront houses should know.

Changes to the NFIP
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is responsible for responding to disasters like floods. Unfortunately, officials from FEMA recently explained that there will be increases in premiums and rate structures in order to help the agency get on more solid financial ground. Because of a high number of catastrophic storms in the recent past, FEMA has a debt load of $24 billion to overcome. One change will be on “severe repetitive loss properties,” which are the ones in the most dangerous position of having repeated loss due to flooding. About 600,000 current owners of a primary residence won’t see increases until their policy lapses or they sell to someone else. These are the properties with subsidies. About 80 percent of flood policies aren’t subsidized, so they won’t see any changes aside from routine rate increases each year.

What the Changes Mean to You
These changes are hardly a cause for alarm. Unless your home is located within a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) area, you’ll continue to have a highly affordable flood insurance rate. In fact, half of all flood policy claims are found in just five metropolitan areas, which are New Orleans, Houston, Tampa, Miami, and New York. That means your likelihood of a flooding problem in a waterfront home off of Lake Washington or Puget Sound is probably quite low. Even so, it’s important to note that these changes are coming and react accordingly. As a buyer, you should focus on waterfront real estate located outside of any FIRMs. Current owners should take stock of what their situation is, keeping in mind that most changes will be phased in gradually starting in 2014. Sellers simply need to remember to disclose information about these changes to any buyers.

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Jan

22

The Shoreline Master Program is getting updated in many municipalities around Washington state, in accordance with Washington law and Department of Ecology requirements. One of the more controversial and public topics revolved around how to address the floating homes, house boats, and house barges that are primarily centered around Lake Union, Portage Bay, and the Ship Canal. Are they legal? Do they meet SMP requirements for proper use of shoreline resources? Is gray water and black water being properly removed? What are the differences between the three classifications of floating residences in Seattle, and how should each be addressed for any updates to the SMP? These and many other questions were raised.

The local liveaboard community quickly rose to the occasion and gathered support in ensuring that their homes were not threatened. A combination of good intentions and misunderstandings of actual implications were mixed together to form sometimes passionate responses. Local media coverage was extensive, and generally pointed out that these were people’s homes being discussed. The iconic landscape of “Sleepless in Seattle” Lake Union became a romantic rallying point.

Seattle’s Shoreline Master Program was just unanimously passed by the Seattle City Council. In summary, most pre-existing uses for floating homes, house boats, and house barges were grandfathered in and all liveaboard owners can rest easy. Future development is much more restricted, so it makes the existing homes effectively more valuable due to government-limited future supply.

Summary of changes:

  • Floating homes: There is a new registration program and future development standards.
  • House boats / vessels: New clearer standards were enacted regarding the types of permitted vessels, but pre-existing residential uses are grandfathered in as noncomforming uses that can continue plus be repaired/reconstructed as needed.
  • House barges: The 34 pre-approved Seattle house barges can continue on as they are, with the clarification that discharge of gray water must meet the requirements set in 1992 for these homes.

Overall it ended up as a good balance between protecting the property rights and values of existing owners of floating residences while also taking into account more restrictive requirements for future new construction of similar residences that will meet current environmental regulations.

Seattle Lake Union floating homes with sailboat and city skyline

Floating homes on Seattle’s Lake Union


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Jan

22

The Seattle City Council approved its long-underway revision to the Shoreline Master Program (SMP). These regulations pertain to buildings, homes, uses, and construction along the city’s waterways.  Any updates can create controversy among competing factions, as was the case this time too.

The Seattle Times summarized changes to the SMP as including “an allowance for building boats for Washington State Ferries, a provision that fueling stations must be for boats only, limits on signs in the shoreline area and restrictions on pesticides and fertilizers”.

I provide a more detailed analysis and update regarding the discussions around houseboats, house barges, and floating homes in a separate post here.

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Jan

15

The Supreme Court decided in a 7-2 ruling that a residence which floats on the water – and which is obviously constructed to serve as a residence – should be treated under the regulations for houses and not vessels. This is important in some scenarios because home owner protection regulations and admiralty law have different levels of protections and uses. Real estate laws are generally considered to be more protective of home owner rights, and they would have helped the defendant in the Supreme Court case had his home been considered a house by local government officials.

The Seattle Floating Homes Association was supportive of the decision. However, this does somewhat “muddy the waters” regarding some of the recent Shoreline Master Program (SMP) discussions regarding which regulations Lake Union’s house boat communities should uphold. House boats are classified as vessels, they have steering and propulsion (though rarely, if ever, use them), and they must abide by Coast Guard regulations. This new ruling puts that definition in a bit of limbo since it could be interpreted to classify these house boats as houses. One important distinction, though: the floating residence situation that initiated the court battle had no propulsion, steering, or rudder. This puts it more in the category of a barge or floating home than a house boat. In Seattle, we actually have three different designations for what many people lump together as “house boats”: floating homes, house boats, and house barges.

