Bainbridge city council approves a revised ordinance to promote housing diversity and affordability

The Bainbridge Island City Council has approved revisions to the Housing Design Demonstration Project program.

The revised program will require 10 percent affordable housing for Tier 2 and Tier 4 developments, reduce development incentives and require each HDDP project be reviewed by the city's Design Review Board and planning commission.

It is also likely an additional revision will be made in the coming year to include an easier scoring system for developments which provide 100 percent affordable housing.

The HDDP was established as a pilot program in 2009 to bolster development projects that would increase the variety of housing available to residents of all economic segments and to encourage sustainable development.

Over the last month, an ad hoc committee made up of three council members, a planning commissioner, a Design Review Board member and a representative from the Housing Resources Board have worked to improve the program.

At the council's last meeting, special project planner Jennifer Sutton brought forward a revised ordinance that included amendments to affordability and density incentives.

The ad hoc committee also opted out of including Neighborhood Service Centers into the revised ordinance, an item that received extensive pushback from residents who were concerned about traffic, over-development and lack of business space.

In a last-minute addition, however, city staff and council also received a recommendation from the Housing Resources Board that would boost the program's affordable housing.

Currently, the ordinance requires developments with 50 percent affordable housing to obtain 30 points in the "innovative site development scoring method." This scoring category outlines each development's method for decreasing stormwater quantity, improving water quality, providing common open space and encouraging environmentally friendly transportation.

Following the second ad hoc committee meeting and the final draft revisions, the Housing Resources Board made another recommendation that projects which provide 100 percent affordable housing only need to achieve 24 points in the innovative site category.

"The challenge is to avoid making it so expensive it becomes cost prohibitive for (the Housing Resources Board) (and other non-profit developers) to use the HDDP," said Charles Wenzlau of the Housing Resources Board in an email to city staff.

"Since this tier provides a high level community benefit with the affordable units, the innovative scoring should be in balance."

The recommendation's tardiness, however, was received with dissent at last week's meeting.

"I don't think this is the way we should do any of these ordinances, at the public hearing, right before we approve them, make detailed changes," said Councilwoman Kirsten Hytopoulos.

At the planning department's advice, the council decided it would be best to approve the draft as it is written, and in the new year, have the ad hoc committee reconvene to discuss the Housing Resources Board's recommendation.

The incoming council could then make the necessary amendments.

"Given how much time has gone into the ordinance before you tonight, I think it would be easier for a reconvened ad hoc committee to look at that one narrow issue than to defer the whole ordinance into 2014," said Planning Director Kathy Cook.

The city council voted unanimously to approve the draft ordinance as written. Council members voted 6-1 for the draft ordinance to go into effect on Jan. 1. Hytopoulos cast the sole vote against the ordinance.


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