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News Roundup -- CAO now on a slow track/Transmitter meetings set

CAO now on a slow track

The City Council may get a generous extension on their overdue homework.

With hopes pinned to a bill now on the governor’s desk, some on the council are counting on an additional six months to complete the update of an ordinance protecting the island’s wetlands, streams and other environmentally sensitive areas.

The bill, which passed the Senate Tuesday and a round of House scrutiny Wednesday, would allow cities one additional year to complete their Critical Areas Ordinance update.

The extension is contingent on showing proof of progress toward meeting state requirements. With a draft of the ordinance update completed, Planning Director Larry Frazier said Bainbridge should have no trouble proving that the city is nearly finished.

Bainbridge missed the initial December 2004 deadline and turned its sights on completion next month to avoid losing state grants. The bill would allow the city to turn in its update in October, which gives the state time to approve the ordinance before the December deadline, Frazier said.

Some councilors had hoped for more deliberation on the ordinance to move the city’s approach away from regulation and more toward voluntary incentives to protect wetlands and streams.

“It’s important to look at all the info,” said Councilman Nezam Tooloee at a Wednesday work session to discuss the ordinance. “When you look at any issue, from economic to social to environmental (perspectives), and you balance it all together, then you can make a decision.”

Some feel the ordinance has been adequately discussed and should be approved.

“I feel teased here,” Councilman Bill Knobloch said, as discussions at the meeting shifted to prioritizing issues rather than debating them. “We’re seeing all these articles and letters to the editor about this issue. I thought we were here tonight to find out what the big issues are. Let’s get to it. I’m almost begging.”

His comments were met with a round of applause from those gathered at City Hall. But some advocated the slower approach.

“This means we can spend an appropriate amount of time on these important issues,” said Gary Tripp, a member of Bainbridge Citizens United. “It’s absolutely wrong that we’ve had enough time on this. We didn’t have a draft until February for the public to see.”

Tripp hopes the extension means more incentives can be worked into the ordinance for landowners to voluntarily comply with environmental protections.

While advocating buffers that protect water quality, Tripp said the city should not force landowners to comply with wildlife protections.

But Dale Spoor, of the As­so­ciation of Bainbridge Com­munities, said a “reasonable compromise” between property and environmental interests has already been struck.

“It’s time to adopt this,” he said. “People have had plenty of time to be involved. This is a delay tactic that I’m afraid could be used to weaken the ordinance.”

The council plans to discuss proposed regulations for steep slopes and Winslow Ravine buffer widths on Monday starting at 1:30 p.m. in the council chamber.

– Tristan Baurick

Transmitter meetings set

The Battle Point Park Transmitter Building Renovation is humming with activity.

The group working to transform the former World War II transmitter building into a gymnastics space has planned a series of open houses at the transmitter building in May, in addition to a fund-raising phone-a-thon today.

These meetings open the building to the public and let people see the renovation plans created by a local architect Dana Webber; understand the building’s history through photos and by chatting with local residents Vincent Wolf and Jack Klamm, who worked at the building in the 1940s.

The open houses will be 1-4 p.m. May 1, 15 and 22. The final open house will have fun activities for families and kids, including a bouncy toy and refreshments. T-shirts with the transmitter building logo by Mark Anderson will be for sale.

The renovation group is working to raise $50,000 to take advantage of a matching grant from Bainbridge Rotary.

For more information, call 780-6907.

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