Opponents of a new hotel in downtown Winslow have three suggestions.
Build it smaller.
Don’t build it at all.
Or build it somewhere else.
The city of Bainbridge Island has received dozens of written comments for and against — mostly against — the construction of Winslow Hotel.
The project, an 87-room hotel with restaurant, bar and spa, is proposed for two parcels on the town’s main street; 241 Winslow Way West and 253 Winslow Way West.
A sizable opposition, mostly neighbors, has rallied against the project, however.
Opponents of the project have complained about the size and scale of the hotel, and have raised concerns about added traffic in the area, impacts to parking, and potential noise from the hotel’s operation and its guests. They’ve also said the hotel will destroy the charm of the western end of downtown Winslow.
The hotel is being designed by Cutler Anderson Architects, and representatives of the proposed development have countered that the new business will provide more parking than city regulations require, and traffic to the property will be less than what the neighborhood has historically seen, when there was a barbecue restaurant and the 122 Bar on the land, as well as the still-existing office building.
Project officials have also noted that the hotel’s proposed footprint is smaller than the maximum square footage allowed by the city, and architects have repeatedly modified the design of the building in response to public concerns.
Last week, the city’s Design Review Board signed off on revisions to the project that added 12 additional hotel rooms as well as more parking, and revisions that pushed the building further away on the property from its residential neighbors to the west.
The project was scheduled to go the Bainbridge Island Planning Commission this week, which will offer a recommendation to the city hearing examiner, which will make the final decision on the development.
In advance of this week’s planning commission meeting, opponents of the project continued to raise objections to the hotel.
Many of the hotel’s critics say the development is too large for its building site, and claim it doesn’t fit with the village/semi-rural character of the island.
Opponents also point to existing problems in downtown — mainly traffic and parking — as reasons to reject the hotel.
“The size of the project is out of proportion to any other structure in the vicinity and will bring with it noise, traffic and general change to our peaceful neighborhood, and for that matter, to Winslow,” Claudia and Bill Anderson, who live on nearby Wood Avenue, wrote in a letter to the planning commission.
The couple questioned whether the city could adequately oversee the project, and complained that parking is already an issue on Wood Avenue.
“We question the viability of this hotel when one considers the use, vacancy rates, and financial history of hotels, motels, and other hospitality venues on the Island,” they added. “As records will show, they have not been highly profitable. What would the result of a business failure for such a hotel on COBI and the neighborhood. Not a pretty sight!”
Dixie Carter, a resident of Winslow Arms, a three-story apartment building on nearby Parfitt Way, said the proposed hotel is an “over‐zealous, delusional project.”
“I did NOT hop off the turnip wagon yesterday and I have no doubt there are greedy developers who are dying to get their hands on my ‘home,’ tear it down and construct themselves a money‐making machine, along with all the other senior dwellings in my neighborhood. NOT ON MY WATCH!” Carter wrote in a letter to the planning department.
“Downtown during the tourist season is already jammed up and ‘over‐extended’ with traffic and hoards/parades of folks who can’t find their way down the block without an ‘APP’ on a cell phone!” Carter added. “Elbow-to‐elbow foot traffic is increasing year after year and we all accept this as: ‘they are spending their money here’ — yet, we have a large homeless encampment area just north of McDonalds on highway 305. Double standard! None of the tourist dollars are feeding those homeless folks — just sayin’!”
More than a dozen other residents of Winslow Arms submitted a petition against the hotel to the city, and said the project should be rejected because it would “destroy” the senior citizen community on the island.
Some of those who commented said the hotel was too big for the site, and others said they would rather see a bed-and-breakfast built or something that would not compete with property owners who have vacation rentals on the island.
Jim Gergens said the hotel property should instead be developed into a “park like setting” to complement the one at Winslow Green, and suggested instead the hotel be built in Island Center.
“Do not turn the island into
just another concrete suburb,” he wrote.
The project’s designers, though, have repeatedly told opponents that the property could be more intensely developed than was has been proposed with Winslow Hotel.
City regulations allow development in the downtown core to extend all the way to the property line, something that is not being done with the Winslow Hotel project. Instead, the hotel will be approximately 25 feet or so away from the property lines on the west and east sides of the building. At the rear of the property, the setback from the adjoining property varies from 5 feet to 84 feet.
Also, commercial development of the property allows a footprint of up to 80,000 square feet; the hotel is 71,750. Additionally, if the land was developed with mixed use — a blend of businesses and homes, as found on nearby parcels — city regulations would allow 120,000 square feet of development.
In terms of size, the project’s designers have also noted that there are at least 11 buildings in the blocks around the hotel site that are three- to four-stories high. Winslow Hotel will be the same height as the building across the street.
Wendy Hinman, in a letter to the planning department, said Bainbridge already has hotels, and added that downtown traffic and noise from the hotel would be a problem.
“Other hotels already exist on this island. Are they consistently full? We need to consider how this development would impact existing hotel businesses and the many local property owners who are only able to afford to pay their mortgages through renting ADU’s on their property,” she wrote.
“The magnitude of visitors to BI has already made downtown difficult to navigate during summer weekends,” Hinman added.
Vicki and Jan Paulin claimed the hotel was out of scale with Winslow.
“This would be a disaster for the quaintness of Bainbridge Island, it is already overbuilt as it is,” they wrote. “There are not enough restaurants to feed all of these additional people if this is built, and it will increase the traffic and parking.”
The hotel does have its supporters, however.
Michael C. Berry, who lives across the street from the hotel site, said he had been concerned about the project’s impact on traffic, parking, water and sewer systems.
Berry noted the hotel was designed to fit with the environment and Bainbridge.
“The architect, Jim Cutler, offered a 28-foot setback, thereby preserving some trees and providing for a special space for an ancient cedar. Only an architect and a developer with the concerns of Bainbridge Island would offer something like this, which is for purely aesthetic and ecological reasons,” Berry wrote.
“Most developers, wishing only to maximize their profit, decide to maximize the site with a zero lot line set back. This has heretofore been the case with Bjune and Madison, The Pavilion, High School Road where the hotel is, and Winslow Way going east from Madison and Parfitt Way.”
“I can tell you for sure, this is the greenest project I have ever seen proposed by any developer. It clearly sacrifices profit to provide a more aesthetic and ecological project at an appropriate scale to the surrounding buildings,” he added. “Should this project not succeed, the next developer will build up to the lot line, Chicago style. The next developer will be from elsewhere, with no concern for the local community.”
Berry added: “We should be welcoming this project… We are an entrenched community resistant to change and skeptical of monied interests. This scaled down project with all of these ecological bells and whistles is not a financial windfall for the owners. The next developer, a Holiday Inn or Marriott, will maximize the site and it will be a very poor result for us. Let us not be too entrenched in staked out positions and try to look at the big picture. All new architecture shakes up local communities. I.M. Pei had a hell of a time getting the Pyramid approved at the Louvre Museum. This is always the case … Let us not act on our most xenophobic and provincial instincts here. This is a good deal for us. “