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Bainbridge planning commission to further discuss controversial Visconsi development

Talk on a proposed retail and commercial development at the corner of Highway 305 and High School Road continues for the Bainbridge Island Planning Commission.

The commission will meet for the fourth time to discuss the proposed project, also known as the Visconsi development, on Thursday, Nov. 14. This meeting, however, will begin with an executive session at 6 p.m. that's closed to the public.

"I believe this is the largest land-use review in quite a few years, and, as I'm sure you're aware, it has attracted a lot of attention," said Planning Commission Chairman Michael Lewars.

"It's complex and we need to give it sufficient time before we move to a recommendation," he said.

During the closed-door executive session, Lewars explained that the commission will meet with city staff and the city attorney to discuss the legal necessities and flexibilities of a potential conditional agreement.

"In my mind, it is to make sure all the commissioners understand the rules of the road, so to speak," Lewars said.

Commissioners first learned details about the development in late September. They have since held a public hearing and a follow-up meeting.

In the meetings and hearing, Lewars said that they have heard from a lot of different entities with questions and concerns — from staff to developers to concerned citizens.

Visconsi, an Ohio-based company, has proposed constructing a seven-building complex on 8.16 acres near the busy intersection, across from the McDonald's restaurant.

The development would include retail space including a drug store and health care facilities. The 61,890-square-foot development would also have 248 parking spaces and would be accessed via High School Road.

Just before the commission's public hearing on the project, city planners issued a report asking the commission to approve the site plan and conditional use permit of the project.

In the report, staff said that the project was a good fit with the city's zoning, regulations and comprehensive plan.

However, members of Islanders for Responsible Development and other citizens have said the development is redundant and will negatively impact other businesses on the island, will likely increase traffic in a normally quiet area, and that the amount of trees that would be cut down for the construction does not fit with the vision of the Bainbridge Island Comprehensive Plan.

Lewars said that some commission members have spoken on these concerns.

Nonetheless, the hope is that the issue will be resolved by the next planning commission meeting.

"Certainly my desire is that we will reach a recommendation at this next meeting," Lewars said. "We have other things on our list that are piling up, so we need to wrap this one up."

Once the commission makes a recommendation, the development plan will move on to the city's hearing examiner for a final decision.

The Planning Commission will meet from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14 at city hall to conduct a site plan review of the Visconsi development.

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