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City seeks public input on shoreline project

Mercer Island, along with most other King County cities on the water, is re-evaluating its 30-year-old Shoreline Master Program.

The first step in this effort — a 2003 state requirement — is to review the Island’s current shoreline conditions, which include ecology, public access and land use. Thus, the city of Mercer Island has established a Planning Commission to review its current Shoreline Master Program, consult with specialists on the subject and update the program to best serve Mercer Island’s future needs.

This process, like any other Planning Commission timeline, takes place over several months. Last Wednesday, the commission held its first meeting in which a professional walked the members through the first three chapters of the program’s draft. Four more meetings, all of which are open to the public, will follow. Planning Commission member Marc Berejka emphasized the importance of public involvement.

“Getting the community involved is super important,” Berejka said, adding that the city will host an open house on May 19. “It’s called the ‘master plan,’ but it’s really a requirement to develop, one, a policy for how Mercer Island manages its shoreline and, two, regulations for how individuals and organizations that make use of the shoreline must behave.”

The main goal of the open house is to familiarize residents with the scope and detail of the Shoreline Master Plan. It is also a chance to repackage the project — with all its complications and environmental jargon — into digestible concepts for the public. The open house will include illustrative posters, maps, graphic data and legislative history behind King County’s Shoreline Master Program.

“As of now, Mercer Island does have regulations that govern the use of our shoreline. But those regulations are out of date because they don’t incorporate new thinking built into the 2002 statutory changes,” Berejka explained.

In its essence, the master plan focuses on three key areas: residential use of shoreline; urban use of shoreline (such as city parks); and use of urban conservancy (more tightly regulated environmental areas). All of these areas will be thoroughly examined by the Planning Commission, with plenty of help from experts.

“It will be a soup to nuts refresh of the Mercer Island regulations governed,” he said. “For example, we’re looking at whether to declare part of Luther Burbank as ‘urban conservancy.’ These regulations will determine what can be done for shoreline modification, the installation of docks, how to deal with the question of boat launches.”

The next meeting, in which the Watershed Company consulting team will walk Berejka and his peers through the draft plan, is scheduled for May 6.

Berejka encourages Islanders to attend.

“Right now, we’re just in an educational phase,” he explained. “The more community input, the better.”

Three more meetings will follow — May 20, June 3 and June 17 — before the Planning Commission will begin creating a revised code for Mercer Island. It will be a long and tedious project. The plan itself is 12 pages long. The Planning Commission hopes to have its proposed regulations ready for the City Council by the end of 2009.

More information is available at www.kingcounty.gov.

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