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Time to reopen the sacred text

"The Bainbridge Island Comprehensive Plan, a colleague recently mused, is much like the Old Testament of the Bible. You can, he suggested, use it to justify any opinion you like.Indeed, just as the biblical deity can be portrayed as vengeful or forgiving, capricious or stoic, so it seems does our comp-plan offer conflicting guideposts for island living.Yearneth ye for a green, primarily residential community? Yea, brothers and sisters, turn with us to the Book of Land Use, chapter 1, verses 1-5. Do you burn with the fervor of business development? Amen, and read with us the Element of the Economics, chapter 1, verses 1-3. Like the best religious text, the comp-plan reveals itself anew with each reading - and uniquely to each reader.But, lest you believe the document doesn't carry any weight in this purportedly secular age, profligate of hammer and saw - shame! We would note that last week, the Bainbridge Planning Commission refused to consider a mixed-use development on Hildebrand Lane, citing the need for an in-depth traffic study - as called for specifically in the comprehensive plan. At the least, it illustrates the difference between the fuzzy goals and concrete policies scattered throughout the text. A single thou shalt not is worth a thousand supplications.We offer this analogy (and yes, Mom, we have been going to church) to ask the island's comp-plan faithful to reopen their sacred text, and examine again the word and the world around them. For next week, the city planning department, by way of a professional polling agency, will commence a formal five-year review of the plan with a telephone survey.The scientific community values survey will touch about 400 island households, asking an array of questions on our collective desire for economic development, farmland and open space preservation, affordable housing, business and residential zoning - all the issues that drove the multi-faceted plan now guiding island growth. Respondents will be asked 34 questions, in a survey that should take about 15 minutes to complete.Phone polling commences May 10, and will wrap up by May 22, with callers working the lines from 5-9 p.m. on weeknights and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays - no Sunday calling is planned.And, knowing the suspicion and impatience with which many of us greet dinner-hour phone calls these days - thank you, telemarketers - all calls will be direct dial instead of those annoying automated things that greet the recipient with five seconds of silence. The information gleaned from this survey, and written comments that drift in from whomever through the fall, will guide island planners and elected officials as they update the comp-plan over the next two years. The challenges, like the opinions they inspire, are myriad. Elsewhere in this issue, we note the ongoing difficulties faced by the island's resilient farming community - the preservation of agricultural lands being among the current comp-plan's central and long-championed goals. But times change - do most islanders even care anymore?Judgment draws nigh. Think of it this way: Having handed down our own commandments five years ago, we now have the chance to revisit them to suit our changing whims. Such is the wonder of the growth-management faith.From there, the challenge will be, shall we say, comp-plan piety. But that's a subject for another sermon."

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