top of page
BI Aerial.jpg

User Guide

DSC_0538 flip.jpg
This site provides guidance for applicants to successfully navigate the design review process. This section highlights key elements of the design review process to improve clarity and predictability for the City, applicants, and the public. 



The Bainbridge Island Municipal Code (BIMC) specifies when design review is required in Table 2.16.010-1: Summary Table of Land Use Procedures. The requirement for design review is based on the type of land use review required for the type of development or other activities proposed. 

Design review is required for the following project types:


a.    Major site plan and design review (includes any site plan and design review in the business/industrial zoning district)

b.    Major conditional use permits

c.    Preliminary long subdivisions

d.    Preliminary large lot subdivisions

e.    Major shoreline conditional use permits


The development of single-family homes and minor activities or improvements like routine maintenance, interior work, or projects that don’t require a building permit or a change of use are exempt.



This site includes both Design Standards and Design Guidelines. Design Standards are clearly defined, mandatory and applied based on the site’s context (surrounding neighborhood, and natural environment), and the site itself. Guidelines are more flexible and provide different approaches to meeting the Design Standards. For a project to be approved, it must comply with all applicable Design Standards and demonstrate how the project team has applied Design Guidelines to meet those standards. For example, an applicant must comply with Site Design Standard S1: Protect and Repair Natural Systems by meeting one or more of guidelines or an acceptable alternative to the satisfaction of the Design Review Board.

Both Design Standards and Supplemental Standards mandate planning and design actions that the applicant must incorporate in their project application. Compliance with standards is mandatory and failure to meet a mandatory standard may be used as a basis for the city’s denial of a project application. 

Design Guidelines are voluntary and not mandatory; however, compliance with guidelines may be necessary to comply with the Design Standards. Guidelines provide a variety of ways to satisfy the Design Standards based on the specific context and site. Failure to meet a voluntary guideline cannot be used by the city as a basis for a project denial.

Development pertains to all structures and other modifications to the natural landscape above and below ground, on a particular site. 



Design review is part of an integrated land use and development review process. Regulations that come into play during this process include zoning, subdivision standards, building permits, and other regulations for shoreline development, critical areas, and State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). The Design Review Board (DRB), in coordination with City staff, is responsible for design review which focuses solely on compliance with Design Standards and Design Guidelines contained in this document. Regulations for zoning, subdivisions, and buildings are reviewed and approved by other parties within the City. Design review starts early in the City’s land use review process and concludes with final review and recommendations from the DRB directly to the Planning Commission, City Council, Planning Director, and Hearing Examiner. The final permit decision varies by the permit type but is typically made by the Planning Director or the City’s Hearing Examiner. For more information on the permit review processes please refer to the City’s Administrative Manual and Municipal Code:



Design for Bainbridge is intended to provide flexibility in meeting the Design Standards and applying the Design Guidelines to projects. However, there may be circumstances where the applicant proposes a design solution that meets the guiding principles and intent of the standards and guidelines but is not in strict compliance. Departures may be approved by the final decision-maker with a recommendation on approval or denial by the DRB for projects under their review.

Any request for one or more departures shall be made at the Design Guidance Review Meeting as part of the pre-application phase of the project. The Design Review Board may include departure in its recommendation to the Planning Commission, if one of the following criteria are met.

Departures from the design standards may be approved based on the following criteria:

a.    ­The departure is related to a variance from a standard in the BIMC that also impacts the ability to meet one or more of the design standards

b.    The departure meets the intent of the design standards and the proposed departure is equal or greater to complying with the design standard

c.    The granting of the departure results in a project with greater natural resource conservation value, less adverse impact to adjoining properties, or more practical design because of topography, critical area, or other extenuating circumstance.

bottom of page