City Council Advances Policy To Serve Island Needs

Faced With Pressing Community Needs, Policy Process Deadlines, Council Members Open the Door to Move Island Forward

At last week’s City Council Regular City Council Meeting, council members voted on several important measures that serve to further long-established and identified public needs by residents, city staff, and past and present council. Chief among these decisions are actions that effectively lift December’s Inn Moratorium in Neighborhood Centers, approval of Puget Sound Energy’s request to rezone several parcels of already existing public utilities from residential to business/industrial zones, and of an application for increased density to mount an affordable housing complex in Lynwood Center.

The Chamber thanks council members for their open-minded discussion and willingness to reexamine and reconsider previous decisions to address our community’s needs for reliable power, affordable housing for local workers, and the addition of more lodging for visitors.

It is important to note that these decisions do not serve as the final note on any of these projects, but rather the beginning of more public discussion and robust planning processes. It is a place to start, so the island’s community can have important conversations around solving its most pressing historic needs with proposed projects.

Councilmember Kirsten Hytopoulos pointed out in her dissenting opinions that while these projects and policies have merit, she believes strongly that they should be held until the community can provide direction in the Comprehensive Plan and Winslow Subarea Plans which are also underway.

It may not be proper timing and it may not be perfect planning and policy building, but these projects are in front of our community now and deserve to be vetted by the community concurrently many on council felt. And at the end of the day, these the projects may be new – many first applied for in 2021 – but the policy issues at their heart are not. In fact, many council and city hours have gone into analyzing and understanding this policy issues at various times within the city’s history to no avail.

This includes recent high-profile proposals like the Haggar Scribner project that would have brought needed affordable housing spaces, alternative housing or middle-housing options, greenspace, mobility pathways, parking, and businesses to the Winslow corridor just behind Winslow Way and Eriksen Avenue. See the Chamber’s February Haggar-Scribner article.


Pleasant Beach Village Inn & Affordable Housing Project:

Council members effectively lifted the Inn Moratorium (first enacted last December) by directing city staff to re-evaluate the definition of inns in neighborhood centers on Bainbridge. This allows Pleasant Beach Village to now proceed with plans to develop a 15-bedroom Inn and a 10-unit affordable housing complex on land adjacent to existing properties at 4500 Pleasant Beach Drive NE.

This is significant for two reasons. First, it starts to revise inconsistencies in both policy direction and staff implementation with regard to projects in neighborhood centers and the definition of an inn and ownership of multiple inns in one area. Second, it ensures that the city will see at least 10 affordable housing unites in an area historically out of reach for public sector and hospitality workers – giving them a permanent place to live in our community and reducing commutes on and off the island. It is worth noting that open discussion between PBV’s owners and council members found a way to increase the number of affordable housing units from 3 to 10.

What It Doesn’t Do: It does not approve the project. The applicant will still need to formally apply to the city with new plans, go through permit reviews and will need to work with the city to ensure their affordable housing criteria are met. Through it all, the public will have ample time to weigh in on the proposals from application to planning commission hearings to city council’s consideration of any new policy language developed for the definition of Inns in neighborhood centers.

  1. In-Favor: Fantroy-Johnson, Schneider, Deets, Moriwaki, Quitslund, Pollock (for agreement on housing)
  2. Opposed: Hytopoulos, Pollock (against lifting moratorium)


Lynnwood Center Comprehensive Plan Zoning Amendment – Ordinance No. 2023-12 

The passage of a separate Lynwood Center Comprehensive Plan Zoning Amendment to allow for planning and community conversations about building density for an affordable housing complex in the Lynwood Center area also passed. Project developers anticipate a multi-story building that will provide for middle housing and affordable housing options in the neighborhood.

What It Doesn’t Do: It does not approve the project itself. The applicant is merely asking for the ability to have a discussion with the city about using Floor Area Ratio based zoning to better help the city meet housing unit goals within a designated neighborhood center. There is no guarantee this will occur and adjoining community residents, businesses, and the community at-large will have ample opportunities through the upcoming planning and permitting processes to determine the project’s merits and impacts before any development is started.

  1. In-Favor: Fantroy-Johnson, Schneider, Deets, Moriwaki, Quitslund, Pollock
  2. Opposed: Hytopoulos


Puget Sound Energy Comprehensive Plan Zoning Amendments (Ordinance Nos. 2023-09, 2023-10, & 2023-11 

Council members rezoned all three requested parcels included in Puget Sound Energy’s Comprehensive Plan Zoning Amendments (where the existing electrical substations are already located in Murden Cove, and on Day Road and Bucklin Hill). This request was made in the name of increasing reliability and capacity at each substation to prepare for advanced technological capabilities such as battery storage at the sites. The current substation infrastructure long pre-dates the island’s incorporation as no policy updates were made in the last 30 years to ensure that utility overlay zones were carved out to minimize residential impacts while also accommodating and serving community growth.

By rezoning the areas from residential to industrial, the city and PSE can now ensure public service reliability needs can be met. However, with the ‘Winslow’ Substation site (at the intersection of Bucklin Hill, Fletcher Bay, and Lynwood Center Roads), the city and PSE also had to negotiate a development agreement with the neighboring homeowners that helps protect their interests as well as the arguably one of the island’s most crucial aquifer recharge protection areas – one that helps filter pollutants to a deep-water reservoir for community wells.

What It Doesn’t Do: PSE still hasn’t finalized or submitted plans for each of these project sites to the city, so there is ample opportunity for the community to be involved in the development of those plans. Furthermore, council members expressed deep interest in working on specific new policy regarding utility overlay zones with the community inside the Comprehensive Plan process which is currently ongoing.

  1. In-Favor: Fantroy-Johnson, Schneider, Deets, Moriwaki, Quitslund, Pollock
  2. Opposed: Hytopoulos

These projects all represent major community investments to solve some of our island’s most pressing challenges and while it may coincide with the community’s review of our Comprehensive Plan and our Subarea Plan reviews, the decision to move forward to address public service needs with flexibility is a courageous one by this council to adapt where former councils have merely stalled. The Chamber thanks City Council for their careful consideration of these issues and their reexamination of the underlying issues.

All three projects are now expected to enter the official Bainbridge Island planning permit application process, so stay tuned for updates on each one as they move through the public stages of each application.