It wasn’t a much divided vote, but an ominous sign, even so.
The Bainbridge Island City Council recently voted 5-2 to authorize city staff to prepare a “request for qualifications” that could attract consultants willing to study the need for more parking downtown, as well as potential impacts on traffic if the city pursues its proposed redevelopment plan for Town Square.
The notion for a major makeover of Town Square is controversial, to be sure.
Some are worried that it would sound the death knell for the farmers market that’s now a seasonal fixture in Town Square, while others are concerned that building a multi-million dollar structure for autos (many of which, likely, will be single-occupancy vehicles) is the wrong way to go on a planet that’s being cooked by carbon emissions and the burning of fossil fuels.
That said, the parking garage has its supporters. Those include, but aren’t limited to, the group of merchants and downtown interests who have been pressing the city for nearly 30 years to solve the persistent problem in Winslow of so many visitors, but so few parking spaces.
At last week’s council meeting, some of those supporters stepped forward to remind the council that the health of downtown is vital to the island’s overall economy.
On the vote to give the green light to begin the search for a consultant, however, there was not unanimous support from the council. There were comments about cost, who would pay for the structure and if that included support from downtown businesses, as well as, from one councilman, the suggestion that he was more interested on transportation improvements for walkers and bikers, but not drivers.
Taking this first step to find a consultant is a worthy one, as we continue to believe that the great majority of islanders who visit downtown are not getting there by foot or bike, and that Bainbridge businesses need the support of Bainbridge residents to survive and thrive.
Yes, the cost of such a garage is an early concern. But we were heartened by Mayor Val Tollefson’s comments that the financing approach he was interested in would include a bond put before voters, funding from property owners who would benefit, and a city contribution as well.
Let’s hope that the council members who voted “no” on the RFQ can maintain an open mind when this proposal returns for more consideration.