Thursday, August 20, 2015

Q: We bought a waterfront place here some years ago and are trying to expand the house just a little bit.

Our contractor has been pulling his hair out trying to get a permit through the County. It looks like we won’t be able to do it and I’m really upset that we were not told about all of these restrictions when we bought our house. We may even have to put in a new septic system. I can’t see why it’s such a big deal.
A: There have always been some restrictions on waterfront homes, but many changes have occurred in the 17 years since you bought your home. In 1990 the state passed the Growth Management Act to provide some guidelines for growth in our state. They included some public health and environmental constraints to protect the Puget Sound and other bodies of water. These were updated in 2005 to include more strict controls over leaking septic systems and homes on the water where people had no septic systems at all.

In 2005 the Vashon Maury Island Marine Recovery Area was designated as a particular area of concern due to bad septic systems which are polluting the Sound. As an example, you may have read that shellfish can’t be harvested for much of the year due to pollution. In 2008 the County adopted an onsite septic management plan for Vashon and some other waterfront areas of the County. These newer rules are even more aggressive about getting people to install proper septic systems. All of these regulations control what you can and can’t do with your property.

In addition, these regulations control the impervious surfaces on your property. Impervious surfaces are, for instance, your house, driveway and garage that prevent rainwater from seeping into the ground to replenish our sole source aquifer. So there are a lot of new regulations that will limit what you can do with your property. Protecting our drinking water, Puget Sound, and our fish and wildlife habitat are all critical to sustaining a livable place for all of us.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Q: We're getting so frustrated trying to find a home on Vashon.

We just can’t drop everything and get out there fast enough from Seattle to put a bid in on a house. My husband wants to be close to the ferry so we are just looking at the north end. It seems like everything sells so fast in that neighborhood and is more expensive. Any suggestions?
A: This may sound flippant and I don’t mean it to, but if you can’t possibly deal with a drive of 5 to 20 minutes to the ferry from further south on the island, you may want to just stay in Seattle. Most of my clients move here for a slower pace, a more rural lifestyle that includes great schools, a wonderful cultural environment, beautiful natural areas and a friendly community. To become a part of that community you may have to actually live more than a couple of minutes from the boat.

Our north end homes turn over at a faster rate than other areas. Some of the busiest roads see the same homes coming on the market every two to four years. That tells me that those folks couldn’t handle the commute. There are other reasons to sell, of course, but there does seem to be a pattern.

I’ve been fortunate that in 26 years in this business I have had only one client who bought at the north end and sold a few years later to go back to the city. Of course, other clients who buy at the north end often end up buying a place elsewhere on the Island to get into a more rural setting.

Living in the city, with its traffic congestion, can mean it takes 15 minutes just to drive a few blocks. For others folks it’s a 45 minute bumper to bumper drive on the freeway to or from the east side. I would think a drive through beautiful rural Vashon, and a relaxing trip on a boat talking to friends, working on a laptop or reading a book would be an easy tradeoff.