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Bainbridge Island City Council puts new building projects on hold for 6 months

New building projects on Bainbridge Island are now on hold after the city council passed a six-month moratorium to update the city's development codes and regulations. (Photo: KOMO News)

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. - New building projects on Bainbridge Island are now on hold after the city council passed a six-month moratorium to update the city's development codes and regulations.

"We need to take a time out and exercise our responsibility to properly regulate what developers do here," said Councilmember Ron Peltier.

The development and growth across Bainbridge Island has created significant concerns for city council members who approved the six-month moratorium during the January 9 council meeting. The moratorium halts new building projects, and does not include previously submitted applications.

The item was not on the agenda prior to the January 9 council meeting, but Peltier said the moratorium was done in a "legally, acceptable" way that is similar to what other cities do.

"The reason you don’t telegraph that you’re going to do a moratorium is because then you get a rush of people coming in and submitting applications," said Peltier.

One of the main concerns is subdivisions and the clearing of land.

Peltiersays new developments are not retaining enough vegetation and threaten the Island's fresh water aquifers.

"Basically, we're kind of like a microcosm of the region with all the pressure that everyone is experiencing, and a lot of the development going on isn't consistent with our community vision," said Peltier.

During the six-month moratorium, city council will update its "Critical Areas Ordinance," which deals with environmental issues, and they'll also work on design guidelines for redevelopment.

"The 80% of the money that’s made on Bainbridge Island - the 80% of the economy is construction," said Peter Brachvogel of BC&J Architecture during the January 9 council meeting. "You're going to put a choke hold around it by doing this. This is absurd."

Brachvogel's company, based on Bainbridge Island, mostly works on private, residential projects. Brachvogel says four of his clients' plans are now on hold.

"We’re an architectural firm that really focuses on single client relationships, and they just took the wind right out of our sails," said Brachvogel by phone on Tuesday.

"The city is using this - the critical areas ordinance for shallow aquifers - as a tool to stop subdivisions," said Brachvogel. "What they should be focusing on is a tree ordinance,"

Peltier, however, says it's about understanding the ecological services that are provided by trees, native vegetation and native soils. "There’s no way to have a time out and not inconvenience a few people, and we wouldn’t do that unless we thought there was a compelling reason to do so," said Peltier.

There is a public hearing on the moratorium at 7 p.m. on February 13.

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