Buddy, can you spare a dock?

Waterfront property owners may have to get to know their neighbors if they want to put their boat in the water.

Some of them would rather keep to themselves.

New shoreline regulations proposed by Snohomish County require that homeowners make every attempt to share a dock with a neighbor before building their own.

“It’s a requirement encouraging them to do joint use,” said Karen Stewart, the county planner leading the shoreline rule update. “The requirement is for them to show that they at least tried.”

It’s unfair to deny a waterfront property owner a dock, said Mel Reiter, owner of Reiter’s Marine Construction and Repair Inc., a Bothell-based dock building company.

“That’s an infringement on your rights, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

The proposed rules are part of revisions being made to the county’s Shoreline Management Plan. The plan is designed to protect the natural environment while allowing public access.

The County Council is required to adopt the new plan by Dec. 1.

Reiter said more rules mean less business for his dock-building company.

“It’s is getting horrible,” he said. “It’s making it tougher and tougher to make a living.”

Building fewer docks is a priority because they provide cover to fish that prey on juvenile trout, immature kokanee salmon and other game fish that like to hug lake shorelines.

“Docks are like a conveyor belt that bring them right to largemouth and smallmouth bass,” said Bill Marros, a fish biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Bass are not native to Washington.

The new shoreline rules propose banning use of creosote-treated pilings to build docks, Stewart said. They also would require the use of grates or wood slats that allow light under the dock.

Lynnwood resident Al Ostman just finished building a dock on Lake Serene.

“I’m happy I got it built,” he said.

Sharing with his neighbor, who is 50 to 60 feet away, wouldn’t have been possible. He said he would have had to walk across his neighbor’s waterfront every time he wanted to take a spin on a kayak or small sailboat.

“It kind of defeats the purpose of having private waterfront property,” he said. “You might as well live in a shared beach community where you have shared beach access.”

Individual property owners will likely get to build their own dock if they can’t work out an arrangement with their neighbors, said Tom Rowe, the county’s division manager for permit review.

“We understand (waterfront) properties are at a premium,” Rowe said.

Rowe said there are about a dozen dock permits taken out each year. Six have been taken out so far this year.

“The good accessible beach areas are typically developed,” he said. The person who wants to build a new dock is “more likely someone who doesn’t have one but already has a home there.”

Subdivision developers and any commercial builders would not get that flexibility, Stewart said.

Because they’re building on a large scale, they will be required to build shared docks under the new rules, she said.

The new shoreline plan doesn’t affect those who live on lakes of 20 acres or smaller, but that doesn’t mean they’re off the hook, Stewart said.

A second set of county rules being developed right now will require property owners on small lakes to share docks whenever possible. The county is scheduled to adopt those rules, called critical areas regulations, in the coming months.

Reporter Lukas Velush: 425-339-3449 or lvelush@heraldnet.com.

Want to weigh in on Snohomish County?s proposed Shoreline Management Plan? The county planning commission has scheduled a public hearing on an update to the plan at 4 p.m. today at the county?s east administration building, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., Everett. The meeting will be held in the first floor meeting room.

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