20-Year Update Presents A Generational Opportunity to Shape The Future of Bainbridge Island
Bainbridge Island is a beautiful place to live. But it is a beautiful place with some challenges that can’t all be addressed on a year-to-year basis through our elected bodies and city staff. Some trends and issues manifest and build over longer periods of time and begin to change the fabric of the community as pressure is placed by both external and internal forces.
Today, the island finds itself at important crossroads. From an increasing need for housing diversity, to the impact of changing technology, to increasingly lopsided population demographics and economic climate, to environmental factors impacting natural and available resources, the island faces a myriad of challenges that need to be defined and addressed to form a common community vision that will move it into the future.
This community vision outlined in the update will form the guidelines that current – and future – city council members and city staff will be obligated to uphold via the policies and ordinances they enact.
In the coming year, the Winslow Subarea Plan offers Islanders an opportunity to collectively shape what comes next for Winslow and the island. As the designated urban growth zone on the island, this Subarea Plan will also form the backbone of Bainbridge’s island-wide Comprehensive Plan Update – an update which is itself due to be delivered to the state by the end of 2024.
Why Are We Talking About This?
AKA, what is a subarea plan and why is the city updating the one for Winslow right now?
A subarea plan sets land use and transportation policy, identifies service-level needs, utility and capital facility needs and economic vitality within a specific geographic region in a community. These subarea and neighborhood plans help engage the hyper-local communities in these areas and establish a vision for COBI policies to back up.
The Winslow Subarea Plan geographically extends in the south from Eagle Harbor at Waterfront Park to New Brooklyn Road in the north and from Wing Point and Yeomalt in the east to Weaver Road on its western edge. Currently, the subarea plan does not include areas like the Coppertop or Three Tree Lane Business/Industrial Zones, though through the public process that could change in the new update.
The last update to the Winslow Subarea Plan was in 2006 (and the one prior to that was in 1997) – a time before Winslow Way was dug up, and way before the profound changes triggered by the COVID pandemic.
It is important to note that in current policy Winslow/High School Road is considered the urban growth area for the island, where population (up to 50%), businesses, and services are most likely to be built out.
The city has also adopted a subarea plan for Lynwood Center in 1997, as well as creating a draft subarea plan for Island Center in 2021 – this was put on hold, pending the Comprehensive Plan update. Bainbridge Island also has 3 additional neighborhood centers (without formal subarea plans) in Miller Road/Battle Point Drive, Rolling Bay, Fort Ward.
The neighborhood centers are also important in that they absorb the reminder of expected growth on the island and “provide Island-wide commercial and service activity outside Winslow,” according to the 2017 Comprehensive Plan Update under its Land-Use policies. They are also areas that “should be developed at higher densities to reinforce their roles as community service centers” which helps “reduce traffic congestion by providing an alternative to shopping in Winslow.”
Though Lynwood Center and Island Center both have their own separate subarea plans, they are still officially designated as neighborhood centers.
All the subarea and neighborhood plans are intended to inform the Island’s overall plan for future growth – the Comprehensive Plan.
Wait, What Was That You Said About A Comprehensive Plan?
Comprehensive plans are the centerpiece of local planning efforts. A comprehensive plan articulates a series of goals, objectives, policies, actions, and standards that are intended to guide the day-to-day decisions of elected officials and local government staff.
The Growth Management Act (GMA) of 1990 requires many cities and counties in Washington to adopt comprehensive plans, and it lays out the following mandatory and optional elements:
Under the state’s GMA, the City of Bainbridge Island needs to account for how it will manage growth through policy with regard to:
- Land Use
- Capital Facilities
- Optional – Economic Development
- Optional – Parks & Recreation
- Optional – Shoreline Management (included as city’s Shoreline Master Program)
- Optional – Water Resources (included as city’s Groundwater Management Plan)
- Optional – Human Resources
- Optional – Environmental Development
- Optional – Cultural Development
The city has completed Comprehensive Plan Updates in 1994, 2004, and 2017. The next Comprehensive Plan update from all communities throughout the state is due in 2024, and then every ten years thereafter.
The goals and strategies decided within the Winslow Subarea plan will have a significant on the direction of the whole Island – as of the most recent census, 32% of Bainbridge’s population live downtown (8,005 out of 24,859), with that share projected to grow to 40% by 2044 (9,451 out of 29,349).
Why Does It Matter?
We live on an island. That fact comes with inherent challenges – like there only being two ways on and off it by car, bike or on foot, geographical physical barriers to land-use expansion, all-important connections with off-island utilities, specific transportation and economic needs, and a collection of natural resources that are that are finite.
Bainbridge is traditionally very, very good at protecting the island’s rural character – even with years of policy (or lack thereof) that enabled residential development along the shoreline – more than 40 parks, 44 miles of interconnected trails and 1,400 acres of protected public lands and watershed areas have been created to make it a truly special place to live.
