Comprehensive Plan


Under the state's Growth Management Act, all cities are mandated to establish Comprehensive Plans. These plans act as long-term guides to help each city balance growth with the need to sustain the environment. Bainbridge Island's first Comprehensive Plan, completed in 1994, was developed with the input of a citizen Comprehensive Planning Advisory Committee. The plan was updated in the winter of 2004 through a series of public meetings. The Comprehensive Plan is a living document. It serves as a blueprint for the island we envision for the future. The Plan is presently being updated with a due date for completion 2016. The City website for this update is under the title: Navigate Bainbridge which includes a video Comp Plan 101.



The Zoning Ordinance is supposed to be based on, and be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. Unfortunately the City has neglected to carry out this connection. This failure has resulted in the City’s decision to approve the application to build the Visconsi shopping center (at the NE corner of High School Road and Highway 305) since the reasons for denial relied on the policies and goals in the Comprehensive Plan -- which were never transferred into the Zoning ordinance. This problem was made clear by the fact that the Planning Commission had unanimously recommended denial of the project in 2013 based on policies in the Comprehensive Plan. The City rejected the Planning Commission’s recommendations, with the City Planning Director relying on the incomplete Zoning Code to convince the Hearing Examiner to follow her recommendation for approval of the development. Hence whatever the community decides for its future, it is important the goals and policies of the Comprehensive Plan are implemented in the Zoning Ordinance to give their desires the full force of law.


The ten elements of the Comprehensive Plan are presently (URLs below are pdf documents):

  1. Land use
  2. Water resources
  3. Environmental
  4. Capital facilities,
  5. Utilities,
  6. Transportation
  7. Housing,
  8. Human services,
  9. Cultural and
  10. Economic development

While all 10 elements are important, he first three elements are the most important for citizens interested in land use and preserving the environment.

In addition, the Winslow Master Plan is part of the Comprehensive Plan. It has sections on Land Use, Open Space and Trails

Presently the five overriding principles of the Plan are:

  • Preserve the special character of the Island
  • Protect fragile water resources
  • Foster diversity
  • Consider costs and benefits to property owners when making land use decisions
  • Promote sustainable development

As mentioned above, the Comprehensive Plan consists of Goals and Policies which must be implemented in the Zoning Ordinance. Shown below is an example of a Goal and Policies from the Framework of the Plan (Note: the three letters FRW are abbreviations which give some idea what the policies relate to, and where they can be found – but often this is not clear or easy to find.)


This Comprehensive Plan recognizes and affirms that, as an Island, the City has natural constraints based on the carrying capacity of its natural systems. The Plan strives to establish a development pattern that is consistent with the goals of the community and compatible with the Island’s natural systems.

FRW 3.1 (note: this is the policy)

Recognizing that the carrying capacity of the Island is not known, the citizens of Bainbridge Island should strive to conserve and protect its natural systems, within the parameters of existing data. Revisions to the Plan should be made as new information becomes available.

Discussion: The carrying capacity of Bainbridge Island is determined by many factors, including the supply of limited resources (particularly water), changes in patterns of consumption, and technological advances. This Plan acknowledges that, with current information, the carrying capacity of the Island is not known.

The City’s Home Page contains a search capability, but it requires some patience to use. Let’s take an example to find Policy NSC 1.5 which is the Rolling Bay Neighborhood Service Center (Page 24 of Land Use Element). Using the SEARCH box on the home page and entering "Rolling Bay” gave around 250 results in groups of 10. Searching for "NSC 1.5 " did find a Comp Plan request for a rezone, but nothing came up right away related to the Comprehensive Plan itself, probably since the list is ordered by date. In other words, you often have to go to the sections in the Comprehensive Plan which interest you rather than relying solely on the search tool. Also please note the section of the City’s web site on associated ordinances with the Comprehensive Plan. These often provide the reasoning (or lack thereof) for approving the goals and policies and found in the Comp Plan:

MAPS An important part of the Comprehensive Plan are the maps which are often overlooked.
For a list of maps go to The Official Zoning map has to be consistent with the Official Comprehensive Plan Map. Hence if a rezone is requested, it first must be changed on the Comprehensive Plan Map. Also the Shoreline Designations map shows the designations of the shorelines – which are different than the zoning of the properties on the shoreline.
The Watershed map shows the watershed boundaries and locations of streams. Additional maps are found in the Comp Plan document, which would be interesting if they weren’t impossible to read. These maps include environmental aspects such as slope stability, wetlands, fish occurrence, and eelgrass. Land use maps cover open space, wildlife and view corridors, and Lynwood special planning area. The Water Resources maps have sewer and water service areas and aquifer recharge areas.

QUESTIONS Go to Public Request tab. Xxxxxx or contact ABC