Bainbridge planners recommend approval of Visconsi shopping center: Staff says development fits with zoning, comp plan

A proposed retail and commercial development at the corner of Highway 305 and High School Road has gotten the seal of approval from Bainbridge Island city planners.

Visconsi, an Ohio-based company, has proposed constructing a seven-building complex on 8.16 acres near the busy intersection.

The development would include retail shops including a drug store, restaurants, professional services and health care facilities. The 61,890-square-foot development would also include 248 parking

spaces and would be accessed via High School Road.

In a staff report issued Thursday, Oct. 3, planning staff have asked the Bainbridge Island Planning Commission to approve the site plan and conditional use permit for the project.

The Planning Commission will review the site plan and permit application at its meeting Thursday, Oct. 10.

In their report, city staff said the proposed project is a good fit with the zoning of the land as well as city regulations and Bainbridge's comprehensive plan, the expansive document that guides development on the island.

The proposed development has been highly controversial, however.

The proposal spurred a citizens group in opposition to the development plan, called Islanders for Responsible Development.

The group is planning a meeting from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5 at Seabold Community Hall to get ready for the Planning Commission's review of the development next week.

Members of Islanders for Responsible Development, and other Bainbridge residents, have been very critical of the development plan.

Many have said the project will cause additional traffic troubles at the busy Highway 305-High School Road intersection, and have raised alarm about the number of trees that will be cut down for the shopping center. Others have cited potential impacts to nearby neighborhoods. And some have also said that additional commercial development is not needed on the island, and that the new businesses will compete with existing ones on Bainbridge.

In their 34-page report, city staff has said the project should go forward, but with 41 additional conditions that the development must meet.

Those conditions include such things as a multi-use trail for the community along Highway 305, hooded lights to reduce glare and light intrusion on neighboring properties, and four or more parking spaces for a shared-car program or electric vehicle charging station space.

The developer will also have to provide bicycle racks at each building in the development, and a new bus shelter on Highway 305.

A minimum of 40 trees per acre is also required, with the developer saving some trees from clearing or planting new ones.

Some islanders have asked the city to reject the proposed development because the new businesses are unwanted.

In the staff report, the planning department said that request was unreasonable.

"Many citizens who provided comment expressed concern that the city of Bainbridge Island does not need any additional commercial development," the report notes. "Some specifically opposed the development of an additional pharmacy or a bank. Several comments were that this development is not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and that the city should deny the project on that basis."

City planners noted, however, that the city could only verify that the proposed uses of the development fit with city regulations.

"The city must verify that proposed uses are allowed, but does not have the authority to dictate what type of retail or professional service will be permitted in a given development project," the report noted.

Officials also said that the design of the project was changed after input received from the city's Design Review Board.

The design of the bank building, and the proposed pharmacy, were both modified after Design Review Board meetings.

On the bank, the spandrel glass windows facing Highway 305 were eliminated and replaced with a vegetated lattice work. The roof and foundation was also changed.

The architecture of the proposed pharmacy was also changed by adding articulation, eliminating the spandrel glass and providing additional windows.

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