By NATALIE MARTIN
Vashon’s largest water purveyor is poised to change one of its policies, allowing a developer to move forward on plans to build a multi-unit hotel in Vashon town.
On Tuesday, Jan. 14, the board of Water District 19 will discuss and hear public comments on a policy change that would allow more than one structure to share one water unit, commonly called a water share. Under its current policy, every freestanding structure must have its own associated water share. The board will likely vote on the change later this month.
Water district officials say the policy change makes sense and is one the district has been considering for years. It is acting now because Scott Shapiro, managing director of Eagle Rock Ventures, a Seattle real estate and development firm, has applied to use his four water shares behind Vashon Village — which he also owns — to serve a new multi-unit retreat center-style hotel called The Lodges on Vashon.
The water district is obligated to provide Shapiro with four shares, something it agreed to in a settlement following a lengthy legal battle over water shares with the property’s former owner, Dan McClary, who had planned to build a hotel there. Shapiro, who purchased the property in 2012, has proposed splitting those four shares between 16 to 18 small and highly water efficient structures, something district officials say is acceptable, as plans for the development show that even during peak times, the hotel would still use no more water than four shares provide.
“They have a property that meets the usage requirement and it would be approved in a straightforward manner if it wasn’t for the number of structures,” said Bob Powell, a Water District 19 commissioner.
The district could make an exception to its current policy, but decided a policy change made more sense, Powell said, and was advised the same by its attorney.
Jeff Lakin, the district’s general manager, said he supports the policy change, explaining that he believes the district should be concerned with how much water a new development will use, not how it is configured. Allowing multiple structures to share water shares could actually help developers who have an eye toward conservation, he added.
“The one water unit per physical building thing is not going to be accommodating to out-of-the-box thinking and design like we’re starting to see,” he said.
Shapiro, who also owns the Spinnaker Building in Vashon town, said that while the district is obligated to provide his new hotel with four shares, he has planned for the Lodges of Vashon to conserve water and be sustainable in other ways, similar to some of his other projects in the Seattle area. He expects the hotel will earn a silver or gold LEED certification.
“It’s just the smart thing to do from an environmental standpoint and a marketing standpoint and the smart thing from a community standpoint,” he said.
Shapiro said his firm expects to break ground on The Lodges on Vashon this spring and to open them this summer.