Interim Zoning Control

Council suspends some density bonus options

On March 10, the City Council approved an interim zoning control ordinance related to Floor Area Ratio ("FAR") density bonus options ( Ordinance 2020-10). The interim control is effective immediately and pauses the use of bonus FAR (which increases density) for some types of projects in some instances. 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 is a form of measurement used to determine the amount of square footage 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 that is allowed for residential, commercial, and mixed use projects. 

The interim zoning control ordinance, approved by the Council on March 10, suspends the applicability and use of bonus floor area ratio as provided in BIMC 18.12.030.E. (dimensional standards) and the related provisions described in the ordinance, except for subsections E.1. (related to Optional Affordable Housing) and E.6. (related to Historic Structure Preservation). 

The ordinance excludes development projects that filed a complete land use permit application with the City and have purchased from the City or otherwise acquired development rights, including related to bonus floor area ratio, through an executed covenant, development agreement, or contract, prior to the effective date of the ordinance (March 10).

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). 

The City Council held a public hearing on April 28, 2020 to discuss Ordinance No. 2020-10, which suspended various options for achieving bonus density in the Winslow Mixed Use Town Center and High School Road Districts. The interim control ordinance was passed on March 10, 2020, and required a public hearing within 60 days, or by May 10, 2020.

As a result of the interim zoning control enacted via Ordinance No. 2020-10, Floor Area Ratio (“FAR”) bonus density 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.

As directed by the City Council on February 25, 2020, the Planning Commission has been tasked to bring back to Council as quickly as possible an ordinance that will reform the City’s bonus FAR program so as to only allow bonus FAR in relation to Affordable Housing, Historic Preservation, and Transfer of Development Rights. The Planning Commission began their discussion on March 12, 2020

On July 9, 2020, the PC directed staff to draft an Ordinance for a public hearing to limit the Bonus Floor Area Ratio (FAR) program for affordable housing only. In addition, the PC recommends that the City purchase the unused FAR from the Islander Mobile Home Park and that historic structures continue to be excluded from the FAR calculation. The Planning Commission intends to hold a public hearing to revise the Bonus FAR program in August, 2020. 

On August 25, 2020, the City Council had a public hearing on Ordinance 2020-20 to extend the interim zoning control that suspends density bonus options for an additional six months, or until March 10, 2021.  The extension will allow the planning commission to complete their recommendation and take a legislative amendment through the adoption process to amend the City’s Bonus FAR program. The planning commission anticipates completing their recommendation and holding a briefing with the City Council in September.