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Growth sparks debate of plan

Discrepancies in city population growth estimates sparked residents’ concerns at a forum Wednesday on the 2004 update to the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

Drafted in 1994 to meet requirements of the state’s Growth Management Act, the plan guides land use and environmental management. The most significant proposed changes to the plan were contained in the water resources and transportation elements.

Vince Mattson, a retired highway engineer, urged the city to reexamine the transportation element and delete references to the Island Wide Transportation Study. Mattson said the study underestimates population growth potential surrounding key intersections and could lead to serious traffic problems.

In particular, Mattson said the study’s projection of growth near the intersection of SR 305 and High School Road is vastly insufficient. Data for the study estimates 50 new residential units would be added to the zone surrounding the intersection between 2001 and 2008. But Mattson said his review of city planning department’s documents on current residential developments shows the zone will swell to almost 250 units before 2008.

He estimates each unit, which is equal to a single-family home, will generate four to five automobile round-trips a day, significantly boosting traffic beyond the city’s projections.

He said the intersections at 305 and Winslow Way, and Madison Avenue and High School Road are “in the same boat” for underestimated traffic congestion.

City Engineer Roger Mustain said he was “confident the numbers are reasonable for the study” during his presentation on the transportation element. He confirmed the accuracy of Mattson’s research Friday and pledged to review the numbers.

Resident Lois Andrus said other city population projections conflict with the plan’s estimates. Andrus cited Winslow Tomorrow program manager Sandy Fischer’s projection that the island’s population would more than double by 2024, packing the island with nearly 41,000 people.

Andrus took issue with Mustain’s statement that the transportation element is based on predictions that the island’s 2028 population will hover at just 33,000. Mustain said the Winslow Tomorrow projection is “more of a ‘what if’ forecast” and is not necessarily based on hard figures.

“We need to get our numbers straight,” Andrus said, adding that accurate estimates are critical, especially for water resource planning. She urged the city to enact “tough minded” policies to protect water quality.

“Water is the most important part of the plan,” she said. “If this rock is uninhabitable, there won’t be much need for roads or property values. Our water supply has gone down as developments have gone up and trees have gone down. The time to start planning was the day before yesterday.”

The water resources element of the plan also elicited concerns about wells on private property.

Gary Tripp, of Bainbridge Citizens United, asked the council to delete drilling restrictions for shallow wells. He said the measure diminishes residents’ control and use of their property.

Both residents and councilors agreed more public education and comment about the plan was necessary.

Councilors pledged to discuss the plan’s transportation and water elements again on Nov. 10.

“This affects all of us,” said Councilwoman Deborah Vann, “We strongly encourage (residents) to look at the plan and come comment.”

The 2004 Comprehensive Plan update is available on the Web at www.ci.bainbridge-isl.wa.us or at the Bainbridge library and City Hall’s main desk.

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