Seattle Lake Union floating homes with kayaker

Kayaking by floating homes on Seattle’s Lake Union

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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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Sep

17

The five member citizens committee Burien Shoreline Working Group has been negotiating with the Department of Ecology for a couple years now as Burien updates the Burien Shoreline Master Program (SMP). The primary disconnect has regarded setbacks for construction. Many developed communities in Burien have homes fairly close to their bulkheads, and the DOE requirements of 50 feet + 15 foot buffer would have made many lots totally unbuildable.

The group’s proposal is for developed areas along Puget Sound to be split up into zones. In well developed areas along the Sound shoreline, any development within 20 feet of the Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM) would be significantly limited. Then development within 20-35 feet would be allowed if offsetting benefits were created within the first 20 feet (vegetation, limiting permeable surfaces, etc.). For less developed areas, the same zone restrictions would be moved back to 30 feet and 30-45 feet, respectively.

Existing structures can still be remodeled or even rebuilt on their existing footprints wherever they may be located, and are grandfathered in as “nonconforming”.

The working group said that initial indicators from DOE were amenable to these compromises. It will be interesting to see where this ends up, since it could set precedents for other Sound waterfront communities and their SMPs.

Seattle Burien Three Tree Point waterfront home with Puget Sound view decks

Example of Burien home (WaterHavens listing) with existing near shore footprint enabling expansive and close-up waterfront views

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Jul

2

Burien’s waterfront property owners vociferously expressed concerns about the Department of Ecology’s Shoreline Master Program (SMP), and the Burien City Council correspondingly rejected the Program and sent it back to DOE. The Council said it could agree to most of DOE’s requests, but did not agree with four provisions:

  • Buffers and Setbacks: For new construction or building upgrades, the new 50 foot buffer + 15 foot setback would have made development in many Burien waterfront lots unattainable. Burien responded with their plan to keep the existing 20 foot buffer with no additional setback.
  • Watercraft on Lake Burien: Burien wanted to maintain the ban on watercraft access on Lake Burien from any future public access areas.
  • Rebuilding: DOE wanted to make rebuilding a destroyed waterfront home more restrictive, which Burien disagreed with.
  • Shoreline Variances: DOE wanted to enforce a need for shoreline variances to reduce critical area buffers in geologically hazardous areas and wetlands, which Burien disagreed with.
  • This will be interesting to see how it plays out, since Burien and DOE will now each have to give and take to meet the state mandated requirements of having an update Shoreline Master Program.

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    Oct

    27

    Latest update from King County:

    “The King County Council has scheduled final action on the update of the King County Shoreline Master Program for Monday, November 1, 2010. The time of the County Council Meeting has not been announced. County Council agendas are available online for reference.

    Public comment on the proposed update closed on October 1, 2010.

    To learn more about the Shoreline Master Program update, visit the King County Council’s webpage at King County Comprehensive Plan.

    If you have any questions about Council’s review of the Shoreline Master Program, please contact Kendall Moore (206-296-1631) or Rick Bautista (206-296-0329).”

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    Sep

    24

    Latest news from King County regarding the King County Shoreline Master Program:

    “The King County Council held a public hearing on the proposed update to King County’s Shoreline Master Program, as it passed out of the Council’s Environment and Transportation Committee, on September 20th.Ten members of the public presented testimony to the full County Council.

    Many of those testifying requested additional time to submit written comments to the County Council. The Council Chair responded by extending to October 1 the date for the County Council to receive written comments. Comments can be provided online, by email or by postal mail.

    The public hearing was then closed. The date for final action will be rescheduled. No Council action will be taken on September 27th.

    To learn more, the King County Council has information, including the committee chair’s proposed revisions to the executive proposal for the Shoreline Master Program, available at

    If you have any questions about Council’s review of the Shoreline Master Program, please contact Kendall Moore (206-296-1631) or Rick Bautista (2026-296-0329), of Council staff.

    King County Comprehensive Plan. A link to testify on line is found at this webpage.”

    Angle Lake Seattle SeaTac waterfront house for sale lakefront view

    Click picture to see the home that has this view


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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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    Oct

    14

    The third and final round of public input periods to the King County Shoreline Management Program is happening now. If you live on or near the Sound, a lake, river, or even some wetlands, then this can apply to you and your property.

    You can review the draft and also attend upcoming public open house meetings in Carnation (October 16th) and Covington (October 23rd). Public inputs will be accepted until Friday November 14th, via the meetings, email, or mail.

    This will be the final opportunity for public input before the completed program is submitted to the King County Council in December.

    King County watersheds map

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    Oct

    5

    Interesting set of recent events from the National Marine Fisheries Service: Since development near bodies of water can adversely affect salmon population – and salmon populations are important for the web of life food chain to endangered orcas – they have determined that the federal flood insurance program currently available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is illegal. Both salmon and orcas are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

    National Marine Fisheries Service NMFS logo
    Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA logo
    This affects future development for any properties determined to be within flood plains, and it can also affect current owners seeking this type of ongoing insurance. In many cases, getting flood insurance in flood plains is difficult and expensive without having the FEMA program to rely upon. New development may be cost prohibitive and current owners may be left without viable insurance options.

