Letters to the Editor

Follow the zoning

To the editor:

I’m neither a racist nor a NIMBY. However, some members of our municipal government would have you believe because I object to building 21 houses on a lot zoned for one, I and many of my neighbors are insensitive to non-white people or firemen, teachers and others city government elites use for their shameful purposes.

Many of you may drive through my neighborhood on Finch and the Sportsman Club roads intersection. Does it look like an elitist enclave? This area is what historically was known as affordable; composed of working families and retirees of diverse experience and lifestyles; just like the working people COBI accuses us of discriminating against. The irony!

COBI and Bethany Lutheran Church want to shoe-horn 21 houses into the tiny triangular space at the intersection because they say they will be affordable. Fifty feet away, COBI permitted 36 large homes on both sides of a creek that anchored a wildlife habitat. How many of those homes were mandated affordable? Zero. COBI could have insisted on 100% affordability, but they opted for 0% and instead permitted three dozen, 4,000-square-foot, $1.5 million mega-homes.

If those whose agenda is driving COBI policy really cared about affordable housing, why don’t they support it in accordance with the law and our Comprehensive Plan? In the R10 zone insist on 10 affordable houses per acre; in the R5, insist on five, etc.

What’s really going on here?

Jim Halbrook

Development explained

To the editor:

I am president of Central Highlands, the developer referenced in Mr. Harrington’s “System the Problem” letter published June 3. Over the last 20 years, Central Highlands is the only developer to build income-qualified for-sale affordable units on Bainbridge Island — 35 to be precise: nine on Strawberry Lane, 24 in Ferncliff Village and two in Wallace Cottages.

Our upcoming project, Wintergreen Townhomes, will include 73 units, 31 of which will be affordable units sold through Housing Resources Bainbridge. Phase 1 will be 17 affordable units and 13 market units; Phase 2 will be 14 affordable units and 29 market units. In both phases, the affordable and market units will be built and sold simultaneously, which is possible because our lender, Kitsap Bank, and our investors support affordable housing. Also, we have pledged to donate over $400,000 from the project to HRB.

It is regrettable that oftentimes market units are prioritized over affordable ones, but there are economic realities. Affordable units are priced far below market value, and although there is a density bonus for them, they are less profitable than market projects. With Wallace Cottages, we were duty-bound to investors to maximize profitability, which created pressure to prioritize market sales. However, we are holding the price of the two affordable units at $350,000 so HRB can sell them to “low-income” buyers.

Central Highlands does affordable housing because lower sale prices entail less risk, which lenders and investors favor, and more importantly, we believe we all have an obligation to promote housing equity on BI.

David Smith

Support project

To the editor:

I support the building application submitted by my longtime friend and neighbor Tom White. We have both been on the island, on the south end, for upwards of 30 years.

Tom is trying, through a small residential building project (1600 square feet) adjacent to his property, to accomplish what we all on Bainbridge say that we want: an island with “a diverse population.” Presumably, that would include different-size families, different levels of income, different ages, different politics— a broader demographic, if you will.

Right now, what all potential homeowners on Bainbridge need isn’t diverse: It’s just buckets of money. (And then we have the latest residential tax valuations that came out a couple of days ago, reinforcing my contention that only rich people can live here.)

So, in the meantime, Tom is trying to counter that trend by building a modest speculation house. And, of course, he is encountering pushback.

The objections are environmental—“Save Lytle Creek.” Seriously, where exactly is that creek? I don’t believe that a leaf could make its way down it. It’s that small. It is not a flyway for endangered migrating birds; it is not polluted by industrial run-off…this is not a wetland the preservation of which is critically important to the south end. (And, in any event, Tom has done his mitigation homework.)

There is no fearsome environmental degradation here—just an attempt to build one modest home.

Bainbridge is growing, inevitably. More people are coming to our lovely island. Let’s at least green light one small, responsibly developed project aimed at maintaining some semblance of the island that we have known and loved.

Anne C. Browne

Save whales

To the editor:

There’s no future — only now. We are standing on the edge of time. There are 74 southern resident orcas left, and if we do nothing, they will be gone in a split second.

The extinction clock is ticking for the southern resident orcas and the salmon they eat. Everyone knows it, which is why Sen. Patty Murray and Gov. Jay Inslee released a draft report on the issue last week.

The time for more discussion and studies has passed—the science is clear. We must remove the four lower Snake River dams for the salmon and orcas; they cannot wait.

Take a minute and contact Inslee and Murray at https://bit.ly/3voL101. Ask them to protect our dear orcas and salmon by removing them while we are still lucky enough to have this sliver of time to save them.

Sandy Spears