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Bill to steer density clears Senate

Law would allow Bainbridge to shift growth around aquifers.

A bill that would allow Bainbridge to curb growth in areas of limited groundwater earned approval in the state Legislature this week.

Sponsored by Rep. Sherry Appleton, House Bill 1135 now goes before the governor for final approval.

“Bainbridge Island is like no other city in our state,” said Appleton, a Poulsbo Democrat. “This legislation will give local officials another tool to help better plan for growth.”

HB 1135 would allow qualifying island cities, such as Bainbridge, to designate one or more aquifer conservation zones to protect potable water sources.

The measure passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate unaltered and by unanimous votes. Appleton gave credit to Sen. Phil Rockefeller, a Bainbridge Democrat, for championing the bill in the Senate.

“It was supported by every group – environmentalists and cities,” Appleton said. “I was gratified that the Senate brought the bill to the floor so quickly and that Phil Rockefeller helped shepherd it to the floor.”

Bainbridge is geographically the fourth largest city in the state and draws all of its water supply from underground water sources. It is equivalent in size to New York’s Manhattan Island, but with a population of just under 23,000.

Designated as an urban growth area by the state, Bainbridge could potentially absorb significant residential development.

“What this means for Bainbridge Island is that the (City) Council will now have the ability to promote growth in areas that do not have a water resource problem, and make sure that the potable water resource problems are solved before allowing densities of four units per acre in other areas,” Appleton said. “The island will still have to take the projected population growth, but will have control over where it goes.”

Over the last year, 110 new single family home permits were issued by the city.

Rep. Christine Rolfes, who co-sponsored the measure, said she became well acquainted with the pressures of growth on the island’s water supply as a Bainbridge city councilwoman.

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