Saturday’s environmental summit looks at transportation, water, light.
Accepting the inevitability of growth, the fifth annual Bainbridge Island Environmental Conference focused on how to grow greener island transporation and development.
“It’s not about ‘do we build a parking garage or not,’ the issues are not that simple,â€ said Sandy Fischer, project manager for the Winslow Tomorrow project now developing a vision for the future of downtown. “Transportation and land use is key to what this island will be.â€
With a Critical Areas Ordinance stalled in council and the state Growth Management Act calling for Bainbridge Island to accomodate at least 6,650 new residents by 2025, the ever-heavier impact of people on the island’s environment was at the forefront of concern at the conference, co-sponsored by Association of Bainbridge and the Bainbridge Island Land Trust.
The event drew about 85 people to the Bainbridge High School LGI room.
On transportation, Councilwoman Christine Rolfes lauded the school district’s retrofitted buses, which now burn diesel more cleanly.
Gordon Black of bicycle advocacy group Squeaky Wheels then quipped, “We should persuade more parents to have kids ride the buses,â€ to a burst of audience applause.
Black’s suggested alternatives included a “walking school busâ€ concept in which parents walk with groups of students to school, while urging officials to discourage parents from driving kids to and from school.
“Transportation – pun intended – does drive what we think growth looks like,â€ Black said. “Is it 10,000 more cars, or 5,000 walkers and 5,000 bicycles?â€
Discussion of roving buses during non-commuter hours, or some sort of “21st century hitchhikingâ€ system followed Channie Peters’ question of how people living outside Winslow could leave the car at home to go grocery shopping.
Peters said she would be willing to walk a half-mile to a bus stop, if there were a midday bus to take.
The Dial-a-Ride service by Kitsap Transit was deemed too inconvenient by other attendees, as it requires an appointment a day in advance.
Development, density, downtown planning were also topics of concern.
With continued population increases, Councilwoman Deborah Vann urged those who want to see the revised Critical Areas Ordinance passed to email their representatives.
There were also calls to use pervious pavement in new developments to allow rainwater to recharge the underground aquifers that Bainbridge depends on for drinking water.
Several called for collaborative efforts and incentives for promoting greener development.
Fischer asked attendees to consider the advantages of using density in Winslow as a relatively cheap way to preserve open space outside of Winslow, although vigilance to prevent sprawl outside Winslow would still be necessary, she said.
Fischer quoted from the Winslow Tomorrow “Options Phase Report,â€ which calculates that building 1,663 residences with a density of 15 units per acre – as the Mixed Use Town Center zoning allows – would consume 515 fewer acres of land than low-density building outside of Winslow.
The 515 acres, she said, is nearly the size of six Battle Point Parks; at the average price per acre of purchases by the Open Space Commission, the acreage would top $17 million in value for the public.
The conference was also a chance for little-discussed issues to see light, including light pollution. Rachel Smith urged people to call the city if they see outdoor lighting causing a glare, impairing visibility or illuminating the sky. Enforcement, she said, is “by complaint.â€
Smith pointed out that neighbors may be unable to complain for fear of causing a “toxic situationâ€ with the people next door.
Looking to the future, Frank Stowell of BILT asked if the island’s environmental interests were being as effectively conveyed as those of property rights advocates, specifically regarding the CAO.
“Are we making our point, or is it too little, too late? Are we the silent green majority who don’t know where to start or where they’re needed?â€ Stowell asked. “It’s not partisan, it’s about our community and our values.â€