Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Val Tollefson’

The City has sent out the following press release about last night’s Council decisions on next steps in the process to develop the Suzuki process:

The Bainbridge Island City Council has established a path to move forward with the development of the Suzuki Property, including completing an ecological study of the property and identifying a development team, the Olympic Property Group, to begin negotiating a development agreement.

At their Regular Business Meeting on March 23, the City Council laid out a path to move forward with an ecological study of the Suzuki Property. The citizen advisory Environmental Technical Advisory Committee (ETAC) will work with City staff to identify information already available regarding the property, and will identify additional information needed to establish an ecological baseline for the site. Once the additional information needed has been identified, ETAC will make a recommendation to the City Council as to the best path moving forward to gather the identified information.

The Council also voted to direct the City Manager to move forward with negotiating a development agreement with the Olympic Property Group. During their next meeting on Tuesday, April 12, the City Council will discuss the scope and parameters that will inform the City Manager during these negotiations. The exact details of the development contract including requirements for affordable housing, types of community amenities, etc., will be decided during these negotiations. All Councilmembers have already expressed a strong desire that the developer be required to carry out an extensive public engagement process as a condition of the development agreement.

 

Read Full Post »

Bainbridge Mayor and Council member Val Tollefson has posted the following memo on the City’s website:

To: City Council; Doug Schulze
From: Val Tollefson
Date: March 21, 2016
Re: Proposal for moving forward with the Suzuki property Background.

There appears to be majority Council support for selecting a developer and moving forward with development of the Suzuki property. At the same time, there is unanimous support that if any development is to happen, it must be in the context of protecting the important ecological attributes of the property. Finally, there is strong sentiment among some on the Council and within respected members of the community that before any development activity proceeds there should be an ecological assessment of the property, to establish baseline information and ensure that there is no compelling but currently unknown reason to abandon development efforts before any substantive development takes place. There is also some opinion that such assessment should be done by persons or organizations without ties either to the developer or to the City, in the apparent belief that an unbiased assessment cannot otherwise be expected.

Following are my views on these issues. I hope they will help us have a productive discussion tomorrow evening.

Baseline Ecological Assessment proposal.

While I agree that an early baseline assessment of some aspects of the property is prudent, I do not agree that such assessment should happen independent of involvement of the developer, for several reasons. First, tasking the City with contracting for such an assessment will inevitably increase the cost and slow down the process. Second, it is important to involve the developer in defining the scope of such an assessment so that the scope will not be deficient and require unnecessary repetition if the development proceeds. Third, at least one of the baseline issues that should be addressed (the impact of any proposed development on aquifer recharge and the hydrological functioning of the non‐ developed portion of the site) requires input from the developer with regard to areas subject to potential development.

I believe that any fear that involvement of a developer will compromise the process or be a de facto decision to proceed regardless of what an assessment might reveal are groundless if we take the following three steps:

  1. Task the Environmental Technical Advisory Committee to act as the City’s advocate in collaborating with the developer to define the scope of an assessment, in approving the qualifications of professionals retained by the developer to perform the assessment, and to verify the adequacy and reliability of any resulting work product. ETAC will have to agree to this assignment, and to its willingness to handle these responsibilities (which should be short‐lived) on an expeditious basis rather than through its regularly scheduled meeting process. Alternatively, the City could retain a professional project manager to discharge these responsibilities, although after some research I’m not sure where we would find such a qualified professional.
  2. The City will require that this assessment be completed and reported to the City Council for consideration and possible approval before any other aspect of a potential development proposal is considered by the Council.
  3. The City will agree to reimburse the developer its costs incurred in performing this assessment should the assessment result in the City deciding to abandon the project.

If the Council agrees that this is a reasonable approach, I suggest that we direct City staff to implement this strategy. Although the scope of the assessment should ultimately be determined by those with expertise, I suggest that the main items that need early attention are:

1. A survey of the property, to include surveyed location on the property of trees
identified by a certified arborist as mature or old‐growth, and the outline of the
portion of the property identified by that arborist as constituting “mature forest”.

