Re-Doogal’s gets go-ahead

Saying that the proposed “Re-Doogals” mixed-use project will be better for the environment than the existing parking lot, hearing examiner Robin Baker upheld the city’s go-ahead for that development.

Unless further appealed, the decision means that the Magnano family of Bainbridge Island and Seattle can go ahead with the multi-building project on the now-vacant lot at the corner of Winslow Way and Ericksen Avenue.

“We’re very pleased with the decision,” said Jim Magnano, one of the owners. Project manager Bror Elmquist said that once the 21-day appeal period passed, he would begin the process of obtaining building permits, and said that work could begin this summer.

Magnano said no decision has been made about when work will actually begin.

“We’ll be meeting with the whole team soon, looking at the market situation and the financing, and hopefully coming to a decision that will benefit everyone,” he said.

The Friends of the Ravine group headed by Sheila Crofut had appealed the project, claiming that the 40-foot margin between the buildings and the Winslow Ravine to the east was too small.

Baker’s decision, though, said that a 40-foot spacing would be an improvement over the present situation, where an asphalt parking lot comes to within five feet of the ravine’s edge.

“Because of (the parking lot), the present designated stream buffer does not provide the protections for the stream intended by the stream buffer requirement,” Baker wrote. “This project will restore 40 feet of the required buffer area and revegetate that buffer with native plantings to restore function and value to that area.”

Crofut did not return a call seeking comment. Elmquist said Crofut recently told him that she did not plan to pursue the matter further if Baker ruled against the Friends.

The three-quarter-acre L-shaped lot has been used as a parking lot since the summer of 2000, when the 50-plus-year-old building on the site was demolished. The building housed a number of restaurants over the years, most recently the Doogal’s restaurant and bar, which closed in late 1999. The project, designed by Bainbridge architects Charles Wenzlau and Frank Karreman, calls for nine condominium residences and 15,000 square feet of retail and office space grouped around a central courtyard.

Retail space will predominate along Winslow Way, with office and residential use dominating farther north. The three-story height along Winslow will also be reduced farther north, so that the project will better blend into the historic neighborhood on Ericksen Avenue.

Parking will be underground in a 52-car garage. The city at one point required 64 spaces, but ultimately agreed to construction of the smaller parking garage and a contribution from the developers to “purchase” 10 off-site spaces.

Error margin

The issue that led to the appeal was the required margin between the ravine and the edge of the closest building. The city code calls for 65 feet. But the Magnanos asked for a reduction to 40 feet, claiming that without such a reduction, they could not make the project large enough to justify the cost of installing underground parking, and would have to keep the present lot.

Ultimately, the city granted the requested reduction, leading to the appeal.

In the appeal, the Friends argued that the 65-foot margin was necessary to protect the ravine’s environment, and that the city should not have granted the discretionary reduction.

While the Magnanos’ experts said that a 40-foot margin would be environmentally adequate, the crux of the dispute was about the proper baseline against which to measure environmental impact.

While the Friends focused on the impact of the project in the abstract, the Magnanos and ultimately the hearing examiner focused on the difference between the project and the current parking lot, which the Magnanos are entitled to keep.

Looked at that way, the hearing examiner saw the choice as an easy one.

“The present undeveloped stream buffer on the project site measures only five feet in width, this proposal will expand the buffer to 40 feet in width,” Baker wrote. “The buffer area is now devoid of vegetation, but will be revegetated with native plantings after the asphalt is removed.”

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