News Roundup - Access onus on neighbors/Guild sues to shield docs/City to update land use codes

Access onus on neighbors

Property owners hoping to build an access road to several home sites near Gazzam Lake must explore all options before the plan can go through, according to Public Works Director Randy Witt.

“The owner’s group is the lead on this,” Witt told members of the City Council Public Works and Transportation Committee on Monday.

Witt identified three possible access routes – from Crystal Springs Drive or either Springridge or Marshall roads – to the site, at the west end of the lake.

Neighbors from both of the latter roads strongly oppose any route that would cut through the trees in their neighborhood, saying such a plan would harm the environment and irreparably damage the character of the park and the area.

Those seeking to build the road say access from Crystal Springs isn’t feasible because the slope is too steep.

Owners of the undeveloped land have for several years tried to gain access to their parcels, which could accommodate up to 15 homes.

Past efforts were halted due to right of way disputes and other complications.

If a road is built – whatever its location or configuration – it would be public, and would paid for by property owners and built to the specifications of the city, Witt said.

Committee members on Wednesday heard from city staff as well as an attorney representing neighbors of the park.

A report from owners is due to the city later this spring.

– Chad Schuster

Guild sues to shield docs

The Bainbridge Island Police Guild has filed suit against the city and a Bainbridge Island woman to prevent the release of documents related to a police misconduct claim.

The suit was prompted by a request from island blogger Althea Paulson to see the results of investigations into the conduct of officer Steve Cain during a September traffic stop.

During the stop, island attorney Kim Koenig was arrested for obstruction and resisting arrest, but was not charged with a crime. Koenig last month filed a claim against the city alleging she was assaulted and unlawfully detained by Cain, a 22-year veteran of the department.

Paulson, who runs the Bainbridge Notebook blog, was seeking the results of investigations into the incident by the Puyallup and Mercer Island police departments, both of which found Cain’s conduct to be acceptable.

Paulson obtained some, but not all of the materials she was seeking before the guild’s suit was filed last week in Kitsap County Superior Court.

For privacy, the suit substitutes the names “John Doe” and “Jane Roe” for those of Cain and Koenig, but the date and details of the incident within it match those of the reports that detailed Koenig’s arrest.

The suit says “Jane Roe’s” privacy was being protected because she didn’t make the public records request.

It also says release of the investigation results “are not of legitimate concern to the public,” because “(Cain) has been fully exonerated of any wrongdoing.”

Bob Christie, attorney for the guild, on Tuesday said the public in some cases does have an interest in police misconduct cases, “but at some point that has to be balanced with privacy.”

“In this case we think the scale should tip in favor of the officer,” he said.

Christie said a hearing will likely be scheduled in the next few weeks.

Paulson also was denied access to other records regarding Cain’s past, but wrote in her blog that she will “continue to pursue disclosure unless a court tells me (the sought information is) exempt, or our respective attorneys work out an agreement.”

She said the Puyallup investigation shows that Koenig was injured in the September incident.

“I’m not the only islander who finds it newsworthy when a middle-aged mom and lawyer, with no criminal record, is roughed up during a traffic stop,” Paulson said.

– Chad Schuster

City to update land use codes

In an effort toward “user-friendliness,” the City of Bainbridge Island has initiated an update to its land use code.

Current code, city representatives say, is built on the original code of the City of Winslow and also incorporates Kitsap County codes. As a result, code documents include “inherent inconsistencies and poorly integrated regulations” that prove confusing for the builders and architects who work with it every day, as well as for lay citizens.

The city has hired land use planning firm Clarion Associates to lead the update process, which will focus on sections pertaining to Titles 2, 17 and 18 – administration, subdivisions and zoning.

Clarion will work with city staff and two members each from the City Council and Planning Commission. The project will also include public involvement, with workshops, printed and electronic updates, a dedicated page on the city’s website and other communication tools.

The project is expected to take approximately 18 months, starting with a public meeting in May. For information, call 780-3760.

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