"Landing mired in planning, legal woes"
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:00 PM
"Neighborhood concerns ranging from traffic impacts to the dislocation of rats have prompted planning officials to take a fresh look at the proposed Winslow Landing development.Meanwhile, developer Gale Cool is seeking to postpone a foreclosure sale of the prime property, at least until his attorneys begin unsnarling the financial tangle left behind by Jason Lowe, the former owner.Cool bought the property, across Winslow Way from the ferry terminal, last August at a foreclosure sale after financial and personal difficulties forced the 25-year-old Lowe to throw in the towel. Cool plans a mixed-use project comprising some 280 dwelling units, 60,000 square feet of commercial space, including a restaurant and lounge, and underground parking, all surrounding an open plaza of at least an acre.The project has evolved since Lowe's initial proposal for 70 residences, a hotel and commercial space. And it is the degree of evolution that is driving the city's re-examination of the plan.We evaluated the comments we received during the comment period, planner Bob Sakai said this week. Based on those comments, we have asked for additional information, including a new environmental checklist, and updates to traffic, drainage and utility studies.The comment period elicited a laundry list of concerns from the neighbors. Virtually all of those who submitted comments expressed fear that the development would increase traffic in the area, particularly with the larger number of dwellings now being proposed.Loss of views and alterations of neighborhood character were also common themes, as were concerns about noise and traffic from the proposed restaurant.Perhaps the most unusual objection came from attorneys for adjoining landowner Beverly McConnell, who argued that the plan would require demolition of several dilapidated structures that are now said to be the home of many rats, and that this would force the rats onto adjacent properties.The ball is in the applicant's court, Sakai said. Once they respond, (Planning Director) Stephanie Warren will have to determine whether a new environmental determination will be needed. Then the whole matter will go before the planning commission at a public meeting.No meeting date has yet been set.Cool described the city's request for additional information as routine and not unexpected, and said the information should be provided within a couple of days.Cool said the project as designed is consistent in every way with the Winslow Master Plan, which calls for the highest density on Bainbridge Island in that area north of the ferry terminal.He also said that traffic impacts would be small relative to the number of residences.This will be the only place on Bainbridge Island, and one of the only places in Puget Sound, where you can live without a car, Cool said. The only thing that requires a conditional use is the restaurant, Cool said. Everything else is 100 per cent consistent with the master plan and with zoning. We don't think the city should delay issuing a permit.Meanwhile, in what Cool describes as a sideshow, two of Lowe's creditors, are making claims against the property, seeking to recoup money allegedly loaned to the former owner.The claimants include Havilah Associates, a limited partnership managed by Jason Lowe's mother, Susan Lowe, and Farzed Moazez. Havilah claims to be owed $556,250, while Moazez claims to be owed $475,000 in two separate notes.Foreclosure sales are set for June 16 and 23. Cool, through his attorneys, is asking Kitsap County Superior Court to issue an injunction postponing the sales until more of the facts can be sorted out.My client inherited the obligations, said James Santucci of Seattle, Cool's attorney. We need to figure out who owes what. We need to get testimony, and we can't find Lowe.But the notes themselves, and the circumstances surrounding their execution, create a number of questions, Cool and Santucci say.For example, Moazez claimed that he is owed some $75,000 in interest, according to a court declaration filed by Cool. But neither of Moazez's notes contain a provision that allows him to charge any interest whatsoever, Cool stated in that declaration.As for the money purportedly loaned to Lowe by his mother's limited partnership, Cool claims that the principal is not due until Dec. 31, 2001, and until that time, only interest payments of $1,700 per month are due.We need to explore the circumstances surrounding those notes, Santucci said. How much of the amounts claimed is valid? We just don't know at this point.A hearing on Cool's injunction application has been set for Friday morning.Court records last year showed that Lowe had borrowed almost $4.5 million against the property, which he purchased for one third of that amount. Low, now of Seattle, also faces a criminal charge of statutory rape arising out of an alleged relationship with a 15-year-old girl. Trial is pending in King County Superior Court. "