PORT ANGELES — Living on the water might be one way to address the area’s housing shortage, the Port of Port Angeles is suggesting.
Board of Commissioners President Steven Burke forwarded a letter Wednesday to city Community Development Manager Emma Bolin recommending exactly that.
It says the city’s prohibition on floating homes docked in Port Angeles Harbor — where the port’s Boat Haven is located — should be revised as part of the ongoing revision of the shoreline master program.
The port is asking city officials to change it to allow floating homes at the Boat Haven. Burke and Commissioners Colleen McAleer and Connie Beauvais unanimously approved the correspondence at their Feb. 23 meeting.
From 10 to 40 floating houses could fit in the Marine Drive marina, replacing little-used boat houses and slips, Burke said this week. He distinguished stationary floating homes from houseboats, which are motorized.
Still to be addressed are such issues as sewage generated by floating homes.
“Right now, we are trying to address the ‘can we do this,’ and that question is ‘how we do this.’ We haven’t gotten into how at all,” he said.
Burke said floating homes are a feature in some areas, including on the Columbia River and in British Columbia, in Vancouver and Victoria.
Port Environmental Manager Jesse Waknitz, who wrote the letter, said at the Feb. 23 meeting that sewage and gray-water pumps connecting with the city sewer system could be installed on each floating home.
Floating homes could be installed as existing boat-house structures are removed from the marina as part of mitigating the impact, Waknitz said.
“When I looked at the current, I guess, mitigation spreadsheet or calculator for National Marine Fisheries, it would probably take about a 2.5 to 1 ratio of removing structures for mitigation.
“So you remove 2,500 square feet of existing or maybe boat houses that are no longer needed for a 1,000-[square]-foot floating home.”
Floating homes have been used worldwide to meet housing needs, he added.
The city bans floating homes in the current 2014 shoreline program and in a proposed, revised version, Waknitz said.
It’s based on the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) that says floating homes “are not a preferred use as should be prohibited,” the letter says, quoting from the code.
Floating homes are included generally with “new, over-water residences” under the recommended prohibition, according to WAC 173-26-241.
“It is recognized that certain existing communities of floating and/or over-water homes exist and should be reasonably accommodated to allow improvements associated with life safety matters and property rights to be addressed provided that any expansion of existing communities is the minimum necessary to assure consistency with constitutional and other legal limitations that protect private property,” it says.
Waknitz said it’s incorrect to say they are outlawed.
“This perceived and incorrect notion that floating homes are prohibited by state regulation should not limit our community’s solutions to our housing challenges,” the letter says.
The state Department of Ecology must approve the city’s shoreline program.
Ecology spokesperson Colleen Keltz said Thursday in an email that the state Shoreline Master Program has single-family residences listed as fifth in a list of six preferred uses.
“As a use that is not a water-dependent or preferred use of shorelines of the state, it may be allowed as a priority for shoreline location only when managed to control pollution and prevent natural resource damage.”
The joint local and state public comment period on the city shoreline master program runs through 5 p.m. March 30.
Burke said he has spoken with City Council member Mike French about the proposal.
“I do think this is a great idea,” French said Thursday.
He said the city has time to revise its proposed shoreline master program and will ask Mayor Kate Dexter to include discussion of the port’s proposal at the next City Council meeting on March 16.
“I do think a case like this is doable,” he said.
“I think we should talk about this.
“I love that [the port] actually views housing as something they have a role in.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].