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Winery heading north; hillside project planned

By this time next year, the Bainbridge Island Winery will be out of its downtown site off of Highway 305, a move its owners say is prompted by rising taxes and static income.

Assuming the city grants the appropriate permits, though, the winery will continue operating at a new site on Day Road East, where most of its grapes are currently grown.

In its place downtown, local developer Bill Carruthers is planning what his architect calls “an Italian hill town,” with townhomes, condominiums and cottages “cascading down the slope” on the three-acre site.

Winery owner Gerard Bentryn said the decision to consolidate operations at Day Road came about after the tax assessments tripled at his Winslow property.

“That’s when Carruthers and (architect) Peter O’Connor came to me and asked if we were ready to sell,” Bentryn said. “I told them, ‘emotionally no, but practically, we don’t have much choice.’”

Bentryn said he expects to be out of the Winslow facility by February.

In order to produce wine next season, he will need to rebuild the winery and showroom on the 20-plus-acre site next to the Suyematsu farm.

But that plan depends on cooperation from the city, he said. While the Day Road zoning would permit the building he needs, it would not permit retail sales – and, he says, those sales are necessary for the winery to survive.

“We have approached the city about a farm overlay district that would allow agriculture to perform value-added processing and sell their products,” Bentryn said. “While the city seems supportive, it always seems like number three on their list of priorities, and they never quite get through the first two.”

O’Connor said the plan for the winery site takes into account its geographic separation from the rest of Winslow.

“With the ravine on two sides, the highway on a third and (John Nelson Park) on the other, it’s an anomaly, because it doesn’t have a downtown feel,” he said. “We are trying to create a little village there.”

In addition to the 39 residential units, ranging in size from 800 to 1,660 square feet, O’Connor said the plan envisions a three-room bed-and-breakfast and a small bistro for project residents.

“It will be kind of a mini-Starbucks,” he said, “someplace where you can get a cup of coffee in the morning and maybe a sandwich during the day, and where residents could hold their own Thanksgiving dinner if they didn’t have enough room in their house.”

O’Connor said the site is constrained by required buffers around its perimeter.

“They take up more than half the land,” he said.

Although the highway will remain the only road access to the project, developers hope to develop a trail that will link the property to the ferry.

“We think this will appeal to retired people who want something easy to care for, to commuters, and to singles and young couples who want a better place to live than Seattle,” O’Connor said. “I might be surprised, but I wouldn’t expect a lot of children.”

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