Deborah Vancil says the codes don't match values.
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:58 PM
"Seven years on the city's planning commission have given her plenty of insights into island issues, but little ability to do anything, Deborah Vancil says.So she is running for the north ward city council seat being vacated by Liz Murray, hoping to put what she has learned into effect.The problem she sees most consistently is what she calls a disconnect between the city's set of codes and community values.Ericksen Avenue is a perfect example, she says. The city code says it needs to be widened to 55 feet to accommodate sidewalks and bike lanes. But that's not what the community wants, because that puts the street right up to the porch of some of those homes.To reduce those disconnects, Vancil proposes creation of a design review committee that would be composed of professionals, city planning staff and a neighborhood representative.Its function would be to review major projects early on - probably right after the pre-application step - and resolve conflicts between code requirements, design objectives and community values.Critically, Vancil says, the committee would have the power to say yes early in the process, avoiding situations that have arisen where a project may conform to the letter of the city's building code, but not to what the citizens want, or where a code interpretation forces a project change late in the process. The council's job is not to micro-manage the planning department, she said. But I do have a lot of management experience, and these are management tools that can be used.Originally from Southern California, Vancil and her husband Richard moved to Bainbridge Island 21 years ago. She taught school for some years, then the couple founded MasterCraft Lighting, which assembles and markets lighting fixtures.She was an original organizer of the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council, was active in drafting the city's Comprehensive Plan, and has been on the planning commission for seven years, currently serving as chair.I have a track record of making good decisions, she said.Vancil thinks the city council needs better communication, both with the citizens and with each other.There is not discourse happening within the council, she said. People can't feel personally attacked when others disagree. I don't see the members pointing out to each other the reasons for disagreements.She says the city needs to keep citizens involved not just in conceptual planning, but in implementing those plans. Last year's outcry over the temporary traffic-calming schemes on Madison Avenue is a perfect example, she said.People agreed with the concept - slower speeds, more trees - but they didn't like the way the experts implemented it, she said. Now the whole issue of traffic calming is in jeopardy.She said the council needs to do a better job of listening to the citizenry. While some people are comfortable calling their council representatives, that group may be in the minority, she says.What about a council Saturday at the T&C, where each council member pulled up a chair once a month and just listened to what people have to say? she said.On growthOn specific issues, Vancil does not believe Bainbridge can prevent growth, and supports the comprehensive plan objective of channeling half the growth into Winslow. But she says the infrastructure needs to be in place to support that growth, particularly transportation. She defends spending the lion's share of the city's road money in Winslow, because that spending is needed to support Winslow growth.She strongly supports the proposed bond for buying open space and farm-land.She likes the individual elements of the proposed downtown parking garage - Parking, affordable housing, artists' space, what's not to like? she said - but wants to see how it all ties together.She backs the cottage-housing concept, saying smaller homes provide a valuable option, but says it is not the whole answer to affordable housing.Vancil's overarching goal is to preserve and promote the spirit of community that attracted her to Bainbridge in the first place.We moved here because it is a community, not because it's beautiful, she said. There is a unique history of community involvement here. I'm not expecting us all to agree, but there needs to be an air of civility. "