Buying Land on Bainbridge Island

What to Know About Permits, Tree Removal, and Other Considerations

House on Bainbridge Island, WA

May 28, 2019

Navigating Bainbridge Island's regulations and permits can add to your time and expenses. Here's how we can help.

Island living brings a lot of perks—from safe seclusion to stunning views—but also unique challenges. Buying land on Bainbridge Island involves a few hurdles, first in finding a great parcel and then navigating regulations and requirements.

Here are a few things to consider when buying property and how it can impact your timeline and budget:

  • There are height, buffers and setback regulations for zoning, shoreline, and critical areas which can impact where you can build.
  • Bainbridge is very protective of its trees, and special permits can be required for clearing.
  • Bainbridge Island is strict about stormwater and access and often times requires engineered drainage.
  • You may need to acquire a Site Development Permit (SDAP), which can take up to 60 days to procure.
  • Are utilities already in place? If not, this will add to your expenses.


SDAPs are frequently required for:

  • 5,000 square feet of impervious surface covered
  • More than 1 acre disturbed (septic, well, etc.)
  • Major critical areas
  • Waterfront or lots near water
  • Slopes, engineered drainage, etc


Engineered drainage, possible geotech services (if there are hazards), and SDAP permitting fees can easily add $10,000 to a project, separate from construction of the approved engineered drainage plan.

Estes Builders can help you navigate site development landmines. Among the advantages we provide:

  • Building site evaluation and pre-construction services to assess your property before you start building
  • A dedicated permit technician who works regularly with the county and knows how to get things submitted correctly and keep them moving
  • Relationships with trade service providers, which speeds job time, ensures professionalism, and improves communication
  • Faster site preparation than trying to manage oneself, which means faster time to getting your finished home
  • Everything happens in the right order minimizing delays and wasted money


Our team can review the property on the front end, looking at critical areas (including wetlands, habitats, etc.), slopes that would require geotech services, county/city zoning setbacks, title reports, and HOA covenants, codes, and restrictions.

The best first step, and the best way to reduce stress, is to schedule a Custom Home Investment Study with us. This is a great way to dive in without any commitment, other than time, required. You’ll learn more about the custom home process, design, and pre-construction services management, and we can fill you in on the current timeline for building. You’ll know what you need to budget to build your home on your lot and then you can decide how to move forward from there. Schedule your appointment here.