    For more information, see this article in the Seattle PI. The reporter covers the usual areas that people think of as a “flood plain”: areas near rivers that can crest and flood at times of heavy flow. However, the article does not talk about the many other areas that can be considered flood plains. Even Puget Sound waterfront can be considered flood plains due to tidal/storm surges, and lake shores can rise and flood as well. The frequency of both is very low in comparison to rivers, but nonetheless official classifications and flood plain maps do exist for these areas. Both future development and existing properties along many other bodies of water than rivers could definitely be affected.

    Next steps will reside with FEMA to create development requirements that will be more compatible with salmon populations, and this may allow for the resumption of the FEMA flood insurance program around the Puget Sound area. However these kinds of programs and development compromises can take quite a long time to develop, so it will be interesting to track the effects from this on local waterfront properties.

    If anything, it makes existing waterfront homes more valuable since development options for new waterfront properties are further restricted. Relatively few waterfront home owners (especially on the Sound and lakes) actually purchase the FEMA insurance, so the downsides of lacking the insurance will likely be negligible except for cases where such insurance may be a requirement of a buyer obtaining financing.

    We’ll see what happens…

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    Feb

    9

    The state Department of Ecology has mandated that King County update its Shoreline Master Program by 2009, part of a review and overhaul of the over 30 year old Shoreline Master Program throughout the state. This update could have potential ramifications for waterfront properties, although it is generally expected that the recent regulations brought on by the King County Critical Areas Ordinance will already cover most updates that would be deemed necessary. King County has also taken a lesson from the sometimes controversial and contentious process that resulted from the Critical Areas Ordinance’s implementation, this time rolling out the process and drafts in a slower fashion with public inputs encouraged at each step. The Shoreline Master Program and CAO have the interests of the environment and larger community in mind, while sometimes these regulations may clash with the property rights interests of owners along shorelines who prefer more leeway in what they can do with their property.

    The Shoreline Management Act applies to marine shorelines, rivers with a flow greater than 20 cubic feet per second, lakes larger than 20 acres, upland areas within 200 feet of these water bodies, floodplains, and wetlands associated with these shorelines. The act covers land use, public access, archaeological / historical resources, and ecology.

    King County has recently distributed a draft map of areas where the Shoreline Master Program updates may apply. County representatives are also holding four public input meetings, two of which occurred last week in Carnation and Enumclaw. The next two are on Tuesday February 13 5:30-8:30 pm in Maple Valley and Thursday February 15 5:30-8:30 pm on Vashon Island. Public comments are also being accepted by mail, email, phone, or at the meetings.

    The projected timeline for the next steps in the process includes a draft of the revised county plan for this June, a second updated draft in the fall, and a final version for presentation to the King County Council in March 2008. DOE requires that the county have a finalized plan completed and submitted by December 2009.

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    Dec

    1

    Have you checked out the Christmas Ships around Lake Washington, Lake Union, and the Sound this year? Definitely worth a look, especially the December 23rd finale with the Best Decorated Boat Contest at Gasworks Park on Lake Union. Come bundle up and watch the festive sights at the different locations. It’s a great way to enjoy your WaterHaven, or visit someone else’s!

    In local waterfront news, proposed land use regulations still dominate the talk among local rural WaterHaven owners. Both the Critical Areas Ordinance and a new ruling related to federal flood insurance / salmon protection have stirred up the debate something fierce. Petition drives and court cases are underway opposing restrictions on property usage, while other local organizations are educating people about environmental and community benefits. This should be interesting to watch…

    Also, a team of divers discovered a World War II era fighter plane in the bottom of Lake Washington; certainly a more intriguing find than the usual array of old anchors and lawn furniture. If you haven’t mustered the time or courage to take up diving around our waterways, I highly recommend it. The lakes can be interesting, but the life teeming along the shores of the Sound are especially fascinating and world class. Yes it’s rather cold, but modern wetsuits or – even better – drysuits can keep you warm enough for your short explorations into inner space. Check out the Activities section of WaterHavens.com for a listing of local scuba clubs to get you started.

    Unlike normal holiday trends, the real estate market is still very active right now. Last month saw new highs, available inventory has declined 18% from last year, and there are more buyers than sellers out there. Accordingly, prices have risen and time on market has declined. Some of the better priced properties are still moving very fast. For the November general King County market, the average residential closed sales price was $399,464 (as compared to $368,496 for November 2003) and the average condo sales price was $238,508 ($223,735 for November 2003). Average time on market has shortened from 61 days to 49 days.

    In the WaterHavens waterfront market, house sales ranged from a Federal Way walk-down home on the Sound for $299,950 to a Mercer Island Lake Washington home for $5,250,000, condo sales ranged from $145,000 for a Redmond condo on Lake Sammamish to a Kirkland Lake Washington condo for $900,000, and floating home sales ranged from $135,000 to $1,135,000. Waterfront and water view inventory is down across the board, but that is usual for this time of year and is amplified by the still hot market plus excellent interest rates. There are currently 216 waterfront WaterHavens available in our local area, and even more water view and water access WaterHavens.

    Enjoy a WaterHaven! Our waterfront and waterview is the best in the world.

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