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). 

As a result of the Council’s March 10 action, FAR bonus density, which is currently available in the Mixed Use Town Center and High School Road Districts, can only be obtained or used at this time 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 in the Mixed Use Town Center 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.  

The City Council will further discuss this interim zoning control topic during the March 17 study session. A public hearing on the interim zoning control ordinance is scheduled to occur as part of the April 14 business meeting. 

In a separate action during the February 25 business meeting, the Council requested that City staff work with the Planning Commission to develop reforms to the current Code that would allow the use of bonus FAR only for the purposes of providing affordable housing, historic preservation, or transfer of development rights. On March 12, the Planning Commission will begin its discussions of the land use code amendment. That effort will result in a proposed ordinance that will return to the Council for consideration of approval.