Water District 19 to issue new shares, ending its 15-year moratorium

Water District 19’s 15-year moratorium on new water shares will be temporarily lifted next month when the small agency issues 15 shares to those next in line on its lengthy waiting list.

Another 15 shares will be released July 1, assuming the agency’s new Beall Well is producing as much water as currently expected and conservation measures continue to produce results, said Bob Powell, one of the agency’s three commissioners. More shares could be released later in 2012.

The decision the board made last week to release 30 or more shares is significant, commissioners said. It marks the first time since the moratorium was announced in 1996 that new water units have been issued. The agency has released an occasional share to those on the waiting list over the past 15 years, but only because someone purchased a share that he or she was not going to use and thus decided to sell it back to the agency, enabling the agency to re-issue it.

“It is a milestone. Clearly we’ve been 15 years trying to figure out a way to get out of moratorium. It’s been a long slog,” said Steve Haworth, who chairs the commission.

District 19 — the largest water purveyor on Vashon — has come under criticism from developers for its moratorium, which some have claimed stems from an anti-growth attitude, not an actual shortage in water. Others, meanwhile, have been concerned about the pressure the district has been under to develop more water capacity, fearing that in so doing the district will begin to deplete the Island’s sole-source aquifer.

All three commissioners defended the decision, saying it was made prudently and after a careful analysis of the district’s capacity.

“I’m confident and comfortable and feel that we’re still being quite conservative in our stewardship of the district’s resource,” Powell said.

Richard Bard, another commissioner, said previous commissioners considered issuing new shares and then using the funds to try to develop more capacity. This set of commissioners has decided not to take such a path.

“Our capacity study shows that due to conservation and our increased source capacity we have enough water to serve these new shares,” he said.

The release of additional water shares will bring in much-needed revenue, said Jeff Lakin, District 19’s manager. Each share costs about $10,000. As a result, the agency’s 2012 budget — adopted by the three commissioners last week — is $1.34 million, up from a 2011 budget of $1.05 million.

The additional funds will enable the district to address several backlogged projects, such as replacing deteriorating water mains, Lakin said.

“We’ll reinvest those funds in the district,” he said.

The new water units will be offered to those at the top of the waiting list.

First in line is Douglas Kelbaugh, a professor of architecture and urban planning at the University of Michigan. According to the King County assessor, Kelbaugh and his wife Kathleen Nolan own nearly 10 acres in Vashon town — a parcel accessible via a skinny strip of land on Bank Road. All told, Kelbaugh has sought 23 shares, Lakin said, and has an outstanding request for 11 shares.

Next in line is Vashon lawyer Matthew Bergman, who has a request for eight shares at a 3.65-acre parcel behind Minglement, formerly the site of The Dirt Yard. He already has two for the site, which is zoned industrial.

“I’m really just trying to keep my options open,” Bergman said, when asked what he plans for the site, which he recently acquired. “I don’t have any concrete plans at this time. The first step was to clean it up.”


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