BI council set to extend building moratorium, but in a smaller area

  • Monday, September 28, 2020 12:55pm
  • News
BI council set to extend building moratorium, but in a smaller area

The Bainbridge Island City Council approved a six-month extension of the development moratorium and directed staff to narrow the scope of it at a recent 5 1/2 hour meeting.

The extended moratorium will apply only to major projects within the shoreline areas of Winslow. The official vote on that won’t be until Oct. 27. The move will allow staff time to complete the updated critical area regulations into the Shoreline Master Program. Shoreline regulations apply within 200 feet of the ordinary high water mark.

If the ordinance is completed prior to six months, the council will consider terminating the moratorium, which in essence began Jan. 9, 2018.

There are some exclusions, such as for affordable housing, government and education.

Updates will include improved design to result in “higher quality development that reflects the Island’s values and character.” Also, “revise criteria to reduce subjectivity in decision making.”

The council also discussed the Shoreline Master Program. A public hearing took place Sept. 22, and two people spoke. One said she liked the changes in the shoreline plan and wanted the council to move ahead. The other said he wanted to open a family run boutique oyster farm and wanted the council to consider that.

Because the State Environmental Policy Act process was not complete, the council will have another public meeting and its vote this month or next. SEPA said the process was incomplete, needing more agency and public comment.

The Shoreline Management Act requires communities to complete a “periodic review” of their plan every eight years. Addressed topics include flood risk and aquaculture.

During the discussion, Mayor Leslie Schneider acknowledged that she and others had received comments and emails.

“The shoreline master program includes the word ‘master,’ which is painful to some members of our community,” the mayor said.

In other council news:

•The city is working with AT&T to get better cell phone service, especially during a disaster.

•In discussing funding for Arts and Humanities Bainbridge, deputy mayor Joe Deets as an “art appreciator” said he would like to see some art that “reflects the times we live in,” such as equity. He added that could be part of the annual Something New program that started in Winslow in 2018. The project brought a collection of sculptures to outdoor sites around Winslow for a yearlong exhibition. New pieces are selected and rotated into these permanent locations annually, bringing “something new” to Bainbridge Island year after year. One project mentioned is an art wall of hanging panels at the ferry parking lot. Funding mentioned was a five-year contract at $12,000 a year.

•Police Chief Joe Clark talked about safety concerns at Blakely Harbor. Councilmember Christy Carr said she swam there and understands the concerns of homeowners. The council wants to limit motorized use in the harbor.

•Rasham Nassar asked the board to name another councilmember to the Race Equity Task Force. Kirsten Hytopoulos was named.

Budget talks

City Manager Morgan Smith says in her weekly newsletter that because of lower revenues due to COVID-19 and other reasons, the city budget plans to eliminate five positions, all which are vacant.

“At the proposed staffing level of 127 full-time employees (FTE,) the city’s workforce will be 17% smaller than in 2008, despite the fact that our community population has grown roughly 10% since that time,” she says in her report.

The $39 million Proposed Budget projects an annual reduction in overall tax-supported revenues of approximately 9% (or $2 million) compared to forecasts before the economic fallout of COVID. The budget was developed to adjust to the city’s reduced revenue while still maintaining the city’s ongoing commitment to its highest priority goals and core services. The revenue loss derives from lower collections for sales tax and other taxes, as well as the elimination of approximately $400,000 per year due to the passage of Initiative 976 (described as the “$30 car-tab initiative”).

Key highlights in the proposed budget:

•Adds a Behavioral Health Navigator position in the police department. This position will allow a more integrated approach between law enforcement and social services. Provides $300,000 to support the city’s implementation of the Climate Action Plan; the council’s highest priority for the budget. Also includes $100,000 to support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives.

•Maintains the funding levels of $2 million to support community partners and programs for human services, cultural element funding, and other support, including economic development. The decision to maintain this funding reflects the expectation of increased community needs due to COVID-19.

•Maintains the city emphasis on effective stewardship of existing and planned infrastructure. Tax-supported major projects include Madison Avenue sidewalk reconstruction, Country Club bulkhead reconstruction and the Visconsi Trail. Major utility projects include Winslow fire flow improvements, Winslow water tank replacement and Village Basin sewer improvements.

•Eliminates three regular positions (police officer, senior judicial specialist, senior plan check engineer) and two term-limited positions (public records analyst, senior planner); all of which are vacant.

Discussions on the proposed budget will be held during all virtual council meetings in October and November. In addition to those meetings, community members can submit questions and comments to finance@bainbridgewa.gov. The proposed 2021-22 budget can be viewed online at www.bainbridgewa.gov/1258/Budget

The next council meeting is a study session Oct. 6.

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