Council OKs Kane property purchase

In a deal that raised enthusiasm and reservation in roughly equal measure, the Bainbridge Island City Council Wednesday OK’d purchase of the Kane property on Manitou Beach Road.

The $350,000 purchase, said to be key to the restoration of an estuarine environment, had the conditional support of the Open Space Commission.

“We cannot answer some of the questions that need to be answered before this goes forward,” said Connie Waddingon, commission member, adding, “what this really is (is) taking a chance to purchase the property.”

By a 6-1 vote the council obliged, making the parcel the third purchase under the open space program.

The 1.3-acre parcel includes three building lots just east of the Murden Cove Drive loop. Tentative plans call for construction of a new culvert connecting the property to the cove to allow fish passage, and development of an estuary.

The purchase was made over the objections of Bruce Benson, who owns property next door. Benson said that to make the plan work, the city would have to divert a freshwater stream that crosses his land.

“The proposal amounts to nothing less than a proposal to steal our water,” said Benson, who previously has threatened litigation over the project which he said could cause flooding on other parcels.

Benson said the city should forgo the purchase, using the money instead to repair an existing culvert that reaches a “vibrant” salt marsh on his property.

Speaking in support of the Kane purchase were a half-dozen neighbors, including several youngsters representing a group called Kids For Fish.

Residents pledged private money and services to fund the project and raise outside grants.

Councilman Bill Knobloch expressed the sentiments of several council members in saying he was “very, very impressed with the neighborhood” in its determination to see the project through.

Questions of cost dogged the proposal nonetheless. Even proponents conceded that after the purchase price, engineering studies and construction, the total project cost could top $1 million.

“We don’t know what we’re in it for,” Councilwoman Debbie Vancil said.

But open space commissioners said the Kanes, who reside in Seattle, have been patient in putting the deal together and needed to move on.

In buying the land, the council resolved to include the Bensons in project planning.

The council also held out the possibility of reselling the property – possibly keeping the 200 feet of beach for public use – if the estuary project falls through.

Norm Wooldridge cast the lone vote against the purchase, citing earlier acquisitions on Eagle Harbor and Rockaway Beach.

“We don’t need anymore waterfront on the east side of the island,” he said.

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