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City council considers Suzuki property for affordable housing

The Bainbridge Island City Council was inspired to revisit possibilities for a city-owned property that is currently doing no one any good.

But one man asked the council to change that.

Mark Blatter, executive director of the Housing Resources Board, came to the council at a recent meeting to ask the council to consider the Suzuki property and determine a path toward its future use.

“The Housing Resources Board has had an interest for some time to develop affordable housing on a portion of this site,” Blatter told council members.

“We hope at this time the council, with our help and other community voices, can start to identify potential users for the site and develop a plan to use the site,” he said.

The Suzuki property is 14-acres of city-owned land off the northwest corner of New Brooklyn Road and Sportsman Club Road.

The property has been eyed for various uses in recent years, including affordable housing and at one time a site for a combined police station and court facility.

Blatter said that the site is good for multiple purposes, but stressed the possibility for affordable housing.

“On the housing side, it would take a modest portion of the site,” Blatter said. “We are looking at a size similar to phase one of Ferncliff Village, so about 24 affordable housing units.”

The Ferncliff Village project has nearly sold all of its homes designed for low-income, first-time home buyers. The project aims to combine homeownership with low-income housing on Bainbridge Island.

The city council thanked Blatter for bringing the topic to light, and formed a three-member task force to work with the Housing Resource Board.

The city-owned land was last spoken of on the dais in 2009 when a task force developed a series of recommendations for the property. The task force included neighbor Herb Hethcote, realtor Jim Laws, former Bainbridge Island Land Trust director Karen Molinari, affordable housing consultant Bob Powers, and developer John Green, who is currently running for city council.

At the time, the task force considered the property as a future site for a combined police and court facility, but little movement on that idea has been made since.

Another major consideration was establishing affordable housing on the property.

The task force ultimately suggested that the city refrain from selling the property until the council passed a housing ordinance. It then said the city should engage a request for proposals process to sell the property, and seek buyers that would incorporate low-impact development and green construction.

The property was also recommended to be rezoned for a higher density, and that a pond on the site be preserved to create a wildlife buffer.

The task force noted that “bonus points” should be given to any proposal that included affordable housing above minimum requirements.

The Housing Resources Board is a Bainbridge Island non-profit focused on providing, and advocating for affordable housing.

Founded in 1989, the board works to provide another option for housing to combat of the climbing rent and home prices commonly found on Bainbridge Island. It also serves as a land trust and offers homeownership opportunities at below market rates.

Community Events, April 2014

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