2. A report by a certified arborist identifying the species, estimated age and health of each tree located in the survey.

3. A report by a certified arborist of requirements to protect the health of the mature forest, including buffers from construction activity, or recommendations on means of construction that would avoid damage.

4. A report by a qualified professional as to the impact on aquifer recharge that would follow from development of any particular part of the property, and of the
consequences for the ecological function of the remainder of the property of such
development.

5. A report by a qualified professional as to the minimum buffer around the existing pond and elsewhere on the southern border of the property necessary to preserve the essential ecological function of the pond, and to provide reasonable screening to adjacent neighbors.

Developer Choice proposal.

I recommend that we direct Staff to negotiate a development agreement with Olympic Property Group for the following reasons, and with the following instructions:

My recommendation of OPG is based on the following factors:

1. I believe that OPG is best‐qualified financially and by experience to provide a project that will be functionally and esthetically acceptable to the community.
2. I personally believe that for a development agreement to gain Council support, it will be important for the developer to lead the development team in considering innovative ways of addressing community interests and Council priorities, and to maintain a robust and effective community outreach process. I think OPG is best equipped to accomplish this.
3. Of those members of the public commenting in support of some development of the property, there has been significant support of including some sort of Boys and Girls Club/Community facility. Such a facility would be a good fit with this development and adjacent neighborhoods, and potentially would result in less traffic impact at critical times.
Development Agreement directions to Staff.
If we move ahead as outlined above, I suggest we provide Staff with some specific goals for a development agreement. My current list includes, in no particular order:

(more…)

Read Full Post »

At tonight’s City Council study session, the four members who are taking the lead on the question of what to do with the Suzuki property–Mike Scott, Val Tollefson, Wayne Roth and Roger Townsend–gave strong guidance on the Council’s next steps in the process to choose a developer for the property and finalize plans for the site. By the end of the session, the remaining three members–Sarah Blossom, Kol Medina and Ron Peltier—appeared to concede to the near-inevitability of development of the property, and began to express their ideas and preferences for development.

The Council decided to come back to its next meeting with suggestions for the parameters of an ecological study to determine where the significant trees are located, what must be done or avoided in order to maintain their health, and what kind of buffer is needed around the pond. A hydrology study will also be done. Council members will bring to the next meeting suggestions for a firm that could do the studies.

They spent great deal of time debating whether to decide on a proposer/developer before completing the study. Ultimately, they decided to choose the developer and then work to revise the plans as a partner with the developer, retaining Council control and opportunity for community input at each stage of the process. Peltier and Medina argued that they should delay choosing a developer until the study was complete. Peltier further suggested that all of the developers should submit revised proposals once the study was complete, based on its findings. That idea was rejected by those in the majority, who preferred to proceed on “parallel tracks”–continuing to work on choosing a developer while the study was being done. They were not in favor of throwing out the work that has been done so far, and did not want to have new proposals submitted.

The Council talked about what kind of affordable housing would be included in the development. Medina suggested that they can’t pick a developer until they have identified specifically what kind of affordable housing the island needs.

To that, Tollefson replied, “We need it all,” adding that this development will not be able to fill to all the needs. The final plan could be all rental, all owned with affordability deed restrictions, or market rate units that are so small they are affordable. He believed that as serious discussion proceeds with the chosen developer, those decisions will come naturally.

One of the biggest surprises of the night came when Tollefson said he had already begun to form an opinion on which developer he might choose. He said he didn’t think the Blue team had the financial capability to do the project and as a result, wasn’t in favor of that proposal.

