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Opponents planning boycott against Visconsi development

Opponents to the proposed shopping center on High School Road are planning to boycott any businesses that locate in the new development.

Activists are currently circulating a pledge to avoid patronizing stores or businesses in the retail center for up to seven years after it is constructed.

The commitment to stage a boycott came after several citizens met last week to discuss the city's decision to approve the development.

Visconsi, an Ohio-based developer, is moving forward with plans to build a nearly 62,000-square-foot shopping center on High School Road directly across from the Ace Hardware store.

The proposal includes space for retail, restaurants, professional services and health care facilities.

The proposal was strongly opposed by residents of the nearby Stonecrest neighborhood and others across Bainbridge, who said the commercial development would bring increased traffic and other problems to the High School Road-Highway 305 area. Opponents also said the new businesses were not needed and would compete with existing businesses on the island.

The project, however, was given the green light by city planning staff, who said the proposal fit with zoning and city regulations. Though it was later rejected by the planning commission, the city's hearing examiner agreed with city planners that the project did not violate city standards or regulations and approved the project in March.

Opponents considered launching a boycott after the hearing examiner's decision was issued, but talk of a boycott died down until last week's meeting.

The meeting was hosted by Ron Peltier of Islanders for Responsible Development, the grassroots group that appealed the environmental review for the Visconsi project and asked the hearing examiner to shoot down the plans for the new commercial center.

Now a group of activists, who have not yet officially taken a name for themselves but rallied together after the meeting, are distributing a written pledge calling for residents to speak out against any local contractor who partakes in the development.

The pledge states, "I wish to publicly declare my opposition, and to discourage anyone from being involved with this ill-conceived development. THEREFORE, I solemnly pledge that I will not patronize any business or commercial establishment located within said development for a period of no less than seven (7) years from this date. Further, I pledge to speak out against any local contractor that performs any role in building or maintaining the Key Bank/Visconsi Shopping Center."

The reasons for boycotting the development that are set out in the pledge focus on potential negative impacts on local traffic, wildlife and air quality.

"It will require the destruction of a natural woodland area that is home to many species of birds and wildlife, further depleting their habitat and bringing them into conflict with humans," the pledge states.

"Further, this development violates several express goals and policies of the Bainbridge Island Comprehensive Plan and is simply unwanted by Island residents."

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