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Woman’s body found in sound -- News Roundup

Authorities have yet to determine the identity of a woman whose body was found floating in Agate Passage Saturday morning.

Neighbors with a dinghy recovered the body after spotting it from shore around 9 a.m.

The body showed no trauma besides bruising that would be consistent with a fall, and an autopsy showed the cause of death to be drowning, Bainbridge Police Detective Scott Anderson said.

The woman was estimated to be in her 30s or early 40s, with reddish brown hair and a fair complexion, approximately 5-foot-9 with a thin build.

She was wearing ankle-high leather moccasins with tire-tread soles, worn blue-jeans and a blue down-filled jacket.

The body is believed to have been in the water eight hours or less. Because of tides, it may have drifted in from King or Snohomish counties, Anderson said.

– Douglas Crist

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***High School project OK’d

A city hearing examiner has given a qualified green light to a proposed apartment-hotel complex on High School Road.

In a ruling issued Monday, examiner Robin Baker rejected citizen objections based on traffic and noise impacts, but also said that modifications to High School Road still must to be finalized.

Residents of the nearby Virginia Villa senior citizen complex and other activists challenged the city’s approval of the complex, between American Marine Bank and the Texaco station.

“Obviously we’re disappointed,” said Vince Mattson of the Murden Cover Preservation Association, one of the appellants. “We’re certainly looking at the idea of appealing it (to Superior Court), but we haven’t made any decision yet.”

Developer Base Capital of Bellevue plans to build 60 apartments, a 51-unit “extended-stay” hotel and 2,100 square feet of retail space on the three-acre site.

The two buildings would be among the tallest on the island. Zoning for the area allows buildings of as high as 45 feet when underground parking is provided.

Appellants said runoff from the project could endanger a wetland on the northern portion of the property, and argued that the construction noise could disturb wildlife in the area.

Baker ruled that the changes wrought by the project would be relatively minimal, and had been adequately considered by former planning chief Stephanie Warren when she OK’d the project.

The most serious argument involved traffic, particularly at the intersection of High School Road and the highway. The appellants claimed that the city had failed to consider the cumulative effect of a number of projects in the area, but Baker said that by estimating a 3 percent annual increase – significantly greater than estimated population increases – the city had, in effect, considered the development in the area.

Even without an appeal, the project may not be in the clear. To mitigate the increased traffic, the city had told the developers to reconfigure High School Road to permit both the eastbound left and center lanes to make left turns at the highway, to alleviate the sometimes long line of cars there.

But the state Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the highway and its intersections, demanded additional measures, including extending the double-lane portion of the highway north from High School Road.

Baker said that if the state will not permit a double-left-turn lane, the city will have to develop a different mitigation measure to maintain the current level of service.

Mattson said, though, that Baker’s ruling failed to recognize that the state Department of Transportation has the final say over changes at the intersection.

“There is a question as to why she didn’t say that the state had to approve any alternative design,” Mattson said. “That does not seem to be consistent.”

Mattson said he was most disappointed that the examiner “ignored” the two days of testimony from the state engineer.

“The Department of Transportation made some good points, but that was completely ignored in her findings,” he said.

Base Capital officials said they will begin getting their final building permits next month.

“That’s a process that take some time. I don’t think we’ll be breaking ground for another 120 days,” said Base Capital managing member Tom Wick. “But we want to build a good project out there, and we’re about ready to get rolling.”

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***Driver rams school bus

No injuries were reported when a motorist ran into the side of a passing school bus on New Sweden Avenue Monday afternoon.

Police say a Bainbridge woman was behind the wheel of an older Dodge van that sped into the roadway from a private drive in the 5100 block of New Sweden.

The van’s engine was stuck at a high RPM and the vehicle could not be stopped with the brakes, police determined.

It took the efforts of a tow operator to pry the two vehicles apart.

Fifteen students ranging in age from 12-16 on the bus escaped injury. No citations were issued.

– Douglas Crist

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