Striking a balance, with all interests in mind.

As school is winding down and summer begins I can't help but think of my childhood and the time when summer vacation meant something and for me it meant swimming. I mostly learned to swim at my grandparents cottage where the lake muck was everywhere and there was no such thing as water shoes to save me. My grandfather built the first cottage on that lake and I thought he owned the lake too. It’s not true, but even now I feel a sense of ownership when I visit.

So I can relate to shoreline property owners who struggle with the notion of government taking a role in regulating shoreline activities. The state has been entrusted to protect these bodies of water by regulating what happens on the shorelines, in your backyard. It is a privilege indeed to live on the waterfront here, but ownership of these waters is shared.

The Public Trust Doctrine holds that the waters of the state are a public resource held in common by citizens broadly for the purposes of navigation, fishing and recreation. In most cases, the area below the ordinary high water mark on our local lakes is publicly owned, though property owners are allowed to construct docks and use that area.

At our open house a couple of weeks back, some property owners cried foul about the role of the city regulating “their” shorelines. We have not and will not forget waterfront residents’ property rights as we work on this update. One of our biggest challenges is balancing the rights of private property owners and the public’s interest in the waters of the state.

Striving to find balance for all interests, how can we serve the public, protect the shoreline, and still ensure that you feel your property rights are being honored? For the rest of you who use the lakes and streams and their shorelines, where do you think we should strike the balance between waterfront property owners’ rights and the public interest?


  1. This discussion forum seems to be very controlled by the contributors based off of the comments that have been posted. Is the decision whether a comment is accepted controlled by Mike & Heidi? Does the city want a honest discussion on the issues from citizens of Bellevue or have this blog be a propaganda vehicle for the planning department? The management of this blog should be handled by someone else and comments should only accepted from people who live in Bellevue.

    The cities approach to the shorelines is too narrow and it does not deal with the many years of development and inadequate Storm water management. A comprehensive plan is the best way to get the best results. I want to see that the city creates measurable goals that the public can grade the effectiveness of their efforts and use of our tax dollars

  2. Michale and Heidi,
    Good to see your person takes on the importance of shoreline planning. I always like to ask people how many went to the water on their last vacation. In almost any context, I get few who say they did not. When you also consider how many jobs depend on water access, and the ecological importance of the water's edge for the earth's life support system, it seems obvious that we have much to ponder.

    On a practical level, I was wondering when draft policies will be available for public review.

  3. Heidi,

    I appreciate your question above. I am a waterfront owner who has a fond love of living on the water. I am fortunate to have been able to afford to buy a property that borders Lake Sammamish.

    What is BALANCE? What if there was a better BALANCE between how much I pay in taxes verses those who use the lake and do not pay as much?

    I want to know what your idea of BALANCE is. Does everything have to be 50/50? You seem to be very opinionated about “best available science” practices. I have attended a few planning commission meetings and definitely have the idea in my head that your values as they pertain to shore line management are different that the ones than my neighbors. I value public access, clean lakes and property rights.

    The City of Bellevue does not treat run off from the roads, culverts, yards, and driveways of upland properties that stream into the lake. The idea that you can restore a lake by allowing this to happen and transferring the cost to the property owners is not BALANCED.

    The rest of the public does not participate financially in our reduced property values due to unnecessary regulations and they hardly would notice the benefit compared to the City’s lack of stewardship. I think there is a huge lack of BALANCE between the public’s right to access, the public’ shared responsibility to care for this lake and the right of property owners to enjoy their property above the water line. The tax payers (me included) have a responsibility to care for the lake if we are to use it. Putting all the responsibilities on the water front property owners by making us swallow your brand of “best available science” is bad policy.

    I met with your consultant at the open house and it was obvious that he knew nothing of the damage done by waves and flooding to the shorelines. His assumption was “what works for Lake Washington works for Lake Sammamish”. I grew up on Lake Washington and I never saw any damage done to our water front like I have seen done to our Lake Sammamish property. His data gathering was totaling ignorant of the all other shorelines in other jurisdiction on the lake and only took into account the Bellevue Shore line. As far as I am concerned, if your “best available science” data is obviously skewed then you cannot be BALANCING good practices with good data. You should be holding open houses where the lake front owners can have a two way dialogue instead of the one way dialogue you had at your last open house.

    At the last planning commission meeting I heard you tell the planning commission that the ordinary high water mark was too difficult to explain. I can see why, if you allow best available science to mask the obvious then everything gets cloudy. I have lived on the lake for 15 years and I know where the ordinary water line is on the lake for at least 9 months of the year and it is not where the “best available science” puts it.

    Your buffer zones could be at least 12 feet more into the setbacks than they should be robbing property owners of more of their property for landscaping and building. You are effectively robbing us of due process. It gives the public no added benefit but takes away from the property owner’s use. Where is the Balance?

    How can the City be a good steward and set policies when it is causing a significant part of the damage to the lake?


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