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Holmes Harbor harbor on hold

A proposed Holmes Harbor waterfront dock project is in a holding pattern until more information is supplied by both the developer and the Island County Prosecuting Attorney.

Mark Schuster, developer of the Holmes Harbor Beach and Golf Club, hopes to build a large “H” shaped dock below the clubhouse at his Freeland development. But before those plans proceed, county planning director Phil Bakke is asking the prosecutor for a legal opinion on whether the project will require a conditional use permit.

“We expect a reply within two weeks,” he said.

Schuster has applied for a permit to repair an existing bulkhead and access trail on the north-side of his Beachfire Grill restaurant, to build the pier, to build a 4-foot by 60-foot ramp leading to the pier, and two 10-foot by 220-foot floats. The floats would allow boaters to tie up at the pier.

Because the proposed use does not fit the definition of a pier, dock or marina, it is considered an unlisted use. Unlisted uses are reviewed under a conditional use permit, which requires approval from both Island County and the Washington State Department of Ecology. The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife will require its own review process.

But before that happens, the county is asking for more details of the project as it was presented in Oct. 2004.

“We need more information on the specifics of the proposed dock and its usage,” said Joe Burcar, a shoreline planner with the county.

The project has not gone unnoticed in the Holmes Harbor neighborhood, though has not generated the controversy that erupted over nearby Nichols Brothers Boat Builders’ push to get a boatyard expansion master permit approved. In regard to Schuster’s dock project, Burcar said the county received a “26-page comment letter from a neighbor who thoroughly analyzed the project to our code.”

Other questions yet to be addressed include the number vessels expected to use the dock, the duration of moorage, the supplying of shore power, restrictions and enforcement. Also to be considered is whether sea planes or jet ski users have access to the dock.

Steve Erickson, one of the founders of the South Whidbey-based Whidbey Environmental Action Network, said this week that a harbor-type structure such as this one could interfere with the already weak flushing action in the still harbor.

“It’s too big, too much and it’s in the wrong place, just like Nichols Brothers,” he said.

Erickson said WEAN’s attention has been focused on the proposed Nichols expansion, so the organization has not had the time to research the harbor proposal.

“We’ve been pretty busy, but we will get around to looking at Schuster’s proposal in detail.”

In the meantime, Schuster will be answering additional questions from the Island County planning staff.

Additional structures beyond what is being requested in the permit application may also be needed, said Phil Bakke. A breakwater or jetty may be necessary to provide adequate protection for boats and floating structures. Bakke said the plans for such a structure would have to be submitted at the same time as those for the dock and floats.

Depending on the final scope of the project, a navigation study may be required. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources has the authority to request a such a study prior to the formation of a lease for state-owned aquatic lands.

Despite repeated attempts to contact Schuster about the dock proposal over the past two weeks, the Seattle-based developer could not be reached for comment.

Schuster’s other development plans at the Holmes Harbor Golf and Beach Club include the construction of 35 new homes.

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