Housing authority purchases Fort Ward parcel

"Nobody’s throwing any parades yet.But the sale of the Fort Ward parage ground by island developer Ray Stevenson to the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority is considered a cause for celebration by open-space preservationists and affordable-housing advocates alike.“This is going to be a real constructive addition to the community,” said Mayor Dwight Sutton, who serves as the chair of the housing authority’s board of commissioners.Sutton announced the imminent sale at Wednesday’s city council meeting, although the closing papers for the $800,000 purchase of the five-acre site weren’t signed until Friday morning. The purchase price is a markup of $150,000 over the amount Stevenson paid for the land at auction last summer after its former owner went bankrupt.The purchase means that more than an acre of the former military marching area can be saved as open space that should eventually serve as a neighborhood park.The rest of the acreage, which had been carved up decades before into 22 postage-stamp-sized lots, will be developed into 11 “zero-lot-line” duplex-style units.Of the 22 total owner-occupied units, 16 will be for sale at market rate, said Roger Waid, the housing authority’s deputy executive director. The remaining six will be offered for sale to folks who earn an annual income at below 80 percent of the county’s median figure, Waid said.Using current figures, a family of four together earning less than $38,650 would be eligible, as would a single person pulling in less than $27,050.The announced ratio of market-rate-to-subsidized units in the project will allow revenues from the higher-priced units to pay for the continuing subsidy of the lower-priced abodes. Under a plan drawn up by Bainbridge urban designer Bill Isley, the market-rate units would encompass 1,600 square feet, while the lower-priced residences would be half that size.The change in ratio could do something to ease the fears of some Fort Ward Hill Road residents who worry that the presence of low-income housing near their homes could cut into their assessed property values.“If it’s done right, it could be a real jewel for the island,” said Eileen Safford, president of the Fort Ward Neighborhood Association. “But it could degrade the neighborhood if it isn’t done correctly.”The residents initially opposed to the project weren’t available for comment Friday, but have said that they will be vigilant in monitoring the project as Isley, the Housing Authority and the neighborhood work together to refine the design. Waid, Safford and Sutton, among others, say those concerns will be taken into consideration at every step of the process, which will include a re-platting of the property through the city planning department. That, they say, will allow ample opportunity for public comment.“Our intent is to include the Fort Ward community – all of the community – in the meetings that get us to our final design,” Waid said.Added Sutton: “We are very sensitive to developing a really good design that’s in keeping with the standards that are in place there.“But there’s a real need for open space on this island...and we’re desperately short of affordable housing.”"

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