Tollefson also asked his colleagues for an indication of whether they are interested in the possibility of a Boys and Girls Club on the site, as envisioned under the proposal known as the Farm. Medina said that although he is against developing the site, if it is developed, he would be in favor of the club, or some kind of community center. Peltier wondered why the Boys and Girls Club can’t remain at its current location at Coppertop Business Park. The others did not express an opinion. (more…)

Read Full Post »

It was after 11 last night when the City Council concluded its discussion about the next steps in the process to decide what to do about the Suzuki property. The Council agenda called only for “discussion” on next steps and not for a vote. But when each council member had given lengthy statements about his or her views on Suzuki, a visibly tired mayor Val Tollefson said he’d “counted noses” and believed a majority of four council members were in favor of developing the property for affordable housing. The four members supporting development are Roger Townsend, Wayne Roth, Mike Scott, and Val Tollefson.

They also supported doing the ecological study of the property urged by Council members Ron Peltier, Kol Medina and Sarah Blossom. Tollefson noted that much of the work for such a study has already been done and that the first task would be to work with City staff to learn what has been done, and to “fill the gaps” with a paid consultant. The four in the majority rejected the idea, floated by Peltier, that the City should use citizen volunteers for the study. (more…)

Read Full Post »

home1We’ve heard a lot about the environmental value of the Suzuki property, and the potential ecological impact from development. In comparison, we’ve heard almost nothing about housing access, lack of diversity and other consequences of Bainbridge Island’s affordable housing problems. I don’t want to further polarize people, but I do think a balancing of the factors in the City’s decision would be helpful.

Fair housing is an ideal that emerged from our nation’s civil rights movement. In the 1960’s, a national advisory commission found that both open and covert racial discrimination prevented black families from obtaining better housing and moving to integrated communities. To overcome the legacy of segregation, unequal treatment, and lack of access to opportunity in housing, Congress adopted the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

The FHA outlaws obvious discriminatory practices like exclusionary zoning, discriminatory lending practices and racially restrictive covenants. Over the years, it has been expanded to cover several protected classes, prohibiting housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or the presence of children. Like many states, Washington has its own fair housing laws, and specifies additional protected classes, such as age, sexual orientation, political ideology and source of income.

But discrimination is not always obvious, and last spring, in Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that housing policies resulting in “disparate impact”—a disproportionately adverse effect on protected classesviolate the law even if there is no intent to discriminate. The Court cited zoning laws and other housing restrictions as examples of actions that may not arise from intentional discrimination, but may nevertheless violate the law because they have a disparate impact on protected classes.

Also last year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) finalized a new rule that gives sharper teeth to the Fair Housing Act, impacting all communities, including our own. This rule requires all agencies receiving HUD money to provide regular reports on actions they have taken to “affirmatively further fair housing.” These reports must be be submitted to HUD for review. This is a more robust standard than the previous requirement to do an “analysis of impediments” to fair housing, which fell short of the goal of increasing housing fairness.

How do these developments affect us locally?

Bainbridge Island receives HUD money through Kitsap County, according to HUD Public Affairs officer Leland Jones. For example, Housing Kitsap–our county’s public housing agency—provides HUD money to islanders who have Section 8 vouchers. Additionally, federal money provided some of the financing for Ferncliff Village, an affordable housing development of our housing nonprofit, Housing Resources Bainbridge (HRB). Thus, the island’s efforts to affirmatively further fair housing must be documented and submitted to HUD under the new rule.

Even before the new rule, there was plenty of publicly available information about regional housing efforts.  For example, a 2014 report by the Puget Sound Regional Council said that although most forms of overt housing discrimination are in decline in the Puget Sound region, the impacts of historical unfairness are still evident. The report further noted, “Structural causes of segregation continue to have a pervasive effect across communities, whether or not self-segregation or discrimination are also at play. People are residentially sorted by economic status. High-priced neighborhoods as well as neighborhoods with limited rental housing fail to provide feasible housing choices for low- and-moderate income households.”

Bainbridge Island is deeply afflicted with these structural causes of segregation, and is one of the most racially segregated communities in the entire region. According to our latest Housing Needs Assessment, the population of Bainbridge Island in 2010 (the most recent year for which data is available) was 91% white. Since 1980, minorities have consistently made up less than 10% of the island’s population. Compare this to other Puget Sound suburbs: Shoreline: 69% white; Bellevue: 60% white. Even our Eastside doppelganger, Mercer Island, is substantially more diverse than Bainbridge at 78% white. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Last week, Council member Steven Bonkowski sent a letter to the press, trying to rehabilitate his reputation after his unlawful and costly violations of the Public Records Act. We sent the letter below to the Bainbridge City Council, the City Manager and the City Attorney. 

