Fort Ward project nears
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:02 PM
"Fort Ward residents will get a look Sunday at modified plans for a project that would bring affordable housing to the neighborhood.If the plan looks familiar, it will be because the neighbors - most of them, at least - have had in designing the project.We designed the houses first, said architect Bill Isley, who is consulting with the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority to develop the project. Then we fit them to the site.And that's where the neighbors came in.We had a meeting where Bill had a map of the site, and Garnie Quitslund (of the Housing Resources Board) had cut-out houses, said Sarah Lee Bourlier, an area resident who supports the proposal. The neighbors moved them around on the site.The result of that collaboration is a plan for 22 single-family homes clustered around a portion of the former Fort Ward parade grounds - used to marshal troops during the area's decades as a military base - which will be preserved as a city park. The homes, all with three bedrooms, range in size from 1,350 to 1,875 square feet.It will be a lot like the Madison Cottages, Isley said, referring to the cottage-like condominiums behind a white picket fence on the east side of Madison Avenue in downtown Winslow.The homes will have one-car garages, so the garages don't dominate, Isley said. In most cases, two homes will share a driveway.The project is formally known as the Fort Ward Parade Ground subdivision. City planning officials said the proposal won't go to a public hearing before mid-fall, and Isley said if all goes well, construction will begin next spring.The housing authority is sticking with its plan to make six of the units affordable, making them available only to families earning less than 80 per cent of the county's median income. But the new design makes the affordable units much larger than the last incarnation of the plan, which projected the affordable units to contain only about 800 square feet.The neighborhood picnic begins at 4 p.m. at the old fire house on the corner of Parkview and Hilltop drives. The presentation of the plans should begin about 5 p.m., said Eileen Safford, president of the Fort Ward Neighborhood Association.But a splinter group in the neighborhood, claiming that its concerns have been ignored, will boycott the informational meeting and has retained legal counsel to fight the housing project. Susan Marley, a Fort Ward Hill Road resident, and several neighbors take issue both with the housing authority and with the neighborhood association, with whom the housing authority has been working.We don't trust the Fort Ward association, said Marley, who lives Road adjacent to the open space behind which the project would be built. The housing authority doesn't understand that we are a separate group, and they don't deal with us.Marley originally objected to the proposal to construct rental units, saying their presence would lower her property value. The fact that the units are now to be owner-occupied does not change her opposition.Will the people in the affordable units be able to maintain their units and keep them in repair? she said. And the density is going to mean more traffic. These are issues that the housing authority hasn't addressed.Marley said she has declined to participate in meetings with the Fort Ward association and will not attend the Sunday picnic.Her group, which calls itself the Parade Ground Homeowner's Association, has a half dozen members, and has retained legal counsel, Marley said. She predicted that more neighbors would join when the housing authority plans become better known. The neighborhood association represents a small group of people with a narrow set of concerns, she said. They have not responded to the issues we have raised.Neighborhood association president Safford vigorously disputes Marley's characterizations.We've invited them to meetings, and they haven't come. What can you do if they won't come to the table? she said. Safford has high praise for the housing authority, as really responsive to our concerns. Safford was concerned about the original plan to build rental units.There are so many rentals in our neighborhood as it is, she said. We need more opportunities for home ownership on Bainbridge, particularly for middle-income people.The 16 market-rate units will sell for between $200,000 and $300,000, Isley estimated. Profits from the sale of those units will help pay for the six affordable units. Roger Waid, deputy executive director of the KCCHA, said that buyers of the affordable units will have to get bank loans for their mortgages, meaning they will need stable jobs and good credit. If their income does not let them qualify for a mortgage big enough to cover the sales price, the KCCHA has a program to help with the down payment, Waid said.Affordable housing advocates have argued that without programs like the one KCCHA offers, middle-income island workers such as teachers and policemen will not be able to afford to live on the island.That argument doesn't move Marley.I work in Seattle, and I can't afford to live there, she said. The days when you could live five minutes away from your job are over.But that, says Safford, illustrates the fundamental disagreement. Their idea of what Bainbridge should be is in conflict with the neighborhood, she said. "