Home Builders’ LID plans have solid feel

POULSBO — Art Castle has one phrase that pretty much sums up his feelings about the use of low impact development (LID) standards in Kitsap County.

“No good deed goes unpunished,” he said with a chuckle.

But with federal funding to fuel a county wide LID project potentially in hand, Castle, the executive vice president of the Home Builders Association (HBA) of Kitsap County and secretary of the Kitsap Home Builders Foundation (KHBF), is hoping that may soon not be the case.

Late last month, the KHBF received news that its $182,000 request to the Washington State Department of Ecology for a “Low Impact Development Standards Implementation Project” ranked 23 out of a total 104 applications for 2005 — well within the range for funding to be likely.

The grant is fueled by Federal Clean Water Act Section 319 nonpoint source funds. The amount that will be available for grants will be determined by the state legislature in its current session but former Governor Gary Locke’s nearly $92 million proposed budget would allow 66 of the applications to be funded.

If awarded, the KHBF grant would allow the 501(c)3 to work with Kitsap County, the cities of Poulsbo, Bainbridge Island, Bremerton and Port Orchard, the Suquamish Tribe and other stakeholders to draft LID standards that would be adopted by each jurisdiction.

An approach to land development, LID takes various forms but all are aimed at conserving natural resources through better stormwater management. Some examples of LID projects include cells that use engineered soils and vegetation, bioretention systems and site plans that reduce impervious areas either through design or materials like pervious pavers.

Castle said developers have found that LID components are much less costly for builders and jurisdictions in both the long and short terms. The practice has been widely used on the East Coast for years. But there is a lack of standards that allow LID to be used in an efficient or timely manner in Washington.

“Let’s say you wanted to build a house using LID. Every single component (of your permit application) is an exception and it’s extraordinarily hard to get it done,” Castle said. “Right now, most (jurisdictions) won’t touch it because of the extreme time and effort involved.”

“I’ve been frustrated that there have been a lot of developers that have tried to do the right thing and been told there are no standards to support that,” added Poulsbo Councilwoman Kathryn Quade, who contributed a letter of support to the KHBF grant application.

Many municipalities in Washington have taken tentative steps into the realm of LID, however, most have been demonstration projects. Castle commented that developers assisting jurisdictions in drafting their own set of LID standards is a ground-breaking approach.

“It’s not someone who doesn’t develop or build telling people what to do,” Castle commented. “It’s industry taking the lead. It’s good for industry, it’s good for the community and it’s good for the environment. I figure it could be a win-win-win.”

“It is unusual,” added Kathleen Byrne-Barrantes, a local environmentalist and grant writer who worked on the application with KHBF. “It’s an issue where the developers are usually the bad guys but the environmentalists have embraced what they want to do here.”

While the City of Poulsbo is included in the Home Builders’ grant application, Byrne-Barrantes volunteered her time to help Poulsbo apply for a second, smaller LID grant from the Puget Sound Action Team this week. The Action Team is planning to work with five jurisdictions from April-July to consult them on what LID standards could best work for them. The Home Builders Foundation allowed the City of Poulsbo to use the data from its federal application to apply for the Action Team project.

“I see them as pieces in the larger puzzle,” Quade said of the two LID efforts. “If we got this first grant, the work it funds would move us easily right into the county wide effort.”

“One of the things I tried to make clear in the application is they’re ready,” Byrne-Barrantes added of what she sees as Poulsbo’s strength among competitors for the funding. “I said, ‘If you do this, it won’t just be left around while they think about it. The Home Builders will be right behind them.’”

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