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Public input sought on Ericksen/HildebrandOpponents are wasting no time organizing.

"The public will get its first chance Tuesday to comment on the proposed connection of Ericksen Avenue and Hildebrand Lane.And the comments are expected to be numerous and heated, because the issue appears to be a flash point in the ongoing debate about growth and change on the island.This is the first step toward installing a freeway between High School Road and the waterfront, said Sheila Crofut, who has drafted an objection on behalf of Friends of the Ravine.Crofut and her group are opposed to the possible reduction of a buffer between the Winslow ravine and a development planned on the old Doogals property at Ericksen/Winslow Way.The developers have asked the city to reduce the required buffer from 50 feet to 25 feet. The Friends group contends that the city has promised that variance in return for five feet of property alongside Ericksen. And they believe the city's request for that five-foot strip is tied to the Hildebrand-Ericksen opening.City officials and the developer counter that the ravine group is linking separate issues.City Engineer Jeff Jensen said the five-foot strip is needed to accommodate sidewalks and bicycle lanes, and would be required whether or not Ericksen is opened through to Hildebrand.They have applied for a buffer-width reduction, but no promises have been made, and no decision has been reached, said city Planning Director Stephanie Warren. Bror Elmqust, construction manager for the family trying to develop the Doogal's site, said that even if the city rescinds its request for the Ericksen strip, he would still be seeking a buffer reduction.Crofut said her group would make their arguments at Tuesday's meeting, 7-9 p.m. April 3 in the council chambers at city hall.Pull the plug?The meeting is part of the information-gathering process in a traffic study to determine whether to remove the plug, a pocket park that keeps the two streets separate.I think the consultant will come to the meeting with some preliminary information so that he can answer some questions, Jensen said. As of Friday, none of that information was available.The study is looking at traffic in the corridor between the highway and Grow Avenue on the west, and between High School Road and Winslow Way. The goal is to project what would happen to traffic in that area if the Ericksen-Hildebrand connection is opened, and if it is not.The fire department has been one of the chief proponents of joining the streets, providing another north-south link in the city's central corridor as use intensifies in the area.No fewer than 10 applications have been filed for development projects of various size along or immediately adjacent to the Ericksen-Hildebrand corridor. Whether or not the link is opened, Jensen said that improvements have to be made to Ericksen.It's a major pedestrian route, he said, but it's kind of dangerous and uncomfortable to walk on because there is only a little narrow strip on the east side of the street. "

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