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City OKs medical, assisted-living developments

An architect’s renderng of  the planned “Island Medical Center.” -
An architect’s renderng of the planned “Island Medical Center.”
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Two buildings off Madison Avenue approved, over protests from Murden Cove residents.

The Bainbridge hearing examiner has given the green light to plans for a new medical center and an assisted-living facility – separate projects that will transform a 5.4-acre property between Madison Avenue and State Route 305.

At a recent hearing, residents of nearby Murden Cove neighborhood voiced concerns over the visual impact of the buildings, increased traffic and whether they meet city code.

Hearing examiner Margaret Klockars approved a conditional use permit for the development, siding with city planners, who said the project was well vetted.

The decision allows developers to move closer to breaking ground on the property, which lies off unmarked Casey Street, just south of the First Baptist Church and north of the Winslow Ravine.

Planned for the east side of the property, the 27,700-square-foot “Island Medical Center” will provide space for the practices of up to 15 primary care physicians and specialists. The building is being developed by Morss Medical, Rolf Hogger of MRJ Constructors and a group of investors.

The building would have two stories above an underground parking garage with space for 36 vehicles. Access would be from Madison Avenue, via Casey Street, which will be renamed.

Architect Jim Morss said a number of green features have been worked into the design, including a green roof, permeable parking surfaces, rainwater catchment and geothermal heating.

“It’s not really a green project, but we’re doing the things that count the most,” Morss said.

With the permit in hand, Morss said the group can begin marketing customizable spaces for health-care professionals’ in the future building.

A western portion of the property is being developed by Hogger, architect Cihan Anisoglu and Don Roose, who is a partner in three other island retirement communities. The trio has plans for a 47,300-square-foot, 53-unit assisted living facility. The building will have a full-time nurse and caregivers on staff. An indoor pool and physical therapy center are included in the design.

The footprint of the planned building is long and narrow, with a 45-foot wide elevation facing Madison Avenue. Anisoglu said the exterior will have a modular look, with the appearance of different style buildings constructed side-by-side.

The building will be screened from both Casey Street and Madison Avenue by landscaping buffers and rows of trees.

Roose is already a partner in the 53-unit Madison Avenue Retirement Center, the 43-unit Wyatt House Retirement Center, and the 39-unit Winslow Manor Senior Apartments. He said there is enough demand on the island for another retirement community.

“There is still a pretty strong market that needs to be filled,” Roose said.

Developers consider the location ideal for medical and assisted-living operations. The complex would be easily accessible from SR-305, Winslow businesses are within walking distance and ambulances and a helipad at the fire station are located just across the street. Enhanced trails connecting SR-305 and Madison Avenue through the wetland buffer have also been included in the plans.

The property is zoned residential and a eastern portion is occupied by a rental house and barn, which would be vacated. According to Klockars’ findings, medical buildings are allowed in residential zones under conditional use permits.

Surrounding development is mixed, and includes the church, fire station and residential Sakai Village to the south.

“While the proposed buildings will be of a different scale and design than neighboring structures, the mix of types and styles of buildings in the immediate neighborhood does not suggest a consistent style,” Klockars wrote in her finding.

Members of the Murden Cove Preservation Association aren’t as enthusiastic over the chosen site.

Olaf Rebeiro spoke on behalf of the association at the hearing. He said his group primarily wanted to make sure the buildings and lighting would be properly screened from SR-305, and that sufficient buffers were in place.

Klockars said that the building designs had been found to meet or exceed required landscaping and buffers.

Murden Cove resident Vince Mattson challenged the city’s assertion that traffic generated by the new buildings would not jeopardize the level of service standards for surrounding roads. Mattson, a former highway engineer, is especially concerned with the intersection of Sportsman Club Road and SR-305, which already flirts with failing level of service numbers during peak traffic hours.

During the hearing, Mattson told Klockars that he believed the traffic count numbers the city was basing its assumption on were faulty. The 2006 count done by Heath and Associates had been conducted in the summer, when school was not in session, and was therefore skewed, Mattson said.

He presented numbers from his own counts at the intersection during peak hours for two days in April, which showed 30 percent more cars than the Heath count.

Mattson is worried that even a few more cars coming and going from the new Casey Street complex could have a big impact at the Sportsman Club Road intersection.

“When you get an intersection that is this close to failing, it doesn’t take much additional traffic before it changes from a level of service E to a level of service F, which is when it starts failing,” Mattson said. “It can only get worse.”

In her findings, Klockars said Mattson’s data had “raised questions” in her mind about the traffic impact of the new complex, but said she trusted the city’s analysis.

Rebeiro said his group will likely contest the hearing examiner’s decision if it can muster enough money to support an appeal.

“We don’t object to the health-care facility, because we really need one,” Rebeiro said. “We just want it to meet the code.”

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