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Bainbridge's Serenity House up for sale

Property goes on the market, but questions remain on where residents will go.

Serenity House knew it's days were numbered, but didn't know the days would drag on without resolution.

It has now been more than 10 months since the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority (KCCHA) announced it would be closing down the boarding house-style facility overlooking Lynwood center. On Tuesday, a listing agreement was signed, formally putting the property on the market.

However, it has been a struggle to decide where to place the 11 remaining developmentally disabled adults who reside at Serenity, all of whom have been given notice that they are to move from the facility by March 23.

"We've been on hold for a year, it hasn't been fun," said Wendy Mitchell, the manager of the south-end facility.

"There are some possibilities (for relocating residents), but right now we don't know if any of them will go through," she said. "We're still working with family guardians and case workers to find solutions."

KCCHA bought Serenity House in 2005 along with its adjoining property.

The purchase was made possible with a grant from the state Housing Trust Fund, which awarded $1.5 million with the stipulation that the money would be used to secure housing for developmentally disabled adults on the island. The home was then entrusted to the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) of Seattle, which administers the facility.

But Serenity's dorm-style living arrangement fell out of favor with the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), and LIHI began to take subsidies from KCCHA to shore-up losses it incurred in operating the home.

In early 2008, KCCHA decided it would sell the prime Lynwood property to shore-up its losses and develop smaller DSHS-approved adult living facilities.

One of the three Lynwood-KCCHA parcels are now listed with island real estate broker Marilyn McLauchlan. The largest parcel is going for $2.2 million and includes the 107-year-old building that serves as Serenity's primary facility; the smaller of the three parcels is listed at $150,000 The third piece of land – located behind Serenity House – is being reserved for a small replacement home that may house between five and six adults.

KCCHA executive director Debbie Broughton said the authority decided to go through with the listing, despite relocation questions and there being an outstanding assessment on the property's value. That property assessment is likely to come in early February, Broughton said.

McLauchlan, who said she is listing the property commission-free, had been working with KCCHA on Serenity House since before its dismantling was officially announced in March 2008.

"When you are working with a government agency, everything takes so long," McLauchlan said of the Serenity process. "I couldn't just run with it, which was a little frustrating."

While the sale is now more certain, the fate of Serenity's residents is still being worked-out behind the scenes.

"We really do need to determine where people can move," said Mayor Darlene Kordonowy, who, as a KCCHA board member, is spearheading Serenity House efforts for KCCHA. "Everyone would like (Serenity residents) to remain on the island. At this point we don't know the answer."

According to Kordonowy, at least six of the residents will be relocated to a KCCHA property on Manzanita Road. However, that home has yet to be certified by DSHS to house developmentally disabled adults. She said that Bainbridge's Hope House has expressed interest in overseeing the Manzanita facility when, and if, it is licensed.

That leaves another five adults at Serenity who may have to be moved elsewhere while a new home is built on the remaining Lynwood parcel.

According to McLauchlan, the property's listing includes a tenancy clause which could allow for Serenity House to remain in use until housing is secured locally for all of Serenity's residents. But who would pay for the facility to remain open is not known.

Both Kordonowy and Broughton acknowledged some residents may have to be relocated off-island, either permanently or in the interim.

There is also the matter of the Housing Trust Fund's $1.5 million investment in the Serenity facility. The organization would need to be repaid if developmentally disabled adult care is no longer offered on the island, something the cash-strapped KCCHA would like to avoid.

Kordonowy said another approach would be to transfer the HTF stipulations on the original $1.5 million grant to other facilities, such as the Manzanita property and the future Serenity replacement home. Those issues are still being discussed.

Now that the property is listed and residents have been given notice, there may be more pressure on stakeholders to come to an agreement before the Serenity property is sold.

According to McLauchlan, community efforts can now be concentrated on building a replacement home for remaining Serenity residents.

"It would be great if it was a community effort, where we all just get together and build this thing," she said. "This is one time that it will be really needed. It will be absolutely cruel if they have to leave this area. They live here, they are part of our community."

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