Letters to the Editor

Citizens need to be aware of code policy changes | Letters | Jan. 28

While former Planning Director Greg Byrne assured us that the Land Use Code Update (update) would merely “modify the policies underlying the code,” rendering the “code internally consistent and more user-friendly,” that hasn’t happened.

Nor was Planner Kelly Dickson accurate when asserting in last Friday’s Review that the update “does not include any policy changes.”

Policy changes abound and they are so significant that, without focused public opposition, our island is at risk of forever losing valued land use protections for our properties, our neighborhoods and our community. Consider just three policy changes:

• The elimination of 60-plus acres of screening as a result of reducing setbacks from 75 feet to 50 feet along almost 85 percent of our scenic highway State Route 305 (other than commercial areas);

• Backdoor “upzoning” (denser development) creep throughout the island for properties proximate to “nonconforming” lots (more densely built-out lots “grandfathered” in upon incorporation);

• And the possibility of a “motor vehicle sales lot” along High School Road.

The list goes on, but what’s worse is that this update removes public process protections for our most vulnerable land use areas.

The neighborhoods and community will no longer be invited to weigh in on the majority of our Land Use Code’s conditional use (CU) and variance applications.

Instead, the update asks that we entrust the planning director to evaluate the bulk of CU applications that, under current law, are fully vetted publicly.

Eliminated will be the more intense public and quasi-judicial pre-approval review prerequisites for prospective CU land use applications to build in the most challenging areas of the island. Are you content with allowing the planning director, rather than the neighborhood, to have the last word?

Unless these land use protections are kept intact, the most vulnerable and treasured features of our island are at risk of being lost forever.

Let your voice be heard at Wednesday’s study sessions. Check out “Land Use Code Update” on the city website for details.

Sally Adams

Bainbridge Island

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