After months of island effort, county passes Vashon CSA plan

The Metropolitan King County Council unanimously approved the 2017 Vashon-Maury Island Community Service Area (CSA) Subarea Plan on Monday.

The island plan is an update to the King County Comprehensive Plan, which guides land use and planning throughout the county.

Council Chair Joe McDermott, who represents Vashon and Maury Islands on the council, spoke in favor of the plan at the meeting. He has previously termed the plan a compromise, with some people on Vashon believing it will promote too much development and others believing it will do too little to create affordable housing. He stressed that he believes it is a plan that will serve the island well — and that there are safeguards to ensure that it does.

“I believe that everyone will find elements in the plan that together will work to keep Vashon-Maury Island the very special place that it is today,” McDermott said in a news release. “This plan represents a commitment between King County and the community to continue working together, and I look forward to that opportunity.”

As many islanders are aware, the plan proposes the creation of a new Special District Overlay (SDO) on 246 parcels on Vashon, a measure intended to encourage development of additional affordable housing on the island. Many of those parcels currently have homes on them, and some are not buildable. However, the overlay allows higher density than zoning allows if all the units built would serve low-income islanders.

The recent press release also noted that the plan includes a provision calling for an annual review of the SDO’s impact. The review itself will include an assessment of the SDO’s effectiveness in incentivizing affordable housing, any impact on the potable water supply, current affordable housing needs on Vashon and infrastructure capacity including public roads and sewer. It also calls for a review of approaches and housing models used by other jurisdictions to incentivize affordable housing development and whether these strategies would be appropriate to Vashon-Maury Island. The first of these reports is due by December 2018, and annually thereafter through 2020.

There are currently incentives in place for the creation of affordable housing throughout unincorporated King County, but McDermott has previously noted those incentives have not been sufficient on Vashon.

The process to develop the plan began nearly two years ago. Many islanders expressed frustration with what seemed like a rushed process to fit the county timeline.

Monday’s news release indicated the process included various forms of written and electronic public outreach, a community advisory group, five island-wide community meetings and four public hearings at the council.

— Susan Riemer