2nd public meeting on Hyla High School proposal

A second public meeting on the proposed Hyla High School before the Bainbridge Island Planning Commission took place last week.

It was needed because a mailer announcing it didn’t go to everyone it needed to.

The plan is for a private school with up to 160 students on Ericksen Avenue. It would be housed in four existing buildings.

Architect Charles Wenzlau addressed concerns made at the first meeting.

He said for night events they would use a new auditorium at the existing middle school. The on-school pick-up-drop-off area will be done in reverse direction to lessen exhaust on nearby homes. Regarding noise, teachers and students will be inside buildings rather than the outside mechanical noise that can be heard from current tenants.

Planning Commissioner Bill Chester welcomed the changes, especially putting green space rather than parking behind the buildings. He said those showed “community-mindedness.”

Commissioner Ashley Mathews called the high school a good thing for downtown. She said it would be great to have youth as part of the community. She especially approved of redevelopment rather than new construction.

New Commissioner Ariel Birtley agreed that it would “add liveliness to downtown.”

Sarah Blossom, commission chair, said it would be great to have a private high school as an alternative to the public ones in town. She liked the idea of having students dropped off at a nearby public parking area and have them walk the short way to school.

But she still was concerned about lack of parking for students who drive, even though the school will encourage students not to drive there. She wondered what the city’s recourse would be if too many students drive.

Commissioner Lisa Macchio said she hears the community about its parking and traffic concerns. She said developments often are tied up by the city’s poor parking policy, and she wants to know “how do we do things better?”

Wenzlau said developers are trying to be proactive to be good neighbors. They will try to find a good solution and collaborate with city staff to work it out.

Public comments were few. One said the changes in response to the first meeting were appreciated. Another said a buffer is still needed.

Jane Greenberg was still concerned about the cost to nearby property owners. Cars and exhaust were still a concern along with noise from students and teachers. And she wondered how it would affect property values. She encouraged the commission to follow its “wonderful” guiding principles and not change the atmosphere of “our Winslow town.”