“Thirty-two apples, one orange, and a rotten study”

"There is a caveat, but you have to hunt around a bit to find it.Tucked away at the bottom of page 11, about halfway through the document and next to a chart that ranks Bainbridge Island dead last in population per acre among Puget Sound cities, it reads:“Bainbridge Island is somewhat of an anomaly, because of its large land mass and mix of urban and rural environments."

  • Monday, December 13, 1999 7:00am
  • News

“There is a caveat, but you have to hunt around a bit to find it.Tucked away at the bottom of page 11, about halfway through the document and next to a chart that ranks Bainbridge Island dead last in population per acre among Puget Sound cities, it reads:“Bainbridge Island is somewhat of an anomaly, because of its large land mass and mix of urban and rural environments.“It would have performed better if only the urban portions of the city had been included in the measurement.”Well, thank you! Now that we have that straight, we can ask 1,000 Friends of Washington: What exactly are you trying to prove by including us in the first place?Published this week, the 1,000 Friends’ “Sprawl Report Card” gives the island low marks for supposedly fostering wasteful land use in an urban environment. The implication is that Bainbridge has been negligent in its comprehensive planning and zoning, promoting sprawl by maintaining the one-home-per-2.5-acre pattern that defines most of the island outside of Winslow. We are blasted as among a group of “exclusive communities…that are quite desirable, but may not be doing their share to stop sprawl.”But the report, which has received heavy media play, is tripped up in its own internal contradictions where Bainbridge Island is concerned. Even as it knocks the island for its low population density, the study calls for the protection of rural farms, forests and open spaces – goals that are central to our own comprehensive plan.Bainbridge Island planners and citizens have long struggled with the nomenclature of growth under terms dictated by the state. First, we wanted to refer to all the areas outside of Winslow as “rural.” No, said the state – you can’t have rural lands within an urban growth boundary. If the whole island’s a city, the whole island’s urban.Fine, we said – we’ll “preserve the island’s character” by maintaining low-density development in the island’s hinterlands. We’ll do everything we can to encourage growth in and around Winslow, but leave zoning elsewhere intact.The state bought it, at least once. But the risk here is that a comprehensive plan that five years ago earned praise from the state will suddenly be found wanting should it wind up under scrutiny again. That would be a shame, and an unfortunate irony if the “Sprawl Report Card” is the catalyst.Islanders sweated over a comprehensive plan for a good four years. It isn’t perfect, but it represents a rough consensus and the state liked the results.As a hybrid of both urban and quasi-rural planning, Bainbridge Island remains a unique case. It needs to be acknowledged as such by anyone looking at growth management in this state.Publishing a misleading report to the contrary – comparing 32 apples and one orange – doesn’t do anyone any good. The 1,000 Friends of Washington just made a few enemies.”

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