Bainbridge council to consider tree regulations, contract to join coalition

Tonight the council will never see,

final regulations for their trees.

The Bainbridge Island City Council will get its first look at revised rules to protect and retain trees as land is developed for new commercial, industrial and multifamily housing projects.

While council members will review a 24-page set of regulations at their meeting Wednesday night, the new set of rules are not complete.

Instead, the council will be asked to approve interim regulations that protect and retain trees while work continues  on a more-complete set of rules. Eventually, the revised regulations may include tree retention requirements to lower density developments of single-family homes, stormwater-fee credits for developers who plant more trees than are required, and the establishment of a "tree account" where builders could deposit funds for tree plantings when they can't comply with the city's tree-retention requirements on their development sites.

The council is expected to give its initial approval to the interim ordinance tonight.

Final approval, and a public hearing, is planned for Oct. 24.

The interim set of rules includes requirements for developers to retain set numbers of significant trees and existing tree canopies in the Mixed Use Town Center and High School Road zoning districts, in areas zoned Residential-8 (eight housing units per acre), Residential-14 (14 units per acre), Neighborhood Service Centers, and nonresidential developments that are permitted as conditional uses in residential zone districts.

Also on tonight's agenda, the council will get a status report on the city's 2012 roads program and asphalt repairs.

Costs for road repairs have climbed higher than expected, and the extra road work this year resulted in $48,401 beyond what was initially contracted out to Lakeside Industries.

The added cost is more than 20 percent of the original amount and therefore requires council approval.

If approved, the contract with Lakeside Industries for the city's road work will be $266,913.

Costs for the island's chip seal road repairs, however, came in under budget by $51,563.

The city allotted $600,000 for road repairs in 2012. After asphalt, chip seal, and work on New Brooklyn Road, the price tag on road repairs this year totals $556,198, leaving $43,801 unspent.

The council will also consider an interlocal agreement that would allow Bainbridge Island to spend up to $15,000 in legal fees to fight proposed standards that the state Department of Ecology is considering for stormwater programs.

If approved by the council, the city would join a coalition with other 10 other cities and Cowlitz County. Officials claim the new standards under consideration by Ecology could result in costly burdens on landowners and lawsuits against cities that adopt the new standards.

The legal fight may include an appeal to the Pollution Control Hearings Board. Other cities in the coalition include SeaTac, Snoqualmie, Bellevue, Everett and Issaquah.

Bainbridge Island officials have previously raised alarm at the proposed changes to the state's stormwater management manual and proposed permit changes for municipalities.

"The city's concerns regarding the cost of complying with this permit, and its unfunded mandates, are shared by most municipalities. Bainbridge Island is currently undergoing substantial financial stress and adequate review time has not been provided for staff or our elected officials to educate the community about the far reach of many of the proposed changes or assess the financial impacts," Bainbridge Public Works Director Lance Newkirk told Ecology in a Feb. 3 letter.

Newkirk said the public policy implications of the revisions had not yet been vetted, and the city asked the state to extend the review period "to allow additional community dialogue" on the draft manual and permit.

The city also said the new standards — which would apply to all projects that start construction after Jan. 1, 2021 — would cause problems with developers' vesting rights.

"It will inevitably lead to complicated and expensive litigation," Newkirk wrote.

Instead, Newkirk said new permit requirements should apply to permit applications that are not deemed complete by Dec. 31, 2015.

Bainbridge has also raised concern for a requirement that city roads be built with permeable pavement.

Newkirk said the requirement would mean added costs for cleanup and would make repair costs rise. The requirement should not be imposed until "permeable pavements have proven their durability and cost effectiveness," he said.

The city council meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. at city hall.

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