BI to possibly consider moratorium on crematoriums

Presentation on Homelessness also on Tuesday’s agenda

Bainbridge Island City Councilmembers Kirsten Hytopoulos and Ashley Mathews are asking for a moratorium on crematoriums.

A city memo says a proposal to build a crematorium in a rural residential area of the south end of BI is poised to move forward but city code is silent as to crematoria as a permitted, prohibited or conditional use. Under a fairly new part of city code, planning director Patty Charnas has determined that such a use could be permitted through a major conditional-use process. Community members have expressed concern over her sole discretion in making the determination rather than submitting it to be reviewed by the Planning Commission and City Council.

Over the last several weeks, council members have been contacted by community members, many of whom reside in proximity to the proposed crematorium. Concerns have been raised regarding the appropriateness in a residential zone including potential toxicity of emissions, the volume of propane stored on site, traffic, noise and the potential impact to property values. Council members have also been contacted by the applicants who have stated that community concerns are without merit and that there is a critical need for such a facility on BI.

The council is being asked to impose a moratorium on crematoria to allow time for a review by the Planning Commission of the potential impacts and proper location of that use, followed by codification of the resulting policy determinations by the City Council. It’s also being requested that the council consider amending city code to ensure that future review of land uses not contemplated previously by the code be directed to the Planning Commission and then City Council, as such uses have the potential to raise major policy questions that should be considered in an open and transparent public process.

That topic will be one of many on the council’s agenda April 9 at 6 p.m. at City Hall and on Zoom.

Homeless, other topics

The council also will receive a presentation from BI police on Homelessness on BI. Homelessness in this context means unable housing, such as concern for eviction or in need of rental assistance; transitional housing, such as with shelters, couch surfing, supportive housing, or clean and sober living houses; and unsheltered, living in the elements. The Point-in-Time count on BI this year included nine adults, 21 youth and four unsheltered.

The presentation says working with unsheltered people requires a building of rapport, continually checking in and offering resources. Networking with families, Helpline House and other social service agencies is key. It also requires working with private property owners when homeless are on their land. The presentation also shows that the police station’s Community Health navigator contacted 208 people in 2021, 269 in 2022 and 322 in 2023. The public has raised concerns about homeless regarding general safety, nuisance, quality of life and the burning of wood material. If there are no criminal violations, police will not remove a homeless person unless the property owner requests it.

Also, the city will look for council guidance regarding Planning and Building Development Fees. The fees would go to affordable housing projects done by nonprofits. Recently, not-for-profit organizations, referencing the fee subsidy for affordable housing projects, have suggested that the City Council grant a subsidy for other non-housing projects that benefit the public as well. The subsidy for Building Permit and Utility Fees is capped at $30,000 per project. There is no cap for Land Use Permit fees. The recommended motion would direct the city manager to expedite permit applications from not-for-profit, governmental organizations, and affordable housing projects by reviewing subject applications before other commercial or private applications.

City staff also is looking to the council for guidance regarding three long-term lease agreements that allow community organizations to use city property for free, improve the property, then use the site for various beneficial services. The city’s recommended motion is to charge a standard 5% of gross rental proceeds from third-party users, and to allow the city to use the facilities for free with reasonable notice.

The city will also look at a contract for solid waste management with Bainbridge Disposal. Goals include increasing recycling and composting, minimizing future rate impacts, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and looking at an anaerobic digester.

The city also will look to pay $900,000 to extend a water line to the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial.

The consent agenda includes a three-year janitorial contract for $675,384; a five-year pact with the city of Seattle for a Global Positioning System in the Ted Spearman Justice Center; a sidewalk safety evaluation and repairs contract for $98,282; and an amendment to city code on advisory groups. The Climate Change, Race Equity and Environmental Technical panels would go from nine to seven members.

Proclamations will include: Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April; National Volunteer Work Week on BI April 21-27; and BI Earth Day April 22. Bainbridge Youth Services will give a presentation related to sexual assault.