Development rules need to change | Letter to the editor

To the editor

Bainbridge Island is arguably one of the most beautiful islands in the USA. Being somewhat biased, because we raised our family here, I think it one of the best places to live on earth.

From a real estate value perspective it is also blessed. Availability of good jobs, while close to all that a world capital can offer, makes Bainbridge Island unique.

All these blessings combine to allow a talented developer a market for landmark, world-class development projects. Our local architects however are sometimes frustrated and constrained by construction projects that lack vision, budget or both, to produce buildings and infrastructure worthy of the potential that Bainbridge Island development offers.

Anything built here has the opportunity to be highly visible on the national stage, yet we are seeing project after project that belong in areas of upper class urban blight, while our quaint village centers run the risk of becoming cookie cutter clusters of condos and offices that are unremarkable to say the least, or downright boring.

We can’t blame the city. The combined talent of city hall reads like a dean’s list of highly trained graduates. Folks who, if they can afford it, choose to live on Bainbridge. Their job is to uphold the codes that we, as citizens of Bainbridge Island, write. Codes come from discussions at public meetings, the councilors you vote for, volunteers, state and federal mandates. Codes are laws. City staff can’t change the laws and all developers work within those laws. If a law says a site can be clear cut, that is the law.

If the city and its staff try to enforce a law that a developer or special interest group does not like, then the city, you and the rest of the residents of Bainbridge Island can face a lawsuit. It won’t take you long to discover what special interest groups are threatening to waste your tax dollars in seeking their own gain.

City development laws need to change. That means city codes need to change. Changing codes can be a grueling, line-by-line study including numerous meetings to ensure that what is written is legal and accomplishes the goal. Perhaps many of our citizens do not understand how mind-numbing and frustrating this process can be for our city staff, councilors and volunteers. Please do not criticize them for codes they have to enforce.

A better path is to give our architects codes that allow them to guide their clients to the highest standards that our beautiful islands deserves. Island architects should never have to design and support development that is less than outstanding. Indeed they should be creating development that is award winning, environmentally sustainable, and with options that are affordable for all our friends, family and neighbors, at whatever their budget can support.

The city and its citizens, you, need to create codes and tools that guide development to meet these goals. These are not lofty goals. Cities all around the world have such codes and the architectural talent to meet them. As a resident your paths to helping these goals become reality are many. Vote after researching the policies of the candidates. Volunteer. There are many boards seeking candidates with the will to participate. Read the city website to know when public meetings happen. Fill the room and demand attention.

Developments soon under way can be of the highest standard. They will likely still be standing for your grandchildren. Use your wisdom, power and skills to make your community proud of our codes and the people who implement them on your behalf.

PETER PERRY

Bainbridge Island

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