Where we haven’t been so great at is looking at the island’s challenges on a community-wide basis – what impacts us through outside forces, like climate change and our economic development and how our own policies for items like housing, often shy away from right-sized solutions, like Accessible Dwelling Units (ADU) or increasing our housing density in key areas, until the problem is significant.
It is no secret that our community is struggling to grapple with things other cities – including some of our Kitsap and other island neighbors – have already started to act to solve. We struggle to balance affordability and diversity of housing, economic vitality, stabilizing our population demographics (attracting younger people with children move onto the island to balance those who are growing older), infrastructure and transportation improvements (power, water, public transport), and environmental stewardship.
The Winslow Subarea Plan can address those issues and is a public process where the community can get its voice heard to:
- Create a vision that represents the whole community.
- Paint a clear picture of what investments need to be made so we can become a stronger community in the future.
- Determine what policies need to be formed.
The public process “creates opportunities and real actions and activities to listen and learn from our people, our public, from our stakeholder groups and more importantly their interests whether they be housing transportation, walkability, outdoor recreation, or the environment,” City Planning Director Patricia Charnas said in a Feb. 16 public workshop. “These are all very important aspects as are others and listening and hearing what you are worried about or concerned about or excited about for the future is what these meetings are all about.”
Importantly, the Winslow Subarea Plan will set the tone for other subarea plan and neighborhood center updates as well as form the backbone of the Comprehensive Plan Update, so we can balance preserving rural character without costing us a vibrant future that remains affordable for all people to not just live, but to thrive.
The Winslow Subarea Plan update is a generational opportunity for our community to come together and guide City Council and City Staff in defining who Bainbridge wants to be by 2044, and how we believe we can get there.
Why The Chamber Is Engaged:
From a Chamber of Commerce perspective, on behalf of our 500+ community members and the almost 8,000 jobs they create, the Subarea Plan is also a public forum to try and address Bainbridge Island’s current three-pronged workforce crisis:
- A desperate need for local, affordable housing options for island workers at all levels of pay
- New ways of transporting additional workers here from off-island without adding to the congestion of a small 2-lane bridge
- Ways to better support controlled growth within designated Business/Industrial zones (i.e. Day Road, Coppertop)
These three challenges make starting new businesses harder, but perhaps even more worrying, have already caused established brands to be forced to move off-island, with more reluctantly beginning to make contingency plans to do so. in the neat future.
Below you’ll find a timeline of what steps are next in this process and when to get involved. The ongoing items are still taking public input, so if you want to get involved, it is critical to send your feedback, as soon as possible.
What’s Next & What Can You Do?
Whether you’re learning about this now or have already placed comment with the city, there’s still plenty left to do. Here’s a timeline of things to come and ways you can get involved.
- Take a look at the existing Winslow Subarea Plan, and the City’s overview of the 2023 Update Process
- Complete – Draft Public Engagement Plan – Identifies key community stakeholders and groups, determines approaches to connect both virtually and in-person, seeks to understand barriers and addresses them, guides the direction of the overall process.
- Ongoing – Listening and Learning – A variety of small and large community meetings, listening sessions, comment periods and the Environmental Impact Statement are being drawn up now.
- Ongoing – Project Understanding and Analysis – Builds a baseline for understanding the Winslow area and scope of study. It includes a review of recent planning documents and preliminary data analysis and a base map.
- Spring 2023 – Public Open House. To be announced.
- Late Spring 2023 – Draft Vision, Transportation and Land Use Alternatives
- Summer 2023 – Public Meeting
- Fall 2023 – Recommendations to update the Winslow Subarea Plan
At any point in the process, any community member can also send feedback directly to the City’s project manager – Senior Planner Jennifer Sutton at 1-206-780-3772 or via [email protected].
- Existing Winslow Subarea Plan – City of Bainbridge Island
- Project Page Winslow Subarea Plan – City of Bainbridge Island
- Councilmember Jon Quitslund’s Hopes For The Subarea Update – bainbridgechamber.com
- Listserv – Winslow Subarea Plan Updates – City of Bainbridge Island
- Winslow Subarea Plan Update: Virtual Public Workshop – City of Bainbridge Island
- Island Center Subarea Plan (2021 Draft) – City of Bainbridge Island
- Lynwood Center Subarea Plan (1997) – City of Bainbridge Island
- Shoreline Master Program (2021) – City of Bainbridge Island
- Sustainable Transportation Plan – City of Bainbridge Island
- Affordable Housing Plan – City of Bainbridge Island
- Citizens Guide to the District Budget – Bainbridge Island School District
- Cost of Housing Affects School Enrollment on Bainbridge – Kitsap Sun
- Kitsap Public Schools Navigate Post-Pandemic COVID Enrollment Decline – Kitsap Sun
The Chamber will also keep our members and community updated on each step of the process over the upcoming months, as well as on the Comprehensive Plan Update and Process, Lynwood Subarea Plan developments and more.