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Bainbridge Hearing Examiner denies appeal of Strawberry Plant Park project
Bainbridge Hearing Examiner Margaret Klockars issued a decision Wednesday, rejecting an appeal of the city's determination of non-significance for its proposed Strawberry Plant Park shoreline project.
The project would remove a significant amount of fill along the shore of the Eagle Harbor property to create new salt marsh and intertidal habitat. The property is being jointly developed by the city and the Bainbridge Metropolitan Park and Recreation District.
The city's determination, which would allow the project to bypass a full review under the State Environmental Policy act, was appealed in May by a citizen group called Friends of Cannery Cove Park. The group, represented by Gerald Elfendahl and Doug Hatfield, asserted that the city's project would damage historical elements on the property and restrict public access to the shoreline.
In her decision, Klockars wrote that the site's historical significance was undeniable, but "the proposed project will alter the physical shape of the site but not diminish that history in any other material way and nothing precludes the addition of a commemorative or interpretive display on the site."
Strawberry Plant was the homesite of several early island settlers, and before World War II served as a packing center for the island's strawberry industry.
Klockars wrote that some recreational activities, including swimming, would be eliminated by the project. "However, none of those losses rises to the level of significance needed for reversal of the determination."
In the end, she wrote, the burden was on the appellants to prove that the determination was "clearly erroneous" or that the project was likely to have a "more than moderate" adverse impact on the environment, but the appeal failed on both points. (Read the full decision at the bottom of this page).
While denying the appeal, Klockars granted shoreline conditional use and substantial development permits for the Strawberry Plant shoreline project.
The hearing took place over three days: June 12, June 25 and July 10.
Since the hearing ended, heated public comment, both for and against the Strawberry Plant Project, has been entered at public meetings.
Last week, the City Council decided to schedule a public meeting with the park district board to try to reach a clearer consensus on the direction of the project. The meeting has yet to be scheduled.
In an email to Friends of Cannery Cove supporters Wednesday, Elfendahl said he had high hopes for the upcoming public meeting, despite the unfavorable ruling from Klockars.
"We are thankful for the hearing examiner's time, thoughtfulness and courtesies," Elfendahl said. "We are grateful for the City Council directing city staff to stop planning on this project. Laws don't save historic properties: People do! We are grateful that the council is scheduling open public study sessions on the project."
Read the full decision below. Click the blue link to view the document in a new page or download it as a PDF file.