Dear Council, Mr. Schulze, and Ms. Marshall:

We read Steven Bonkowski’s letter to Inside Bainbridge this week, in which he attempts to re-litigate arguments he lost in court. His false statements are so significant that we think it’s important to correct them in writing. We also want to express our alarm that as a sitting member of the Bainbridge City Council, Mr. Bonkowski continues to substitute his own incorrect interpretation of the law for the judgment of two courts, suggesting that he is within his rights to continue the unlawful behavior that has cost the city so much money.

The following are false statements by Mr. Bonkowski:

Bonkowski: “I want the community to know that I did not conduct city business from my private email account, and I did turn over my emails to the city in a timely manner for the public records request.”

The facts: Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Jeanette Dalton held that the documents we sought were “related to the financial information that Mr. Bonkowski discussed at the June 5, 2013 meeting, and thus do come within the realm of ‘public records.’” In fact, when Judge Dalton discussed Mr. Bonkowski’s flawed reasoning in determining what constitutes a public record, she wrote the criticism that has been so often repeated in the press: “The Council members knew well what the Governance Manual requires, and any hesitation by them in turning over such emails is a grave concern for the people of Bainbridge Island.”

Moreover, Mr. Bonkowski did not turn over his emails in a timely manner, because, as Judge Dalton found, he “admitted to deleting records that were responsive to the PRA requests.”

The Court of Appeals supported Judge Dalton’s positions, writing that Bonkowski and Ward “undisputedly violated the Governance Manual by using their personal accounts for city business, by failing to forward emails received on their personal accounts to City servers, and by deleting emails which constituted public records, thus making it impossible for the City to adequately respond to Paulson and Fortner’s PRA requests.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

Bainbridge City Council member and Deputy Mayor Val Tollefson wrote a letter to the editor, published on Inside Bainbridge yesterday, expressing his views on our lawsuit and the core importance of open government. It’s a welcome public statement from someone who was not on the Council when we filed the suit. As one of the plaintiffs, I can confirm his statement that “this suit could have been settled much earlier and cheaper but for the insistence but for the insistence by the involved Councilmembers that their Constitutional right to privacy was paramount to their obligation to the City.” I also agree with the the other views he expressed in this letter, particularly the importance of transparency in government.

Bainbridge Island recently settled a lawsuit brought by two of our citizens claiming that the City violated the Washington Public Records Act. The suit involved delays and ultimately failure of two members of the Council to produce email messages that they had received concerning City business on their personal email accounts. This suit was a very expensive lesson. The money spent should have been used for a constructive purpose for our City. Since the taxpayers won’t see any tangible benefit from these tax dollars, they are at least entitled to some comment. So here goes:

  1. The use of personal email accounts for City business was against City policy. This suit demonstrated clearly the problems that can result, and the City has tightened procedures to ensure that everyone doing business on behalf of the City has access to and knows they must use a City email account.
  2. This suit could have been settled much earlier and cheaper but for the insistence by the involved Councilmembers that their Constitutional right to privacy was paramount to their obligation to the City. I will ask the Council to take steps to ensure that Councilmembers agree that service to the City requires a reasonable limitation on that claim to privacy.
  3. Compliance with the Public Records Act and the Open Meetings Act are at the core of the City’s obligation to provide good, transparent service to the community. The citizens who brought this recent lawsuit performed an invaluable service to the community at great personal expense. Bob Fortner and Althea Paulson should be thanked for insisting that the City be held to account.

—Val Tollefson City Council, North Ward

Read Full Post »

Last August, we filed a Public Records Act lawsuit against the City of Bainbridge Island and certain individual councilpersons, after learning they had been conducting City business from their personal email accounts, and had failed to produce these records after receiving our public records request.

