By NATALIE MARTIN
The board of Water District 19 unanimously approved a policy change last week that will allow new developments providing temporary lodging to split water shares among multiple structures.
The change is more narrow than one proposed last month, which would have ended the district’s long-standing policy that every freestanding structure have its own associated water unit, commonly called a water share.
The move stemmed from Water District 19’s obligation to allow developer Scott Shapiro of Eagle Rock Ventures to use his four water shares to serve a new multi-unit retreat center-style hotel behind Vashon Village.
The district agreed to provide the shares in a settlement following a lengthy legal battle with the property’s former owner, who had planned to build a hotel there. Shapiro, who later purchased the property, proposed splitting the four water shares between 16 to 18 small and highly water efficient cabins, 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.
The district could have made an exception for the development, but instead decided to change what some called an outdated policy that prevented the shares from being split among buildings. Commissioner Richard Bard then proposed that the policy be changed only for commercial lodging.
“I can still see a reason for that,” he said of the original policy at last Thursday’s board meeting.
The three-person board unanimously approved the new policy, which states that companies engaged in temporary lodging — such as inns, hotels and bed and breakfasts — may have multiple structures share a common water share, as long as the water usage at those structures remains at or below the amount of one share.
At the meeting, commissioner Jenny Bell, who was recently elected to the board, questioned Shapiro’s plans for the site and whether the buildings would be as water efficient as the engineer-approved specifications for the development show.
“The application has, in my opinion, greater water usage needs than what’s been allocated for his parcel,” she said.
However, Shapiro and his wife, who is also his business partner, defended the accuracy of their plans at the meeting and also said Bell was likely working with outdated numbers.
“I think we’ve adhered in every way to what’s been required and even gone a step beyond that,” Shapiro said of their efforts to design the new hotel to be very water efficient.
Bell voted to approve the policy change, but said at the meeting that the district would monitor the new development’s water usage.
“We’ll consider consequences if those expectations aren’t met,” she said.