Planning Commission Reviews Revisions to Bonus FAR Regulations
As directed by City Council on February 25, 2020, Planning Commission was tasked to bring back to Council as quickly as possible an ordinance that would reform the City’s bonus FAR program. The Planning Commission began their discussion on March 12, 2020.
The Planning Commission continued on May 14 and 28, June 11, June 25, July 9, August 27, and September 10 and 24, October 8 and November 19, 2020. The Planning Commission had formed a subcommittee that came back with recommendations on revising the Bonus FAR program on June 11. The Commission affirmed the committee’s recommendations for revising the Bonus FAR program, and those recommendations were integrated into DRAFT Ordinance No. 2021-10.
DRAFT Ordinance No. 2021-10 removes all the bonus FAR provisions of BIMC 18.12.030.E except the Subsection E.1 and Subsection E.7, related to affordable housing and relocating surface ferry parking under a building or below ground, respectively. The Planning Commission recommends relocated the FAR provisions related to preserving historic buildings to the BIMC Chapter 18.24 Historic Preservation Program. By removing all of the ways of achieving bonus FAR except through the provisions of affordable housing, DRAFT Ordinance No. 2021-10 de facto eliminates all of the ways to achieve bonus FAR for commercial-only developments- (except for those properties with historic buildings- see above). This change means that there would not be a base AND bonus FAR for commercial development, only a FAR standard for commercial development. This change would be made BIMC Table 18.12.020-3- see EXHIBIT A to DRAFT Ordinance No. 2021-10. The staff memo prepared for the September 24, 2020 Planning Commission meeting had a staff Comprehensive Plan analysis of the changes to the Bonus FAR program.
The Planning Commission discussed DRAFT Ordinance No. 2021-10 at their meeting on July 22,2021 and held a public hearing on July 29, 2021. After holding the hearing, the Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of Ordinance 2021-10 to the City Council.
On March 10, 2020 the City Council approved a six month interim zoning control ordinance related to bonus Floor Area Ratio ("FAR") density bonus options ( Ordinance 2020-10). The interim control is effective immediately and pauses the use of bonus FAR for some types of projects. The pause will allow the Council to study whether the applicability and use of certain types of bonus density options are meeting what is intended, including related to the Comprehensive Plan.
Floor area ratio is a form of measurement used to determine the total building size (square feet) that can be constructed on a property. Each property in the Mixed Use Town Center and High School Road zoning districts has a base and bonus floor area ratio standard for residential, commercial, and mixed use projects (see zoning map below).
As a result of the interim zoning control enacted via Ordinance No. 2020-10, bonus FAR can only be obtained or used currently under the following circumstances:
- Providing affordable housing as defined in Chapter 18.36 BIMC in accordance with BIMC 18.12.030.E.1;
- Transferring unused FAR from the Islander Mobile Home Park to another parcel or parcels in the Mixed Use Town Center District for residential development in accordance with BIMC 18.12.030.E.1.; or
- Preserving an historic structure located on a state, local, or federal register in accordance with BIMC 18.12.030.E.6. such that, when an historic structure is preserved, the square footage of that structure will not count toward the FAR calculation.
Ordinance No. 2020-10 includes an exclusion recognizing development rights that were purchased from the City or otherwise acquired prior to the effective date of the ordinance, as well as a provision recognizing vested rights.
City Council has extended the Interim Zoning Control twice with approval of Ordinance No. 2020-20 on August 25, 2020 and Ordinance No. 2021-09 on February 23, 2021. The interim zoning control is set to expire on September 10, 2021 unless extended again by the City Council.
The general purpose of the bonus FAR option has been to provide an incentive program to achieve a broad range of community benefits and to implement the Comprehensive Plan and Winslow Master Plan. For example, when an applicant elected to purchase bonus FAR from the City, the proceeds were typically divided as follows: 60% was put toward the preservation of agricultural land on the island, and 40% was put toward the purchase of public amenities (like traffic calming, pocket parks, street trees, or pedestrian connections). In some circumstances, 100% of the fees were designated for the preservation of agricultural land (see, Resolution No. 2001-54).