Pending plan mostly saves ocean dunes

Pending plan mostly saves ocean dunes

SEAVIEW - Facilitator Kelly Rupp started off the final public meeting on Jan. 21 for the Ad Hoc Technical Assistance Team on a light note. "Today is crunch time," he told the crowd of more than 40 people. "Not only for us but also for the Seahawks."

Rupp was referring not only to the Super Bowl, but also to the dwindling days left for the building moratorium in the Seaview dunes. The moratorium ends on Feb. 23. It was established, and the team assembled, to attempt to resolve the ongoing conflict between development and preservation interests in the dunes.

The team was asking the public for any additional input before they submitted their recommendations to the Pacific County Commissioners and dissolved the team.

Based on that input, the team made some modifications to the proposal, which they will present to the commissioners at their Feb. 14, meeting which begins at 9 a.m. and takes place in South Bend. Bryan Harris, Pacific County administrative officer and team member, told the crowd they will be asking the commissioners for a four-month extension on the moratorium and to forward the proposal to the planning commission for a review.

Once again, the format of the meeting was "the power of the Post-it," where people wrote questions and comments on the little sticky pads after a presentation and placed them under one of several categories taped to the walls. Harrison asked the crowd to consider the proposal in light of the three goals, preserve the dunes, keep property owners financially whole, and end the litigation so allowable development could proceed. That day the categories were, "Where does it (the proposal) work," "Where does it fall short," "Questions unanswered," and "Other suggestions."

There were still questions and concerns raised by the crowd, but the overall response seemed to be favorable to the general proposal.

"Good plan, good work. Objective: Save the dunes," read one. "Plan as proposed seems a fair compromise," stated another.

Most of the Post-its involved either requests for clarification or concern that the commissioners would decide on major alterations to the proposal.

"I have a great fear that the commissioners will extend the Urban Growth Boundary westward," was one comment. The Urban Growth Boundary is the line that establishes where higher building density is allowed eastward. The question was implied - could it be moved.

"Yes," said Mike DeSimone, community development director. But, he qualified, he did not believe that was their intention. Moving the line west would not necessarily allow additional building because of the large amounts of wetland in that area.

"What amount of that property is under water right now?" asked one audience member, causing a chuckle.

"About 50 to 60 percent," said Kathleen Sayce, scientist for ShoreBank Pacific.

Wetland rules still must be followedDaniel Farber, planner for the State Parks and Recreation Commission, gave some additional clarification. "It doesn't guarantee that people who have undevelopable property will have developable property," he said. In other words, no matter what happens, rules and regulations concerning wetlands will still have to be followed. That statement seemed to actually reassure the crowd. As one person said, "recent rains have proved wetland mitigation is not an abstract," they are a protection for property owners.

DeSimone also assured the crowd that there were no plan to change zoning in the area. The goal was to leave the zoning as R1, single family residential. In addition, ownership would remain the same. No one would be required to sell. Eminent domain and inverse condemnation, where the government can acquire property forcibly with due compensation, did not at all apply.

At the end of the meeting, Farber assured the crowd this would not be their last chance to comment on the proposal. If the commissioners decided to forward it to the planning commission, there would be a public comment period. And, before the commissioners could accept the proposal as an amendment to Zoning Code 153, there would be another public comment period. He asked people to stay active in the process.

Rupp closed with meeting with a wish for the Seahawks success in the Super Bowl to be as great as this precedent setting process which has gone so far toward resolving development conflicts and preserving the dunes.

"Go Seahawk," flashed on the wall to the applause of the crowd.

For more information or a copy of the final draft proposal, contact Mike DeSimone at ( or Bryan Harrison at ( or call the Department of Community Development at 642-9382 or 875-9356.

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