Opinion: Deficiencies with Comp Plan Update Public Process

To date it has proven difficult for a citizen to have their concerns documented as part of the scheduled City of Bainbridge Island public process and meetings, which are required for the Comprehensive Plan Update under the Growth Management Act.

So far I have completed a survey and attended two sessions to provide valid input for the required public process. The theater used during these meetings significantly filters public input and has excluded most of my concerns from the record. My concerns for the Comp Plan Update have not been adequately logged despite my efforts to have them included as part of the conversation and record.

As a result citizens are reduced to submitting their concerns in writing only to hopefully have their input included in the process. As a result I am including the Growth Management Hearing Board, The Attorney General’s Office, and the Washington Association of Cities to officially register deficiencies with the required public process for the City of Bainbridge Island concerning the Comprehensive Plan Update.

Everyone’s time is valuable, a citizen should be able to easily include facts concerning the finite water supply on Bainbridge Island which is designated as a Sole Source Aquifer. I would appreciate as a taxpayer that information provided during a survey be part of the record, that factual public comment not result in an insult to both my husband and myself from a Council member who was supposedly moderating our “table.” That information put in writing on paper provided as part of the public meeting process not be folded up and placed in a pocket and removed from the room by another Council person. That comments provided at the required group think tables not be excluded by the assigned table moderator during summary statements for the record.

A recent review of the top producing wells for the Island for the last ten years indicates continued drawdown of aquifers. This means the Island population is utilizing more water than is being recharged back into the aquifers the Island is 100% dependent on. The city is remiss in providing public discussion to manage the number one concern of citizens per a recent survey.an adequate and clean WATER supply.

Bainbridge Island officials are remiss in monitoring and reporting on water usage and the impacts of growth to date on the water supply.   A records request reveals that NO Environmental Impact Statements or studies have been performed to evaluate any development in the last ten years despite the Island’s known designation as a Sole Source Aquifer surrounded by salt water with no other viable affordable off Island source of water. The city has yet to provide for the required “Conservation Aquifer Recharge Zones” as dictated by the Growth Management Act to protect a Sole Source Aquifer Island City Urban Growth Area such as Bainbridge.

City and county government is remiss on compiling and reporting on known wells that have been impacted by seawater intrusion and were subsequently decommissioned on the Island. As a result the information in the USGS groundwater reporting lacks adequate input related to these concerns. The city has not included an appropriate breakout for important water supply concerns as part of their predetermined topics of discussion for their scheduled “Listening Sessions”. Why are council members who are supposed to be listening to citizen input moderating and filtering information during these meetings?

There are ample opportunities for discussions promoting growth and development, but discussions on how to supply adequate water for existing residents into the future, and support the proposed increase in growth is suppressed. This is very concerning to many citizens who are heavily invested in homes on Bainbridge Island. Bainbridge officials need to demonstrate better priorities for the Comp Plan Update and make the appropriate allowances for citizen input. Based on the problems to date the city should include public meetings where citizens are allowed to speak freely without being constrained or burdened by a process that thwarts obvious taxpayer priorities and concerns.

Melanie Keenan

Coauthor of the EPA Sole Source Aquifer Designation Petition for Bainbridge Island

Comment:

Most of the time it feels like the city manipulates the public process to achieve a predetermined end result rather than following the desires of the citizens. That should be stopped. Citizens don’t want increased density and our limited water supply prevents increased density and growth. So why is that not the absolute basis for all comp plan discussions?

Gary Tripp

 

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