Comments: BI initiatives don’t work for them

Hardships created by Bainbridge Island initiatives highlighted public comments at the Nov. 14 City Council meeting.

Alison Allen, owner of the Green Light Garage, asked the council to reconsider using part of their land for a bike path along Eagle Harbor.

She said that land is important for parking for her business. “My city would not do that. It supports small businesses,” she said, adding her business is now at risk. “It’s more than a dot on the map to my family.”

She said the community has shown its support, but the council has not. There must be a better solution, “One that will allow Green Light to survive.”

The city looked at various alternatives for the path, including having two lanes on the other side of the road that would not encroach on their business. The city decided against that idea because of the danger of having cyclists going in opposite directions on lanes so close together.

Councilmember Clarence Moriwaki later pointed out that the land in question actually already is a city right of way.

Chamber director Stefan Goldby showed support for Allen’s comments, saying the business serves 2,000 customers on BI. “Small businesses (with 10 employees or less) are the lifeblood” of the community, he said.

Meanwhile, Deb Sweet of the Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network and developer Jonathan Davis spoke out against an electric vehicle charging station infrastructure law the city is looking at.

Sweet said BARN’s values are all about sustainability, but that the law would create a financial burden on the nonprofit. She added BARN is planning an expansion, and space is needed for parking.

Davis said the new law would not be practical. For example, a development he is looking at requires 50 parking spaces. This new law would mean six would need to be taken up by EV charging stations. “It’s like a business being required to put a gas station in their parking lot,” he said, adding the requirement would add up to 4% to construction costs.

Davis said the client, Helpline House, needs all 50 of those spaces for parking. An EV charging station does not make sense there because customers at most stay there an hour. And he said it would be unlikely that many of their customers even have more costly electric vehicles.

He said a better idea would be for the city to look at building fast-charging stations, where people with EVs can recharge their vehicles in a matter of minutes—instead of taking up space for parking. Davis also said people with EVs do most of their charging at their homes.

Peter Harris said he was glad to see the council is thinking of forming a sustainable transportation subcommittee. He said road safety is needed across BI as more seniors are riding electric bicycles to stores. He said there needs to be a basic transportation connector network for most homes on BI instead of expensive paths in selected locations.

As an example, he mentioned the Sound to Olympics Trail, which is “expensive and empty.” Harris said BI should follow the example of Bellingham, which has built miles of new bike lanes over the past 10 years.

Brian Anderson complained that email addresses were obtained from the city for campaign purposes through a public records request. He asked that the city work with its new legislative lobbyist to change that law.

Talking later with the lobbyist, it was added to the list of priorities.

Home compostable

Despite numerous written comments against it, the City Council moved forward with its plan for businesses to use products that are compostable at customers’ homes.

Those comments focused on the higher cost of those products, and that people are not set up to compost at home anyway.

But the city’s climate officer, Autumn Salamack, countered that she worked with the business community on 40 products and came up with a list of 16 to implement on Jan. 1, 2024. Availability and performance, along with cost, were considered.

One item was removed after receiving public input—cold beverage containers.

While many of the comments agree with the idea of using less plastic to help the environment, they also say the products to replace them are expensive and lack quality. They also say the public and the city’s service providers are not ready to compost the new products, and they will just end up in the landfill anyway.

The city counters that it worked with the chamber, BI downtown association and BI Zero Waste to come up with the list that was then looked at by businesses and the community.

The 16 items on the list are: clamshell containers, cone cups, cup sleeves, cutlery, drinking straws, food boxes, food contact paper, hot beverage cups, napkins, pizza boxes, platters, salad bowls, serving tongs, stirrers, takeout trays and tasting spoons. Based on the feedback, cups for cold beverages were removed from the list.

Officially passing the home compostable food service ware law will occur at an upcoming meeting.

State lobbyist

Lobbyist Briahna Murray gave a presentation on top priorities that include: The Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, affordable and workforce housing; and planning for growth that meets unique community needs.

City manager Blair King added they need to fix the ferry system.

Murray said the exclusion memorial request is just the type of project and spending amount ($300,000) that is good for a short session. As for housing, she said the legislature is already planning to look at that so the money likely won’t come to BI this year, but could in the future. She also said growth on an island is unique, and the state should be aware of that.

Regarding the ferries, Councilmember Clarence Moriwaki mentioned it would be good to work with other communities dependent on them, such as the San Juan Islands, to increase BI’s influence.