Community members of Bainbridge Island have recently come together in solidarity and opposition to the Visconsi development at the corner of High School Road and 305, directly across from Ace Hardware. The forest will be clear-cut and the land developed into yet another shopping center, equipped with yet another franchise drug store, medical building, and plenty of room for restaurants and retail. You may think to yourself, “Wait, there’s already one cattycorner to this, right across the street!” And you’d be right. Which is why, right now, and every evening from 5-7, local protestors will line the sidewalks, wielding signs that read “NO MALL SPRAWL,” “Bring Real Business,” and “Do we need more empty retail?”

While this current struggle is not new to the island, local and state-wide media have revived the story thanks to 19-year-old activist Chiara D’Angelo’s tree sit, rigged 70 feet high in a Douglas Fir. With eyes on Bainbridge Island, organizations such as Environmental Bainbridge and Islanders for Responsible Development are feverishly organizing participatory action to protest the environmental destruction and boycott the soon-to-be 62,000-square-foot shopping center.

In April of 2013, Visconsi, an Ohio-based company, filed an application for land development of forestland that provides vital habitat to many species and is a part of protected wetland. The application included a tree removal permit, which would validate the clear-cutting of 830 trees. One month later, the group Environmental Bainbridge formed, and began grassroots organization within the community to protect this space and promote local businesses over monopolistic franchises.

Months later, in November of 2013, the COBI (City of Bainbridge Island) Planning Commission announced absolutely “no support” for the development whatsoever. Simultaneously, citizens voiced unanimous opposition in public and private meetings. According to Environment Bainbridge, the development is out of scale in location and zoning, violates COBI environmental goals, makes no attempt at saving native trees, misclassifies adjacent wetland, and is not consistent with the island’s comprehensive plan, despite the lead architect’s initial assurance. Furthermore, the development is in direct violation of COBI Municipal Code 19.06.040 A., stating, “The purpose of the High School Road zones is to provide commercial uses that complement downtown Winslow.” I’ll repeat: “complements downtown Winslow”—not competes with!

The cherry on top for many islanders—aside from the aforementioned environmental and economic impacts—is the increase in traffic, particularly for those living in neighborhoods connected or close to the new development. Not only will this have an adverse effect on the island’s goal of a reduced carbon footprint, but will act as a bottleneck for the only gateway to and from the ferry, potentially causing commuter issues.

Unfortunately, the trees have fallen, the land is scarred, and development is underway. The city heard its people urge against this development and succumbed to the forces of mega-capital. This is not deterring local activists, who continue to protest, rally, write letters, make phone calls to key opposition figures, canvas neighborhoods, and engage the community by setting a goal to tell 10 other people about the logistics of the development. Many islanders have also declared a seven-year commitment to boycott all businesses in the development, and urge others to do the same. Visit the website of Environmental Bainbridge to learn more about this local issue and take action.

Buy Nothing, Bainbridge!

August 13th, 2014


Never have I lived in such a giving community. While working a shift at Pegasus Coffee House, a customer overheard that I missed out on a coffee grinder during the Rotary Auction and surprised me by bringing an extra one that she had at home a week later! Such kindness does not go unnoticed, or un-circulated. In fact, Bainbridge Island has an entire community of givers who are actively relinquishing old items to neighbors in need, or receiving items that they have a specific need for.

The project, called Buy Nothing Bainbridge, promotes random acts of kindness, all day long. With the perfect balance of technology and community, the Buy Nothing Project began a Facebook group within which members of their community could post a “give” or an “ask.” The most difficult part of the process is deciding which member to give or receive from, as so many folks are offering to help. This amazing service enables communities to commit acts of daily good together, and creates an opportunity for more introverted community members who do less socializing to create new bonds over shared interests and get to know the people living around them!

There have been many innovative ways in which the Buy Nothing Project has been utilized. Buy Nothing weddings and birthdays are a growing trend; the goal is to spend next to nothing on an event that typically costs many hundreds or thousands of dollars, and still have a beautiful, unique, and cherished day made even more special because of its incredible community support.

I have both seen and experienced many acts of kindness through this forum, particularly for folks who haven’t the money to purchase things they may want or need for their household that many, more fortunate individuals may have stacked in the garage. I received a free bed. My roommate received a free tent, and a DVD/VCR player was donated to our household! The also reduces waste, offering ways to rid your household of unwanted items that may otherwise end up in the trash, such as old binders, folders, plastic children’s toys, construction material, etc.

The Buy Nothing Project can also be quite miraculous. Often, members of the community will offer something of great value in a raffle style drawing. “Pick a number between 1 and 1000,” the caption might read, and the winner receives an espresso machine, pair of skis, lawn mower, or home cooked meal! Artists will donate beautiful pieces worth hundreds of dollars. Photographers will offer sessions for free on a weekend. Special services will be offered, such as dinner on a beautiful piece of farmland, a sailboat ride, massages, lessons of any kind—truly, the list goes on. Anything and everything that could be given, offered, needed, or wanted can be found through this project.

Other examples of ways you can participate by donating or requesting: clothing, household decorations, holiday decorations, tutoring, baby supplies, children’s toys, athletic training, books, outdoor gear, furniture, appliances, art, music, and, the best part: food! Prepared foods or farm fresh foods are often offered, as many individuals will have extra eggs from their personal coop, too many loaves of fresh bread, an over sized kombucha SCOBY that can be divvied out, tomatoes coming out of their ears, or a heaping pile of compost that’s just gotten a little too big.

To participate, type “Buy Nothing Bainbridge” in the search bar on Facebook and request to join. Once you’ve been accepted into the group (which is filtered simply to assure that members are within the community) scroll through new and old posts to get the vibe and see how members communicate. There are other Buy Nothing Projects, including one in Kitsap County. If you tell a friend about the project and they adore the idea, urge them to start one in their own community, too, by visiting and spearheading the newest and greatest thing to happen to communities in a very long time!