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Visconsi gets permit to begin clearing and grading at site of new shopping center

The developer of a controversial new shopping center at the corner of Highway 305 and High School Road has received its permit from the city of Bainbridge Island to begin clearing and grading on the heavily forested property.

Visconsi Companies of Pepper Pike, Ohio has been planning to build a  nearly 62,000-square-foot shopping center on High School Road directly across from the Ace Hardware store since 2012.

The project was opposed by residents of the nearby Stonecrest neighborhood and others on Bainbridge who were worried about an increase in traffic and noise and light pollution.

Some critics also said the new businesses — a Bartell Drugs, a Key Bank branch, and restaurants, professional services and health care facilities — were not needed and would compete against established businesses on the island. The proposal was also slammed by islanders worried about the removal of more than 800 trees during construction.

The city's hearing examiner approved the development plan for the new shopping center in March, however, and noted the project complied with zoning and other city rules.

The developers applied for a clearing-and-grading permit May 9.

Opponents later vowed to boycott the new shopping center.

Joshua Machen, planning manager for the city of Bainbridge Island, said the city issued the clearing-and-grading permit Wednesday afternoon.

The developers must now get a Forest Practices Permit from the state Department of Natural Resources.

While the developers can begin earth-moving activities, Machen said, the removal of trees will have to wait until the DNR permit is issued.

"They can begin as soon as they get their forest practices permit," he said.

It's likely the DNR permit will be issued within a day or so. The city has waived its 14-day review period for the DNR permit, Machen said.

A boundary has been set up on the development site to identify the area where construction will occur, and chain-link fencing has also been put up around the areas where trees will be preserved.

According to Visconsi's approved site plan, the company will preserve more trees than required by the city's development regulations.

Machen said city officials inspected the tree-protection fencing Tuesday afternoon.

"We've walked that and verified it," he said.

The site will also be monitored by city staff as construction gets started.

Machen said the company hopes to get the earthwork on the site completed this fall.

Construction is expected in the spring, starting with the bank building that will be located on the southern end of the property.

Visconsi still needs to obtain additional permits before other parts of the project begin, such as the installation of utilities, the demolition of the existing structures on the land, and new building construction and improvements.

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