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Winslow plan popular

But concerns remain over pedestrian access, funding.

You might have thought “The Return of the King” was opening at City Hall.

Some 180 people crowded the council chambers and foyer Monday afternoon for a presentation on downtown Winslow urban design improvements.

“(The number) was beyond expectations,” said architect Bill Isley, who presented the plan. “I had no idea there was this much passion for Winslow.”

It was the first public display of proposals for two new roundabouts, parking garages and other improvements touted by property owners and merchants.

The plans, devised by Isley and architect Sean Parker for the new Winslow Way Property Owners Association, were arrayed on large display boards around the room.

Isley also gave a 20-minute presentation of photos and diagrams with an overhead projector.

Audience members unanimously commended the effort, and generally praised the plan.

“This is so exciting,” said Barbara Tolliver, owner of The Traveller, who called on the city and community to “seize the moment now...this is the one.”

Tolliver described the proposals as “an organic outgrowth of the Comprehensive Plan.”

Several in the audience asked for more consideration for pedestrians, and expressed concern about increased traffic speeding through Winslow Way or on Bjune Drive as a bypass.

Isley replied that the plan proposes a 15 mph speed limit on downtown Winslow and the addition of two crosswalks.

Grow Avenue resident Bob Conoley suggested that the plan be expanded to include some consideration of traffic impacts in his neighborhood at the edge of downtown, where residents have called for traffic-calming.

A suggestion that the city provide more park-and-ride facilities for people living in north Bainbridge but work in downtown Winslow brought applause.

Others expressed concerns over funding, which could necessitate an island-wide bond.

Glen Scheiber said a financial model should be considered sooner rather than later, “so that we don’t choke on the cost.”

In response to a concern that the proposal might be overly “commercial,” as it originated with property owners, Dr. Tom Haggar of Winslow Clinic said his group is “handing off the plan with out any expectations.”

“This is step one,” Haggar said. “There is no obligation on the city or citizens (to accept it), but it is a starting point, which is why we are asking for comments.”

The proposals will be turned over to the City Council for consideration in January. One audience member asked what she could do to make sure the momentum keeps going once it is handed off to the city.

Haggar said city officials have been supportive and helpful, and “(the) response has been positive. I’m not worried.”

Other comments ranged from pleas for new public restrooms, to the need to retain significant trees should the project go forward.

The presentation was preceded by comments from city planner Kathy Cook and Mayor Darlene Kordonowy, who stressed that the meeting was just the first step in the process, with more chances to comment in meetings next year.

A presentation before the City Council is planned for 6 p.m. Jan. 12 at City Hall.

After the meeting, Will Langemack, board chair of the Bainbridge Island Downtown Association, said he thought the meeting was “just a wonderful step in the right direction. It’s going to make my year very interesting.”

Town and Country Markets president Larry Nakata also was pleased.

“A lot of good things were said. The purpose was to share and listen, and both did occur,” Nakata said. “I’m hoping that ultimately all this work will result in a vision for our town.

“It’s good as long as the vision is co-created by people who care about the island.”

The first 15 minutes was given to allow audience members to sample a virtual buffet of plans from a five-foot aerial photo of Winslow Way overlaid with proposed redesign down to proposed sawtooth or curvilinear sidewalks for Winslow Way.

Next, Larry Nakata, property owner and owner of Town & Country and chair of the Winslow Way Property Owners Association (WWPOA), started off by observing that the crowd reminded him of the Middle Ages when this many people would gather for a public hanging—although he was hoping the analogy did not go further.

He stressed that the purpose of the meeting was for sharing and listening to each other, emphasis on listening. “When we first started out,” Nakata said, “it was like getting our arms around a 1000-pound marshmallow. Where do you start?”

The bulk of the meeting was a 30-minute presentation by Isley on the plan, much as previewed in the Bainbridge Review (Dec. 10 & 13).

Questions from the audience were answered by the panel composed of Isley, Haggar, Nakata, Cris Beattie of the Bainbridge Island Downtown Association, Kevin Dwyer of the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce, Richard Wilson of the Public Arts Commission, and Karen Monson of Space Solutions, who analyzed survey data for the plan.

Bringing the gathered excitement down to Earth, Dr. Tom Haggar, property owner of the Virginia Mason Clinic, then came to the podium. “The process (of redesigning Winslow Way) reminds me of a colonoscopy,” said Haggar, to great bellyfuls of laughter. “You want to put it off for as long as possible.”

He also reminded all that it would cost money and not be fun while in the process of being done, but “it will save our lives and Winslow,” Haggar said. He added that the reasons to save Winslow were for the cultural heritage in Winslow and “our obligation to do the right thing and leave Bainbridge Island a better place.”

Buster Simpson of the Bainbridge Island Arts & Humanities Council was to speak next as the co-lead on the Arts Master Plan passed out at the meeting, but generously decided to forgo his presentation in the interest of leaving a full 40 minutes for open comments from the audience.

A street-scene photo demonstrating the need to beautify sidewalks elicited chuckles of agreement from the crowd.

Orabelle Connally of the Bainbridge Island Senior Community Center thought the plan was interesting and exciting but was concerned about the plan to not increase sidewalk widths to 10 feet, but was excited by “the cooperative way they are looking at pedestrian needs.”

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