Letters to the editor

Harrison boondoggle

To the editor:

The March 12 “second opinion” provided by Councilmembers Leslie Schneider and Kirsten Hytopoulos appears to be an effort to shore up the Harrison boondoggle, but does so with no better information than was presented to the council originally.

The key element in the article is the continued drum-beat of how inexpensive Harrison will be, a central theme that is encapsulated in the comment: “By choosing Harrison the city was able to lower total estimated projects costs from up to $35 million to $20 million.”

What is missing from the article, and is sorely needed now, is an investigation into the sheer improbability of saving money on a specialized facility, by paying full price for a medical clinic and converting it.

Rather than articles designed to lay this to rest, what we need is a critical side-by-side comparison of the budgets presented, and how money is to be saved and spent, and what options now remain with Harrison in city hands.

We already know the Harrison budgets were pared down (green building renovations were excluded, for example), while comparison budgets did not receive such treatment, in a frankly bizarre and unexplained effort to steer the council toward this very bad idea.

Why? The article provides no answers to this question, but rather suggests the most “responsible action now is to continue moving the project forward.”

I disagree. The public does not yet have the facts to support this action, and from the article it is now also clear that the council does not either.

Anthony Gibbons

Bainbridge Island

Wintergreen project flawed

To the editor:

Regarding the proposed Wintergreen housing project. I am not opposed to development on the site, and I am in favor of affordable housing on Bainbridge Island. But the project has some serious flaws, which the Design Review Board has pointed out. Many of them have to do with failure to comply with Design for Bainbridge guidelines relative to massing, siting and scale. Other issues include safety and pedestrian movement compromised by the busy road bisecting the development that carries big trucks to Pro-Build and ambulances to Virginia Mason. Also, there is limited parking, landscaping and common space for outdoor activities.

As those familiar with the off-set intersection connecting Wintergreen Lane, Ace Hardware and High School Road are aware, adding vehicles for 70-plus units will further complicate ingress and egress to the development. Although it is about a mile from the ferry, it is unlikely that many residents will choose to walk rather than drive. Pedestrian access to Ace and McDonald’s will require a crosswalk across High School Road where there is considerable high-speed traffic.

Another issue is affordability. The pricing is promoted as affordable, but only a limited number will remain so. The others will be bought and sold and will probably end up as rentals. Do we wish to compromise the Design standards for such a small number of units, or can the development be built on a smaller scale according to the guidelines with the same number of permanently affordable units?

The issues raised by the proposed Wintergreen development are not minor ones. Why should people who qualify for affordable housing be expected to live in conditions that do not measure up to Design for Bainbridge standards? I would welcome housing that is not only affordable, but also attractive, safe and with ample space for outdoor play.

Barry Andrews

Bainbridge Island

Harrison truth

To the editor:

The truth about the Harrison/police station kerfuffle is told in public records. After years of debate, City Council made a financial decision Jan. 29, 2019. City staff promised a Harrison remodel for $20 million while the new construction alternative, Yaquina, was billed at $28 million.

Issue #1. City staff never reduced costs on Yaquina the same way it did Harrison. Had it done so, Yaquina would have been billed under $15 million, making it the better cost alternative.

Issue #2. The cost of land. Proposed remodel costs for Harrison were roughly the same as new construction for Yaquina. The major difference was the cost of the land – Harrison was $8,975 million (market value was roughly $3 million). Yaquina was $1.2 million. The city voted 4-3 for Harrison because it was represented as $8 million cheaper when the opposite was really true. The cost of land, city staff misrepresentation of construction costs and highly inflated soft costs were the major components. It is all on the public record.

The Harrison decision was further complicated because the city secured an $8 million bond plus almost $3 million in interest, all of which was unnecessary had the better financial alternative been chosen.

On March 9, the City Council bowed to public pressure and directed city staff to retroactively evaluate the cost of Harrison, which necessarily includes a valid comparison of construction costs between the two final alternatives.

Issue #3. Accountability. A primary purpose of public process is to ensure that decisions council makes are transparent and truthful. Citizens want the truth as overwhelmingly punctuated in a recent Petition sent to 3,000 island residents. Even at this late date there are alternatives. When the truth is behind us City Council can make an informed decision how to proceed. Not before.

Dick Haugan

Bainbridge Island

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