Bainbridge council gets first briefing on process to update city’s comprehensive plan

The Bainbridge Island City Council had their first look into the city’s comprehensive plan update process during this week’s meeting.

The comp plan is the policy document that guides growth and development on the island, and the city is launching a major — and state-mandated — update, the first in a decade.

First thing on the to-do list will be a series of public participation opportunities, Planning Director Kathy Cook told the council.

“This is a very important thing that’s going to happen, and we’re going to rely on a lot of community involvement,” said Councilman Val Tollefson.

The Bainbridge Island Comprehensive Plan provides a policy framework on new development, the natural environment and economic growth, and guides changes to the city’s zoning regulations.

The update of the comp plan is expected to generate much interest in the community, since some Bainbridge residents view the current plan as inadequate because it allowed a new shopping center along High School Road that some islanders thought was unneeded. The city has also struggled with locating legal marijuana grow operations in the limited amount of business-industrial zoned land on the island, and some have suggested that zoning be expanded.

If there are substantive changes to the goals and policies in the comprehensive plan, Cook said, then the city’s zoning regulations would need to be appropriately modified to match.

“The comp plan provides a framework for how a community wants to grow and what values that community wishes to protect,” Cook said.

During Monday’s meeting, city council members were briefed on what to expect in the process for updating the plan.

Staff will be required to conduct four tasks.

First, a public participation program will be established early in the process and carry through the entire update.

Cook said the state recommends that a formal public participation strategy be adopted.

“The goal is to involve the community as much and as early as possible, because this is their plan,” Cook said.

City staff will also review the relevant plans and regulations which will need to be revised.

This will include, Cook said, a review of the city’s growth policy which directs half of Bainbridge’s future population growth to the Winslow area. Bainbridge needs to determine if that growth strategy is still viable.

City staff will also look at the city’s goals, policies and development regulations.

The thorough review will include population projections through 2035 and Bainbridge’s zoning capacity.

Once Bainbridge reaches a consensus on the update, the city council will be asked to adopt an ordinance which states what revisions will be made to the Bainbridge Island Comprehensive Plan.

Cook said she hopes that the long-running effort to update the city’s Shoreline Master Program, a process that has spanned roughly four years, will be done before the new planning work starts.

“My fondest dream was that we would be done with the SMP update before we started with the comp plan update, but that dream may not come true,” Cook said.

“But we need to get started on the comp plan update,” she said.

Cook told the council that the process is already starting and a public meeting will take place in the next month.

The meeting will serve as an introductory workshop for the benefit of the community, planning commission and city council.

Cook said the city plans on having someone from the American Planning Association lead the session.


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