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Shorelines group in it for the long haul

It was odd, thought Gary Tripp, that the city was proposing measures that would seem to have a significant impact on many islanders, yet the workshops on the proposals drew fewer citizens than city staff members.

Maybe people didn’t understand what was going on with the proposed shoreline regulations, Tripp thought. So he sounded the alarm, and since then, every Bainbridge Island Planning Commission meeting dealing with shoreline issues has drawn an overflow crowd.

“I was distressed by what they were proposing,” Tripp said. “The further I got into it, the more it looked like the process had been manipulated to block citizen concerns.”

Bill Marler is a busy guy, a trial lawyer with a nationwide practice that keeps him on the road or in his Seattle office 12 hours a day.

But he’s also president of the Wing Point Community Association – the homeowners, not the golf club. When some of his neighbors asked about the shoreline proposals, Marler had to confess he knew nothing about them.

“I’m a politically active guy,” said Marler, a member of the Washington State University Board of Regents, former finance committee chair for Gov. Gary Locke, and a name sometimes raised in Democratic circles as a possible statewide candidate.

“But I didn’t know anything about this,” Marler said. “I was frustrated by that lack of knowledge on the part of the commuters.”

The two, who hadn’t met before September, became the nucleus of Bainbridge Concerned Citizens, a political action group aimed at moderating some of the proposed shoreline regulations, particularly requirements dealing with a zone of native vegetation, possibly including view-blocking trees.

In six weeks time, BCC has registered its name with the state, put together a website, generated a mailing list of 350 people and raised a war chest of $12,000.

“I’ve organized groups like this in the past,” Marler said, “and this one has come together much faster than I anticipated.”

The group has held two organizational meetings to which representatives from other community groups – whom Marler calls “contact persons” – have been invited.

He and Howard Kirz, another Wing Point resident who was involved early, are putting together a board of directors. Organizers are assembling three teams – scientific, legal, and economic – to research various aspects of the city proposals.

The money raised is going in part to pay outside experts to supplement the volunteers, one of whom is prominent land-use attorney Dennis Reynolds.

“His job is to make sure the city follows the rules of the road, and advise us on our options,” Marler said.

Island-only

While the first large meeting in September attracted some familiar conservatives and property-rights advocates from across the bridge – including Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners director Vivian Henderson and Kitsap Republican committee chair Karl Duff – Marler said the BCC is putting out the “Unwelcome” mat for those groups.

“We let them know early on that this was going to be a Bainbridge-only thing,” said Marler, who describes his own political orientation as liberal and pro-environment.

One surprise to the group was that some the shoreline proposals – including the controversial proposal to require a band of native vegetation between homes and shoreline – are not new at all, but are part of ordinances adopted in 1996.

“But people are unaware of the far-reaching aspects of the 1996 shoreline master program because they have been applied only on a case-by-case basis,” Tripp said.

The group’s slogan now is “Fix ‘96,” Tripp said.

In addition to providing information, the group has made an impact with information it has received from homeowners.

At the same time city officials were stating publicly that they had no intention of requiring view-blocking trees in the “Native Vegetation Zone,” Tripp was contacted by people to whom the city had given a document entitled “Revegetation Guidelines.” That document referred to the planting of trees on 12-foot center, which the document referred to as “required.”

When questions were raised, planning officials that it contained guidelines only, not requirements, but nevertheless withdrew the document from use.

The shoreline process itself has been sidetracked as planning commissioners and city council members gather more information.

“It’s a moving target,” Tripp said. “Documents say ‘trees,’ then the city says, ‘we were only kidding.’ You can’t pin them down on what they really are proposing.”

Tripp denies any anti-environmental slant to the group.

“No one is supportive of any uses that would degrade the environment,” he said. “The differences are that some think people will do the wrong thing, so you have to impose regulations.

“We believe that people will do the right thing.”

One regret Tripp has is that inadvertently, he chose a name closely resembling that of Bainbridge Island Concerned Citizens, a now-dormant environmental organization that preceded the Association of Bainbridge Communities.

“I really apologize for stepping on the history of that name,” Tripp said, “but I came up with it independently and registered it with the state.

“Maybe we will change our name at some point in the future.”

One specific objective of the group, Marler said, is to recruit candidates for city offices, even though both he and Tripp disavow any personal interest in running.

Four city council seats will be up for re-election in November 2003 – both south-end positions, the north ward seat held by Norm Wooldridge, and the seat held by council chair Michael Pollock, which will be elected at-large.

“The interactions I have had with the city council shows that they have absolutely no interest in listening to our concerns,” Marler said. “What we need are people on the council who can recognize that what most people want is to be able to live their lives as simply as possible. This is not about making us all live the way the council thinks we should live.”

*****

Video go-round

On Oct. 24, Bainbridge Concerned Citizens hired a videographer to tape the Planning Commission’s Shoreline Meeting.

But according to Gary Tripp, when the cameraman showed up to tape the Nov. 7 meeting, Mayor Darlene Kordonowy said the taping violated city regulations, and banished the camerman to the back of the hall. Tripp said that when he checked further, the city could not point to any regulations.

Kordonowy confirms part of the story. She said that because of public interest, the city hired Kit Spier to videotape the remainder of the meetings. On Nov. 7, Spier set up two cameras. Because the commissioners were meeting at tables set up on the chamber floor rather than on the dais, and because the chambers were full, Kordonowy feared that additional cameras in the front would physically disrupt the proceedings. She said she offered BCC the opportunity to buy a tape of the meeting at cost.

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