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Sakai Lakes takes root
"With one large-scale apartment project facing significant delays, another nearby is winding its way through the city approval process. And like the Village Square that's now on hold, the Village at Sakai Lakes project is raising general concerns about more traffic on already-busy streets.The 140-unit apartment project is planned for the 18.47-acre Sakai tract across Madison Avenue from Ordway Elementary School. The developer is island native and local real estate agent Doug Nelson, whose 27-home Woodland Village subdivision received preliminary city council approval last week after three years of review and appeals.These are going to be middle-end apartments, Nelson said of the Sakai Lakes development. Hardly any of the city employees or school teachers live on the island, and we need them to maintain economic vitality. We keep saying we don't want Bainbridge to be Mercer Island, but to keep that from happening, we need to be more well-rounded economically.Nelson said he anticipates the units would see rents similar to those at the Island Homestead Apartments, in the $700 to $1,300 per month range, depending on size. Island Homestead, north of Wyatt Way between Madison and Ericksen avenues, is the newest apartment complex on the island, constructed in the mid-1980s.There's a huge demand for apartments, Nelson said. The last time I checked, there were five vacancies.Nelson proposes to build the project in two phases. The first, on the northerly portion of the property, would consist of 100 apartments. The latter phase would add 40 more units. Both phases would sit on the west edge of the property, now a field, avoiding a wetland area closer to Highway 305.Nelson says that roughly half of the units would have two bedrooms, with the other half divided more or less equally between one-bedroom and three-bedroom units.The proposal is currently under city review, awaiting a planning department determination as to whether an environmental impact statement will be required.The objection raised in the slim file of public comment so far is traffic. Nelson's own application documents estimate that the project will generate 1,400 vehicle trips per day.And several of those commenting have questioned whether area roads can handle that volume, particularly the busy intersection of Madison Avenue and High School Road.The correspondents all have asked that an environmental impact statement be required.That's a terrible intersection right now, said Lois Andrus, a resident of Ferncliff Avenue and one of those to commented on the project so far.I thought that under growth management, we were supposed to have the infrastructure in place to handle the growth when it came, Andrus said. But we seem to be going the other way around.But city engineer Jeff Jensen said the proposal fits the Bainbridge Island Comprehensive Plan, even with respect to traffic. Jensen said that as part of the decision to concentrate growth in Winslow, the plan recognizes that traffic will increase in the area.The comp-plan calls for service-level 'E' at the Madison-High School intersection, which is one step above gridlock, Jensen said. Most of the northern part of Madison is supposed to be level 'C.' Except for a couple of hours a day, Madison right now is at (the comparatively low traffic) 'A' or 'B' level. The A-F level of service scale is used as a measure of traffic congestion on roadways, comparing the number of cars to road capacity in a given time period. Nelson said that as part of the project, he would add sidewalks and bike lanes along Madison Avenue, similar to those now in place in front of St. Cecilia Catholic Church. He said he would also add crosswalks as necessary for the three school buildings across the street.In her comments, Andrus also invoked the Comprehensive Plan goal that half of the island's future growth should occur in historic Winslow, suggesting that Sakai Lakes would put growth outside that boundary.Apartments should be within walking distance of the ferry, Andrus said.But on that point, city planners disagree. The Sakai property was inside the boundaries of Winslow when that city gave way to the all-island city in 1991, according to long-range planner Marti Stave. It is, Stave said, also within the study area defined in the Winslow Master Plan as the growth-receiving area.Last week, the Bainbridge Island Planning Commission deferred consideration of the nearby Village Square, a 90-unit apartment project south of High School Road. The Bainbridge Fire Department conditioned approval of that project on the connection of Ericksen Avenue and Hildebrand Lane, which the Winslow Master Plan says can be done only after a traffic study.The fire department has no comparable concerns about the Sakai project.It's pretty straightforward, fire department inspector Earl Davis said. Nelson said that of the six letters opposing the Sakai Lakes project, five have come from people who actively opposed the controversial Woodland Village. The project immediately to the north of me, Madison Glen, didn't receive a single adverse comment, Nelson said. So sometimes I do wonder if they've picked me as the guy they're going to follow around."