Conservation begins here

  • Wednesday, June 27, 2007 7:00am
  • Opinion

It’s not the most positive review when the value of a

conservation project is measured in bird poo.

Yet such was the assessment by one expert from the international group Forest Trends last week, strolling the site of proposed three-acre housing development/public park project in Winslow. As reported Saturday, the gentleman suggested that the regardless of how much of the parcel is set aside, it offers little of ecological value beyond a site for passing birds to do their business. Harsh.

But the islander behind the project took the comments in stride. “My entire development career on Bainbridge Island would be a ‘rounding error’ in one day’s business as normal by the other players in this process,” Kelly Samson said. “I can see how they would think our small potatoes are unimportant on the scale to which they are accustomed. It feels different to us.”

Under the microscope were two local pilot projects in the new Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program, under which landowners are partnering with our city to find “a new vocabulary” for growth, balancing the impacts of development against habitat and other ecological resources. Conservationists, who met over several days at IslandWood as part of the BBOP conference, were more impressed with the possibilities implicit in a 100-acre development being discussed along Country Club Road. Much larger in scale, the project has the potential for greater impacts – but also for greater perks. About 70 percent of the land would be set aside as undeveloped forest, proponents say, and a stretch of Blakely Harbor shoreline could be restored.

Islanders should be excited that two local projects (however humble in the eyes of folks used to looking at open-pit mines and natural gas plants) were singled out for review. The irony is that while we may come to new understandings in balancing Growth/Earth imperatives – and cooperative efforts between those changing the landscape and those already living on it – applying the principle of resource preservation through voluntary trade-offs will be a challenge. For all our planning, most Bainbridge development is decidedly un-planned; it’s onesie-twosie home construction on random lots, rather than planned developments like the still-nebulous Winslow and south-end projects. The trick will be applying “bio-diversity offsets” to the incremental changes that happen around us every day without attracting much attention.

Scale is no measure of value, and while Bainbridge developments may be “small stuff” to the BBOP conference-goers, they’re a big deal around here. Credit the developers of both pilot projects and our city for working to consider growth in a new light.

***********

Corrections

• City Council candidate Robert Dashiell’s comments on the proposed affordable housing ordinance were misstated in the June 9 Review. In prepared comments, Dashiell wrote: “The proposed affordable housing program has to be fully explained to the public, anticipated costs and impacts described, and then a community based decision, based on an informed citizenry and not just an activist group of very well meaning advocates. Nobody I have talked to…exactly nobody…understands what the island is about to give developers to get affordable housing constructed. Some lower income people on Bainbridge are having a tough enough time paying for their own house and property taxes, and taking on new programs that require some public funds to pay for a portion of newcomers housing for people making middle income wages should receive rigorous debate.”

• Michael Piraino’s professional credentials were misstated in a June 20 news brief on the city’s new ethics board. Piraino is CEO of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association in Seattle, a position he has held for the last 13 years.

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