It was a surprise that should have surprised no one.
At a Bainbridge Island City Council meeting earlier this month, council members approved a six-month moratorium on development.
The building ban — which was not on the agenda — passed on a 6-0 vote. Citing conflicts, Councilwoman Sarah Blossom abstained.
The council enacted the building ban without public notice, but Councilman Ron Peltier, the main sponsor of the moratorium, said that was by design.
Peltier said public knowledge of the impending moratorium could have prompted a rush of applicants, with developers vesting their projects before the ban went into effect.
Pardon us if we’re a bit skeptical on the “rush to the permit counter” claim. While that may have been true many years ago, cities and other jurisdictions have piled on so many application requirements on builders that it’s hard to imagine an applicant showing up with all the mandatory plans, studies and related documents on their first visit to the planning department and walking away with the coveted stamp of a complete application.
The council, in its ordinance adopting the moratorium, said growth and development are causing “adverse impacts” under the city’s existing regulations and “requires immediate attention by the council and city staff.”
They declared that a “public emergency” existed and so, the ban went into immediate effect.
Make no mistake, this is not a public emergency, but a political one.
Peltier, some readers may recall, proposed a very similar moratorium when he first got on the council two years ago — without success. Now, with new members on the dais, the building ban sailed through.
The moratorium ordinance decries the loss of trees, forests and potential adverse impacts to our island’s water supply given continued development under the city’s existing regulations.
Those concerns are ours, too, but such worries do not a factual basis for a moratorium make.
In one way, at least, the moratorium may serve some good. It will give the city time to revise its heavy-handed rewrite of Bainbridge’s critical areas ordinance, and give city staff more time on the public education end.
The city has failed so far on its public outreach effort on the new rules. Hopefully, staff will use this time-out period to better explain how these far-reaching regulations will impact property owners.