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Ferries nearly collide in fog -- News Roundup

The commercial portion of the Madison Square project, as seen from Madison Avenue. Residences would be arrayed at the rear. - Courtesy of Charles Wenzlau Architects
The commercial portion of the Madison Square project, as seen from Madison Avenue. Residences would be arrayed at the rear.
— image credit: Courtesy of Charles Wenzlau Architects

Patchy fog on Thursday morning forced a number of vessels out of their normal traffic pattern on Puget Sound.

In the course of making those adjustments, the Bainbridge-bound ferry Tacoma and the Seattle-bound Hyak sailing out of Bremerton found themselves on exactly the same course, heading directly for each other.

Both took evasive action by reversing their motors and altering courses. The boats came to a stop some 1,200 feet away from each other.

“It wasn’t what you would call a near miss, because they were four football fields apart, and ferries pass closer than that all the time,” said WSF spokesperson Susan Harris-Huether. “What was unusual was that they were coming head-on instead of in an obvious passing situation.”

The incident occurred in the middle of Elliott Bay, Harris-Huether said, and did not impact the sailing schedules.

“We’re concerned about how it occurred,” she said, adding that an investigation is under way.

Visibility at the site of the incident was roughly half a mile, she said, making the situation clearly noticeable to passengers.

“Anything out of normalcy frightens people,” she said, “and passengers were clearly aware that the boats were stopping.

“One woman on the Hyak thought that the boat was already in the dock in Seattle.”

– John Waldo

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***Critical week for sewer plan

After four-plus years of preparatory work, a plan that could bring sewer service to four south-end neighborhoods enters the final stretch next week with two legally required meetings that could go a long way to resolving the controversial issue.

First up is a formal hearing before the Bainbridge City Council on a Local Improvement District (LID) encompassing Emerald Heights, Rockaway Beach, the Point White Waterfront and upper Pleasant Beach, together with Blakely Elementary School.

Residents of those neighborhoods have complained that poor subsurface conditions, small lots and proximity to Puget Sound have led to widespread septic-system failures.

Notices have been sent to all property owners with the LID boundaries informing them of Monday’s meeting, city officials said. The meeting will be from 7-9 p.m. Oct. 6 in the council chambers.

Then on Oct. 8 at its regular meeting, the City Council will consider whether to form the LID.

If approved, the sewer construction will be paid for from a state loan with a one-half percent interest rate, to which the city will add a one-half percent handling charge.

Properties within the LID will be obligated to repay the loan over 20 years, and may do so either up front or in annual installments.

All properties within the LID boundaries will be charged for the cost of running the sewer line to the area, but may defer the cost of hooking their home into the system.

Forming the LID will trigger a 30-day protest period. If 60 percent of the owners protest, the neighborhood must be dropped from the LID. The council could elect to set a higher threshold, and rescind the LID resolution on the basis of protests by fewer than 60 percent.

– John Waldo

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***Windermere plans building

Bainbridge Windermere Real Estate office owner Jim Laws has applied for permits to develop a mixed-use complex on the east side of Madison Avenue south of Wallace Way.

The “Madison Square” project would see a two-story office building fronting on Madison Avenue, with eight residences in two-story structures around a central courtyard to the rear.

“We’ve designed some really fun (residences) in back – flats, townhomes and carriage houses,” Laws said.

Architect is Charles Wenzlau, and the general contractor will be MRJ Constructors.

The one-acre lot is currently occupied by a small single-family home, which will be removed.

The project has received site-plan approval from the Planning Commission and recently received a determination of environmental non-significance from the city planning department.

Assuming timely issuance of building permits, Laws said construction will begin in late winter, and the buildings should be ready for occupancy by the end of 2004.

In addition to the real estate office, the commercial building will also have ground-floor office/retail space available for lease.

Laws purchased the Windermere office from longtime owner Ed Kushner two years ago, but Kushner retained ownership of the building itself on south Madison.

The new building will give the Windermere office “a little more exposure,” Laws said.

– Douglas Crist

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***Trailer park funding nixed

Kitsap County this week turned down a request for grant money to help keep the Islander Mobile Home park on Bainbridge as a haven for moderate-income residents.

The county rejected a request for $1 million in Community Development Block Grant money from the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority, which wants to buy the park north and east of City Hall and preserve it as affordable housing.

The problem, apparently, was money – the county had less than $1 million to give away this year, and had numerous applicants other than KCCHA.

The agency received some good news, though, from the state’s Housing Trust Fund, which agreed to waive its $1.5 million limit on grant requests and process KCCHA’s $2 million application.

Longtime park owner Pat Adelman has agreed to sell the park to KCCHA for $5.1 million, estimated to be what developers would pay for the six-plus-acre parcel in downtown Winslow.

KCCHA spokesperson Sarah Lee said Friday the turndown was neither surprising nor a fatal blow.

“There is no specific deadline on when we need to come up with the money – the owner has just asked us to keep her informed,” Lee said. “Most of our projects take several years to finance. We’ll just keep going back until we get it done.”

– John Waldo

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