Moratorium set on wetlands projects

"The Bainbridge city council Wednesday imposed a moratorium on filing building-permit applications that seek to include any wetlands or buffers in their density calculations.The moratorium takes effect April 6.The purpose of the moratorium is to prevent any applicant from claiming a vested right under an ordinance that is in the process of being repealed, according to Planning Director Stephanie Warren.I don't think there are any pending applications that this affects, and I don't know of any on the way, Warren said.At issue is a provision of the zoning ordinance that allowed developers, under certain circumstances, to include all or part of a wetlands area on their property into their density calculations. Under that ordinance, the owner of a 10-acre parcel with three acres of wetlands zoned for 2.9 units per acre could seek approval for 29 total units, although none of the units could be built on wetlands.Believing the provision impossible to interpret and administer, the city council decided to do away with the exception, and simply bar the inclusion of wetland acreage in density calculations in all but the lowest-density zones on the island.But the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board invalidated the new ordinance, saying the council had not provided proper notice or given the public an adequate opportunity to comment.The council is re-starting the process. The ordinance prohibiting wetland inclusion has been re-introduced, and public hearings will be scheduled. The moratorium is an effort to preserve the status quo pending the outcome of that process.Warren said that if the new ordinance does not pass, then applicants will be able to argue for wetlands inclusion under the existing ordinance. "

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