Bainbridge planning commissioner is guest speaker

Jon Quitslund, a member of the Bainbridge Island Planning Commission, will be the featured speaker when the League of Women Voters meets in May at the Bainbridge Public Library.

Quitslund will discuss the Bainbridge Island Comprehensive Plan review and update process and will include lessons learned from the recent Visconsi decision in which the hearing examiner allowed a major new development to go forward with conditions despite widespread community objection and a unanimous vote against the project by the planning commission.

The meeting is from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 10.

“I think that two big lessons were learned from the Visconsi project and the hearing examiner’s decision,” Quitslund said.

“One was that when a large-scale commercial project appears to be ill-designed, with adverse impacts on the environment, neighboring properties, pedestrian safety, and the flow of traffic, a very diverse group of citizens will take shape and get organized to voice their concerns and make a difference; furthermore, they will be heard, and their evidence and arguments will be treated with respect,” he said.

“The second was that by themselves, the provisions of the Comprehensive Plan, which are designed to inform and guide development, do not have regulatory authority," Quitslund added. "Confusion, dissatisfaction and the risk of breakdowns in the planning process may result from gaps in the municipal code implementation of the Comprehensive Plan.”

Quitslund said he does not want to give undue attention to the fallout from Visconsi when other questions involving the comp plan are equally compelling. For example, “Should more acreage on the island be opened for development as business/industrial? What principles should govern continuing development (and population increases) in the residential zones? What planning initiatives should be undertaken to guide development in and near the neighborhood centers (Rolling Bay, Island Center and Lynwood Center)? What policy changes are needed to adapt to local and regional impacts of climate change?”

Quitslund vowed to do everything in his power to make the Comprehensive Plan review and update process positive and creative, for citizens and for community leaders.

“It will be a difficult and at times fractious undertaking, but it ought to be one through which all who are involved come to know our community better, and gain a greater trust in the workings of our local democracy,” he said.

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