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Bainbridge affordable-housing neighborhood plans take shape

Housing Resources Board unveils plans for 48-unit affordable-housing development.

Ground won’t be broken on a Ferncliff Avenue affordable-housing development until at least 2010, but the hopes of many are already being pinned on the project.

Bainbridge’s Housing Resources Board unveiled designs for the 48-home neighborhood at a public meeting last week. Neighbors at the meeting expressed concern over the density and traffic impact of the development. But for prospective homeowners like Amber Bryant, the project can’t begin fast enough.

“Basically everything they’re talking about is the sort of thing we’re looking for,” said Bryant, 31, who lives in a rental home on Bainbridge with husband Drew Kunz and their young son Silas.

Plans displayed at the Jan. 30 meeting showed six clusters of home separated by rows of trees, small playfields and a sprinkling of community garden plots. A one-way road forms a U through the property with an entrance and exit on Ferncliff Avenue. Parking spaces are kept to the outskirts of the site. A system of trails will connect to Cave Avenue and the Vineyard Lane neighborhood.

The houses, designed by architect Julie Kriegh, are a mix of single-family homes, duplexes and triplexes – each two stories tall.

The development will take shape in two phases on the property, donated to HRB in 2007. HRB plans to begin permitting the first phase this spring with the goal of Fairbank Construction breaking ground on the project next year. Construction of the second phase would commence in 2013.

The Ferncliff neighborhood will be operated under a community land trust model. HRB will maintain ownership of the land. Qualified buyers will purchase the houses at below-market value, but will only be allowed to collect a fraction of the homes’ appreciation in order to keep the price low for future buyers.

The limited equity isn’t a deterrent for Bryant and Kunz, who would be buying a house for the first time.

“We just want a home,” Bryant said.

Bryant and Kunz are among about 24 people who have already completed orientation sessions and made $50 deposits with HRB to be considered for ownership in the Ferncliff neighborhood.

Island seniors have been intensely interested in the project, including renter Marilyn Gilbert.

“I’d love to have a home of my own that I could afford,” Gilbert said.

Another woman declined to have her name in print, but said she had lived on Bainbridge for 22 years and commutes to a job in Seattle. She formerly owned a home on the island but downsized to a rental home following a divorce. The Ferncliff neighborhood would be her only chance to own on the island again, she said, and she was gratified to finally see the development take shape in the architectural designs.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s real.”

Neighbors of the proposed neighborhood are watching its development warily.

At the meeting, some criticized the level of density for the site (roughly eight units per acre) and asked if its traffic impact had been analyzed. The property is currently populated by trees and a handful of llamas.

Ann Sievertson, a 35-year resident of the Ferncliff area, said she hoped HRB would consider placing fewer homes on the site.

“I think the whole project is great,” Sievertson said. “But you’re impacting a whole area, and that needs to be addressed.”

Islander Robert Dashiell said he also encouraged the community land trust model but shared Sievertson’s concerns about the number of homes planned.

“I like the project,” he said. “I just don’t like the density.”

Florea responded that HRB is trying to maximize affordable housing on the land – pledged to the group in 2007 – while maintaining some open space and a neighborhood atmosphere.

The development will require a conditional use permit to exceed density for the site’s zoning butcould be included under the city’s Housing Design Demonstration Project, Florea said.

HRB is still looking for applicants interested in the community land trust homes. Florea said the project has already drawn interest from a variety of ages and backgrounds.

“The nice part is, we’re getting a variety of folks who represent the island,” he said. “We’re getting the kind of diversity we’re planning for and looking for.”

For information on the Ferncliff community land trust project contact Joan Marsden at 842-1909 or check www.housingresourcesboard.org. The following designs by Kriegh Architects were provided courtesy HRB:

Ferncliff Renderings

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