District awards water shares to 14 winners

46 applicants sought a total of 66 Equivalent Residential Units, or ERUs, via the lottery.

Water District 19 held its long-awaited lottery on Monday, May 15, awarding 28 new water shares to 14 applicants, about one-third of the number of people who sought one of the coveted water units.

All told, 46 applicants sought a total of 66 Equivalent Residential Units, or ERUs, via the lottery. The drawing, overseen by Melody Snyder, the district’s administrator, and Seth Zuckerman, who chairs the district’s commission, took place in the district’s small offices in town using a lottery generated by a website called Random.org.

The lottery, the result of a board decision in February, marked the official end of a moratorium on new shares that has been in place for 26 years. Each share costs $11,900.

Those applicants who did not get selected Monday will be put on a “buyback list,” Snyder said, meaning they’ll be offered a share in the order their names were drawn should someone who has an unused one decide to sell it back to the district. According to a resolution the three-member commission passed on May 9, the district will maintain a buyback list until April 30, 2024, or until everyone on the list “has been satisfied,” whichever comes first.

Most of the people whose names were drawn in the lottery sought one or two shares, Zuckerman said. The largest successful applicant sought five shares for one parcel and five for another – but will only be offered eight, all told. That’s because the person was ranked high enough in the lottery to be offered the first five shares he sought; but his second application was the last one drawn, when only three shares remained.

Each successful applicant will now have to decide if they want those shares and will have a limited number of days to make the purchase, Zuckerman said. Some people might change their minds, freeing up shares for those whose applications weren’t drawn.

District 19 went into moratorium in 1996, when the commissioners at the time felt that selling more water units on Vashon – with a limited supply and aging infrastructure – was not sustainable. The district began adding names to a waiting list that at one point numbered in the hundreds, issuing shares only when someone sold an unused share back to the district.

The current commissioners’ decision to end the moratorium and to begin issuing new shares – not just ones they had bought back from people – was years in the making and the result of the district reaching several milestones: The district finally exhausted its waiting list; its water supply is now more stable due to years’ worth of infrastructure improvements, and the Department of Health recently approved its 10-year operating plan.

“I’m glad our planning showed that we can make some water units available to the public,” Zuckerman said after Monday’s drawing, noting that it’s not healthy for a community to be “in complete stasis.”

“The fact that we could issue water shares and make it possible for islanders to do new things on their property is a good thing,” he said.

District 19, the largest water district on Vashon, serves nearly 1,500 connections across six square miles, a service area that extends as far north as The Harbor School, south to Quartermaster Harbor, and east to the shoreline. Vashon’s entire town core is within the district.