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Business park plan moving forward
"The expansion of the light manufacturing district on Day Road is one step closer, earning the city's preliminary nod for the plan's environmental impacts.But with neighbors mobilizing in opposition, final approval is not foregone.The question of whether that property is going to be used for light manufacturing is not really an issue now, because it was settled during the Comprehensive Plan process, associate city planner Debbie Randall said. They can't have houses up there - it's not zoned for it.The only question now is whether they can mitigate the environmental impacts of that development.The 35-acre site sits on the north side of Day Road West, across from an existing industrial park, between Manzanita Park on the west and the NET Systems facility on the east. At its northeastern edge, the site borders Highway 305.The Bainbridge Island Comprehensive Plan identifies the tract as being suitable for light manufacturing - that is, non-polluting fabrication or warehousing operations. In 1997, the land was rezoned for that use, but with a catch.The tract encompasses land owned by four different entities. And when the land was rezoned, the city council required the owners to develop one master plan for the entire property, rather than submitting separate plans.It was a trade-off, said Kevin O'Brien of Bainbridge Island, lessee of one of the four parcels. The city council actually sponsored the rezoning. But they said the owners have to come in together rather than separately.The unified plan, submitted by Development Services, Inc. of Mercer Island and Parametrix of Bremerton, calls for a total of 21 one- and two-story buildings containing just over 300,000 square feet of space, and over 700 parking spaces.The plan calls for vegetation buffers along Highway 305 and Day Road. Some 30 percent of the site will remain undeveloped, according to the application.The exact timing of construction, size of the buildings and possible tenants are all undecided at this point, according to Ken Clark of Development Services.The master-plan application is a unique requirement imposed by the planning department, Clark said. But other than the application, the owners are not working together.The different owners have different plans, O'Brien said. The eight buildings planned for the 15-acre parcel he and Al Classens control will consist principally of what he calls incubator space.As home-based businesses get more successful, they need more space, he said. But right now, there's no place for them to go on Bainbridge.The Comprehensive Plan calls for expansion of the light-manufacturing district as a way to attract and retain family-wage jobs that provide the possibility of living and working in the community. The 35-acre Day Road tract was specifically identified as the site for that expansion.City planners believe the environmental impacts can be sufficiently minimized. On May 20, planning Director Stephanie Warren issued a mitigated determination of nonsignificance, saying in effect that if the developers take prescribed steps, environmental detriment can be held to acceptable levels, and that no environmental impact statement would be required.One mitigation measure deals with storm-water runoff, one of the more hotly contested issues. The city is requiring the developers to pay for a third-party consultant who will be hired by the city, and who will monitor both the design and the effectiveness of the water-quality and water-discharge plans.We don't want to flood Manzanita Creek either, O'Brien said. We agreed to the condition requiring an independent consultant, which is more stringent than most developments, and we want to make sure our systems work.But the neighbors want more specific answers, sooner rather than later. (The city's decision) leaves a lot of loose ends, said Sandra Burke of the Manzanita Neighborhood Association. We will be filing an appeal.She said the area overlies the island's largest aquifer, contains wetlands, and drains into Manzanita Creek, a restored salmon stream. She also noted the traffic congestion at the intersection of Highway 305 and Day Road.That's such a sensitive area, she said. If development there doesn't require an environmental impact statement, what does?The city's preliminary decision is open for public comment until June 5, and the decision may be appealed until June 12. After the comment and appeal periods close, a public hearing will take place before the planning commission.Based on written comments and those made at the hearing, and on staff responses to the comments, the planning commission will make a recommendation to Warren, who will then make a final decision, which can be appealed to the city council.Possible decisions range from approval of the project with the conditions imposed; modification of the conditions; requiring preparation of a full environmental impact statement; or disapproval of the project.This is where the rubber meets the road, Randall said. The approval is not cast in concrete. We will invite comment, consider and respond to it, and then make the final decision. "