Rezone sought for Winslow development

The Navy plans to redevelop, sell its small housing tract on Government Way.

A Texas-based development concern, working under contract with the U.S. Navy, hopes to extend Winslow’s high-density residential core one block west, through a rezone that would allow intensive redevelopment of what is now a Navy housing project off Wyatt Way and Grow Avenue.

“Our goal is to maximize the site,” said David Smith, a Houston-based planning consultant associated with the project, in an interview Friday.

American Eagle Communities LLC of Dallas, Texas, filed applications Thursday for an amendment to the island’s Comprehensive Plan, seeking redesignation of the 5.42-acre Government Way housing tract from “Urban Multifamily” to the “Mixed Use Town Center” designation.

The redesignation, the first step in the rezone process, would change the parcel from “units-per-acre” zoning to the somewhat more complex “floor-area ratio” zoning used in the downtown core, city planner Kathy Cook said.

The new base zoning would allow development of more than 94,000 square feet of residential, commercial or mixed-use space there – and up to 236,000 square feet of space, if bonuses for affordable housing and other amenities are approved.

“They’d have to do a lot to get there,” Cook said. “It’s not a given that they could go that high, or that they’d want to go that high. I don’t know. At this point, it’s not a development application.”

If the property were redeveloped under the current zoning, it could see 14 units per acre, or about 75 units total.

It now has 16 single-family homes, occupied by Navy families attached to area bases.

The Government Way property has been owned by the Department of the Navy for decades.

But the Navy has been divesting itself of such holdings, under a 1996 federal law that mandated privatization of military housing nationwide, through contracts with developers chosen in a competitive bid process.

American Eagle Communities LLC is working in partnership with the Navy to redevelop “numerous ‘isolated’ clusters” of housing around the Northwest.

In documents filed with the city, Kathryn Thompson, managing director for American Eagle Communities, said the rezone would be appropriate given the other development near Government Way – the Pavilion mall on the east, some multi-story housing on the west, and the three-story assisted-living facility across the street to the north.

The development would “create a high-value project with a wide range of housing types built around an open space amenity,” according to the documents.

Up to 20 percent of the units would be “affordable” under current guidelines, the documents said, although Smith said that percentage could be higher.

“With its close proximity to the ferry terminal, downtown and City Hall, the provision of a significant increment of affordable housing can provide a housing option for municipal employees as well as commuters,” the company said in its application.

The company also seeks the relaxation of parking requirements, according to documents.

While a rezone would allow commercial space, Smith said that was not in the current plans.

“It’s intended to be residential in its entirety – we don’t feel we have commercial frontage available,” Smith said. “In a community like Bainbridge you can stretch that a little bit, but we don’t feel we have access (to Madison Avenue).”

Partners in American Eagle Communities include the Shaw Group, a Fortune 500 construction firm, and the Carabetta Organization, a design, construction and property management outfit, Smith said.

“Privatization contractors” that partner with the Navy on such redevelopment projects are given 50-year contracts that include “construction, financing, operations and maintenance of the existing and constructed units,” according to the documents submitted. AEC was selected “through a rigorous competitive process.”

Proceeds from the redevelopment of older Navy housing is to be plowed back into development of and improvements to other military housing on and off of bases.

Smith, the project’s point man, is a planner with SLA, a consulting firm with offices in Houston, Texas, Orange County, Calif., and Tokyo, Japan.

In a phone interview, Smith said that after research and a recent site visit here, he “was really struck by what a special place Bainbridge had become.”

Yet he likened Bainbridge Island to a resort town facing a shortage of affordable housing in the face of rising land costs.

“The people who work in the resorts cannot afford to live in the resort town, so they commute long distance,” he said. “It’s environmentally not a good situation, and it’s socially not a good situation.”

The application is expected to go to the Bainbridge Island Planning Commission later this month, Cook said. If the commission finds the zoning reclassification has merit, it would be referred to the City Council, which could then send it back to the planning department for detailed analysis.

The rezone was one of three proposed amendments to the city’s Comprehensive Plan filed this week with the Department of Planning and Community Development.

Others include a request by Tom Haggar to rezone one of five parcels on which Winslow Clinic sits, to allow possible expansion of that facility, and a request by Richard Scheyer for a sewer service extension for a residential property on Point White.

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