BI to study Housing Action Plan Nov. 15

The Bainbridge Island City Council will be looking at its Housing Action Plan during its study session starting at 6 p.m. at City Hall and online on Zoom Nov. 15.

The city is studying how to meet housing needs now and into the future. Key areas are affordable and diversification of housing for people living and working on BI.

Consultant Triangle Associates will give the presentation about community engagement in the process. That effort has included focus groups, interviews with key sources, meetings at various entities and surveys.

A housing needs assessment will show unmet needs and projections. Community engagement will include educating the public on housing challenges. Data, input and priorities will help develop housing strategies. The final product will be an implementation plan.

The ECONorthwest power point shows how the public has been involved so far. The community survey shows 800 responses.

Key themes include: High housing costs, property taxes have displaced or burdened residents; people commute to work here as they can’t afford to live here; BI lacks diversity as a result; housing growth should be environmentally sustainable; and seniors can’t afford to live here.

Other concerns are: Families and single parents should be able to live here, and people should be able to rent. First-time homebuyers should be able to live here, as well as children who become adults. People should be able to have choices in the type of housing they want, others said.

Almost 80% of respondents who work here, 64 of the 81, said they can’t afford to live here so they commute. Their lives would be easier, and they would have less impact on the environment if they didn’t have to commute. About 82% of the 34 respondents who had to move off-island due to housing costs still work on BI.

Many on BI seem to be open to different types of housing. Cottage was the most popular at 66%, but tiny houses, garden apartments and duplexes all received approval ratings in the mid-40%. Mid-rise, row houses and micro units also were mentioned.

The businesss survey received 171 responses. They said affordable and diverse types of housing could help them recruit and retain staff as many of their workers commute. About 31% of businesses said they have thought of relocating as a result.

Wastewater reuse project

A preliminary analysis on the benefits of a wastewater reuse project will be presented to the council.

It says Contaminants of Emergency Concern at the Wastewater Treatment Plan are low. The lowest cost option for their removal is $2.5 million. Further treatment to reuse the effluent would cost up to $10 million.

Ongoing and near-capacity upgrades from 2022-28 will cost $3.6 million. Long-term capacity upgrades from 2028-35 will cost $3.4 million.

Benefits of reusing water are many, including reducing pollutants in Puget Sound waters. Depending on the level of water treatment it can be used for: irrigating areas off-limits to people; irrigating in populated areas such as golf courses; recharging aquifers; providing grey water for toilet flushing; recharging streams; and drinking water.

Three options were brought forth. Option 1 would enhance effluent that goes into the Sound. Option 2 would enhance it and distribute it for irrigation and groundwater recharge. Option 3 would build a new Package Treatment Plant with irrigation/groundwater recharge.

Option 2 would cost up to $15 million with medium return on investment. Option 3 would cost up to $16 million and bring the highest return, along with relieving water and sewer pressures and costs.

Staff recommends continuing to study the final two options.

Public engagement

The council also will discuss its overall public engagement processes.

Its presentation shows that few people participate in advisory board meetings. It shows a lack of people applying to boards so the community isn’t being accurately represented.

To improve the process, city staff recommends further analysis; consider the types of committees and their roles; develop policies for each committee; consider alternatives like short-term task force or ad hoc committee; and more.