As we said in our press release at the time, “The last thing we want to do is sue the city….But the way the Public Records Act is written, we have to sue the city in order to require rogue officials to obey the law.”

We have tried to make clear throughout this litigation that our primary concern was not with individuals on the City’s staff, whom we had found to be cooperative and professional. It was unlawful activity by the councilpersons that troubled us, because they have consistently placed themselves above the law and have refused to turn over public records. Council members Dave Ward and Steven Bonkowski have admitted under oath that they deleted emails concerning City business, relying upon their own personal definition of what constitutes a public record, and without seeking advice from the City. In doing so, they ignored guidelines that were provided to them on multiple occasions.

In a 32-page decision issued May 29th, Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Jeannette Dalton agreed with us, finding that the councilpersons’ refusal to turn over the records was of “grave concern for the people of Bainbridge Island.” Judge Dalton found that the City failed to do an adequate search for the requested records as required by law, because even after the City knew the council members were conducting City business on their personal accounts, it did not make any effort to search those accounts. She ruled that the City violated the Public Records Act and ordered the City to pay our attorneys fees and sanctions for the violations.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Three Council members, Val Tollefson, Wayne Roth and Roger Townsend, sent this letter to the press this morning on City of Bainbridge Island Executive Department letterhead. Although I am not aware of any Council vote taken to approve this letter, it appears to be the City’s official statement, sent out by City press release. It is also posted on the City’s website. 

As many already know, the Kitsap County Superior Court recently issued a ruling in a Public Records Act lawsuit brought last year by two Bainbridge Island citizens against the City and two current members of the City Council. The City has decided to ask the Court of Appeals to review the trial court’s ruling. As the three members of the City Council who were not members of the Council last year, we thought it important to share our justification for supporting this decision.

This case began at a time last year when the emotions of a number of Bainbridge Islanders, both on and off the City Council, were high. To a casual observer it would have been clear that there was little trust and collegiality among some members of the Council, and there were a number of Island interest groups who had little faith in some members of the Council or indeed, in the Council and City government as a whole. (more…)

Read Full Post »

I wasn’t able to go to Tuesday night’s “Oil on Water” event at Eagle Harbor Congregational Church. Speakers discussed problems with the extraction and transportation of fossil fuels, and offered ways the public can advocate for stronger regulation of this necessary but hazardous industry. Here’s a report from the blog of “Low Carbon Girl.”

The Oil on Water Event, Co-sponsored by Coal-Free Bainbridge, Sustainable Bainbridge and Eagle Harbor Congregational Church was standing room only, with more than 100 people in attendance on Tuesday evening, April 9th including Bainbridge Mayor Anne Blair and City Councilman Val Tollefson.

Erika Shriner of Coal-Free Bainbridge kicks off event.

Erika Shriner of Coal-Free Bainbridgestarted off the evening by giving an overview of some of energy issues we’re facing today and what is slated for the near future. Erika started Coal-Free Bainbridge after being inspired by Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal program, noting that most Bainbridge Islanders don’t realize that 37% of our energy still comes from coal. And, that our coal comes from aptly-named Colstrip, Montana. Erika said Sierra Club’s and other’s efforts, including Governor Jay Inslee, are helping to win the battle against Colstrip. Eric de Place later reiterating that saying he felt the entire coal industry was “on the ropes.”

Next, Eric de Place took the podium and talked about the different types of fossil fuels now in play: fracked oil from North Dakota (aka Bakken shale oil), tar sands oil from Alberta, and natural gas from British Columbia – all with different viscosities, combustibility and environmental hazards. Then Eric dropped a bomb that 17% of the gas in our cars comes from tar sands. I can see where this is going…can’t you? Now, we’ll need to be energy locavores too! Know what is going in your gas tank, home and office. My head is spinning.

Why is Seattle slated to be overrun by oil trains? We, along with California and parts of British Columbia stand between large fossil fuel deposits and “energy-hungery” Asian markets. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »