Blossom Hill: it’s not as big as it could be

A sketch of proposed commercial properties (left) along Pleasant Beach Drive in Lynwood Center. - Courtesy of Wenzlau Architects
A sketch of proposed commercial properties (left) along Pleasant Beach Drive in Lynwood Center.
— image credit: Courtesy of Wenzlau Architects

Lynwood Center development will impact water, trees, traffic, neighbors say.

As Lynwood Center poises itself for substantial new growth, so grow concerns over the changing character of the small crossroads community.

“This is a big deal,” said Charlie Wenzlau at a community meeting Tuesday to discuss the 16-acre “Blossom Hill” development he is designing for local builder Bill Nelson on the hillside east of Lynwood Center Road. “It’s important we get this done right.”

By the turnout – about 65 residents attended the meeting – and the tone of the conversation, many of the development’s neighbors agree.

They peppered Wenzlau for nearly two hours on a range of issues, including how the residential and commercial project will affect water quality, tree preservation, housing prices, traffic and the aesthetics of the neighborhood.

There’s no question the planned development will be big – 80 new homes will creep up the hill, while 1,300 square feet of commercial space will line the road across from the Lynwood Theater – but Wenzlau urged residents to see the project as a carefully orchestrated effort that reflects local values.

“We’d love to see Lynwood flourish and become more inviting,” Wenzlau said.

“We don’t look at this as a development, but as (a way) to create a neighborhood.”

The project won’t reach even half of Lynwood’s zoning capacity.

The 54 acres surrounding the Lynwood Center/Point White Drive intersection will accommodate about 211 new residential units over time, according to city planners.

Most of Blossom Hill’s homes are planned as stand-alone, single-family residences ranging from 1,600 to 2,200 square feet. The project’s plans include open spaces for use by the surrounding community, the preservation of some significant trees, landscaped features that encourage foot traffic and a design plan that complements the Tudor stylings of the existing retail center, which dates to the 1930s.

Some residents commended Wenzlau and Nelson for these efforts.

“This makes it desirable,” said Bluff Lane resident Michael Closser. “There’s a value to a comprehensive approach and planning is a tremendous benefit. I thank you for your efforts and your financial commitments.”

Another resident, who lives a block away from the development but declined to giver her name, said Wenzlau’s preliminary design sketches eased many of her concerns.

“I like the way it looks,” she said. “I’m all in favor of it as a mixed-use, residential and commercial community.”

No matter how the the development is laid out, more people could mean more problems, others said.

“This whole area is hard pan, (with) a limited amount of aquifer recharge,” said Blakely Heights resident Ross Abbott, expressing concerns over the area’s water supply. “You may dry up the pumps in the area.”

Abbott turned his questioning toward Kathy and Maury Blossom, who run the South Bainbridge Water System.

“What are you going to do about the water when all this comes in?” Abbott asked.

Kathy Blossom assured residents that “there is more than enough water to serve the project.”

When residents questioned the basis for this statement, Blossom said the supply estimates were confirmed by the state Department of Ecology and the Kitsap County Health District.

“Water on Bainbridge, in the future, is an issue,” she said. “But right now, we have water for the project.”

Wenzlau said he and Nelson will work with geotechnical engineers and the city to craft systems that recharge nearby wetlands and underground aquifers.

Others expressed worry that the new homes would reduce the number of trees on the wooded hillside.

“There’s beautiful trees there,” said Andy Murphy, who lives in Blakely Heights above the planned development. “If the trees go, it’s a criminal offense.”

Wenzlau said his plans aim to keep some of the larger trees, but much of the area’s vegetation would have to go.

“We can’t keep it all,” he said. “It would be impossible.”

Residents also asked what impact more automobiles would have on traffic congestion, speeding and parking.

Wenzlau said he’d have these answers once a traffic study is completed in the next two months.

“Traffic calming” measures are in the works, including on-street parking outside the new commercial space, which could slow traffic near the intersection of Lynwood Center Road and Pleasant Beach Drive. The Blossom Hill development may include underground parking and surface parking hidden by trees.

“Our goal is to hide it and make parking less obtrusive,” he said.

Questions about prices for the new homes and the incorporation of affordable housing into the development would also be answered in the future, Wenzlau said.

“There’s no prices set,” he said. “But it’s not going to be mega-houses.”

Wenzlau said the city’s redraft of its affordable housing ordinance clouds how much of the new development would serve lower-income residents. Under previous rules, about 10 percent of the development would be designated as affordable housing, he added.

Wenzlau asked residents to stay engaged in the project’s planning process as it goes through various site tests over the next two months and the city’s approval process, which will include opportunities for community input. He predicts Blossom Hill’s master plan will reach the city’s Planning Commission for approval in four to six months.

“For a lot of you I know this is a pretty scary deal,” he said. “Some are wondering what’s happening here and ‘Is this legal?’ This is our opportunity to work together with you.”

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