I would like to continue the conversation about affordable housing on our island.
Housing for our island work force and residents with fewer financial resources is a critical need and is vital for the economic health of our businesses and diversity in our community. The nonprofit Creekside Village Project on Gorsuch Road and the Vashon HouseHold project on 188th address this persistent island need.
For as long as we have had a Community Plan (now the Community Service Area Plan – CSA), we have attempted to balance resource protection, especially water, while providing for population growth. More intensive multi-family residential, mixed-use, commercial and industrial land uses have been focused in our town center.
In the 1980s, the particular goal was to ensure that our island groundwater and the hydrologic system of ponds, wetlands, streams and groundwater was protected. More intensive land use to accommodate growth and economic activity was intended to occur only in places where there were hook-ups to central sewers and “Class 1” (larger) water systems. In the 40 years I have lived on this island, every community planning process has attempted to balance these needs. In my view, these two projects fit well within a principle we all need to follow — protect and provide.
A guiding principle of our community plans has always been to preserve the rural character of the island. It has accomplished this by focusing more intensive activity in our town while preserving larger parcels — the rural landscape and wildlife habitats. This principle is guiding the planning of the Creekside Village on a smaller scale, where affordable rental housing is integrated with wetland preservation and open space. Again it seeks to protect and provide.
In 2018, a revised Vashon Town Plan (CSA) was adopted by the county. It was the product of two years of community meetings on our island. A committee of islanders was appointed, and many public meetings were held. Many of those hours were spent wrestling with the difficult issue of how our community could provide affordable housing that could reduce Vashon HouseHold’s waiting list and provide a variety of housing options. A major focus was on the need to provide housing to enable our workforce to live on the island in order to meet the stated goal of “sustainable local employment.” Importantly, the Creekside and Vashon HouseHold projects are being guided by the principles and goals in this town plan. While all development takes getting used to, I believe these are worthy projects, deserving of our support and consistent with “protect and provide.”
I appreciated learning in last week’s Beachcomber that Vashon HouseHold’s executive director intends to hold public meetings on its project quarterly, the first one to be scheduled in March. It will be an opportunity for all of us to learn more about the project and the population it is intended to serve.
The location of these two projects in our town center will change the “feel” of places that are familiar to us, and I am sensitive to the change that the neighbors may experience in their sense of place. The projects provide the first time in years that we as a community will see real buildings at a density that has been in place for many years. This type of development will continue to occur, and it will change our town as we now know it. As it does, we will be called on to adapt to these changes in our town landscape, recognizing that we are working to both protect and provide.
— Donna Klemka was a long-standing member of the Groundwater Committee and has been active in island nonprofits, the school board and community planning efforts.