City could put end to building moratorium

By Steven Gardner
Bremerton Sun Staff


Bainbridge Island, WA - Bainbridge Island's building moratorium could get an end date Wednesday when the city's Land Use Committee discusses its flexible lot design standards.

The questions about the city's open space requirements might have shifted, however, from the legality of its rules to the effectiveness of them.

Bainbridge established a building moratorium in July after a state Supreme Court decision that struck down rules in the city of Camas requiring builders to set aside portions of their developments for open space.

The court ruled Camas had not shown that setting aside open space was necessary to offset the impact of a development.

Bainbridge's Flexible Lot Design rules required 40 percent to 80 percent open space, but the court's ruling caused city leaders to call into question the legality of those standards.

Instead of throwing out the rules, the city opted to put in place the building moratorium until the committee and the planning staff could determine whether Bainbridge's standard is legal.

Michael Pollock, city councilman and member of the Land Use Committee, said there's some question whether Bainbridge's open space requirements are doing what they're intended to do anyway.

"I would put open space in quotes," he said. "The term open space is so loosely defined that it could essentially mean anything except the house."

Far from ensuring untouched meadows and foliage some would perceive as open space, Bainbridge's code allows roads, sidewalks, storm drains and septic systems to fit into the open space category, Pollock said.

When the moratorium was imposed, the expectation was that the committee would have a solution by year's end. Pollock said the committee could at Wednesday's meeting direct the planning department to draft an ordinance. He expects there to be changes.

Among the possibilities is a much lower open space standard, he said, "but this time it will be true open space."

If the city does adopt new policy, it will make developers happy they can proceed with new applications again. Projects already in process were allowed to continue when the moratorium was imposed, provided they agreed to follow the city's previous standards. Developers were also asked to sign a waiver promising the city they wouldn't sue if the application was processed using the city's existing open space requirements.

The moratorium and the waiver were both at issue in a lawsuit filed in August by Bainbridge Island developer Andy Mueller and the Homebuilders Association of Kitsap County.

The Land Use Committee meeting is 3 p.m. Wednesday in the City Council conference room in Bainbridge City Hall.

Published in The Sun: 12/03/2002


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