Water district rescinds certificate for housing project

Water District 19 will reissue new certificate following residential property policy

District plans to issue new Certificate of Water Availability for same project.

Last week, the three commissioners of Water District 19 voted unanimously to rescind the Certificate of Water Availability they issued earlier this year to Vashon HouseHold for a proposed affordable housing project south of town. This action is not expected to affect the project, as the district plans to issue a new certificate for the proposed microhousing development.

“There is no question there is enough water for the project,” said Chair Bob Powell in a phone conversation this week. “There are no grounds on which we would choose not to issue it.”

The commissioners took the recent action, which neither staff nor commissioners said they could recall happening before, because an islander complained to the water district that they had not followed their own procedures when they issued the certificate, according to Powell.

Commissioners are also planning to develop a new policy to better deal with varied residential housing, such as microhousing, which is not considered either a house or an apartment.

Currently, Water District 19 policies state that proposed apartments require .75 water units. Single family homes require one unit and commercial projects require a professional engineering water evaluation before the district issues a Certificate of Water Availability (CWA).

The Vashon HouseHold Project, as originally proposed, was to include five structures with eight microunits of about 350 square feet and one common house, six structures in all.

Water District 19 followed its commercial policies, and Vashon HouseHold had an engineering water evaluation done, indicating the project would need 3.5 units, less than the five water units that come with the property. However, Powell said, following the complaint, which faulted Water District 19 for following its commercial policies and not its residential policies, the district conferred with its attorney and Vashon HouseHold and determined a corrective course of action.

“The most sensible thing to do was rescind the CWA and then simply reissue it, making sure that we follow clear procedure in evaluating it the second time,” Powell said.

Board action for the second CWA will not be needed, Powell said. Vashon HouseHold will likely need to fill out a one-page application, and General Manager Jim McRae will be able to issue the CWA.

The difference now is that the proposed housing project has decreased in size. Instead of six buildings, five are now proposed: four buildings with eight microunits each and the common house.

Vashon HouseHold Executive Director Chris Szala said he has made the change to the project based on possible funding sources.

Most affordable housing projects are funded through a public-private partnership, he said, with private investors getting tax write-offs for their investments. However, because this project is relatively small, most investors would not be interested, Szala said. That leaves only the state and county to provide the funding, so the price tag needed to come down to make the project possible, he said.

It is not clear yet if the proposed development, to be located at 188th and Vashon Highway, will be funded. Szala said he expects to find out by Dec. 15.

There has been some recent confusion about affordable housing projects on Vashon, as two are currently in the pipeline.

Creekside Village, which recently received $4 million from the county, is expected to include 40 one-, two- and three bedroom units, and will be located off Gorsuch Road.

Vashon HouseHold’s project would be single occupancy units and was originally proposed as part of a county demonstration project to increase affordable housing in unincorporated areas.

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