Be wary of what you wish for.
That was the unmistakable message from Bainbridge architect Jim Cutler to opponents of a new hotel in downtown Winslow.
Bainbridge’s Design Review Board unanimously signed off on changes to Winslow Hotel at its meeting this week.
It came at the end of an acrimonious presentation by Cutler, the architect for the hotel, who blasted critics of the project for demanding changes to the development while vowing to fight it to the end.
Although he has suggested further revisions to the hotel, including moving the building further away from its neighbors to the west, Cutler said the developers of the project would need to ultimately approve the changes.
The hotel, which is being developed by longtime islander Mike Burns, already has a design approved by the city’s Design Review Board that places it closer to the western property line, Cutler noted.
Even so, more changes had been proposed by Cutler Anderson Architects because the developers were listening to neighbors’ concerns.
The hotel location was being shifted an additional eight feet from the property line, but he added the modifications were costly and threatened the success of the project.
The changes, the architect said, would mean reducing the size of the display kitchen (where diners can watch chefs prepare their meals) in the hotel’s restaurant, and the elimination of a private dining room.
A record crowd packed Monday’s meeting of the Design Review Board to hear of the modifications to the project, which include adding another 12 hotel rooms, for a total of 87 rooms, as well as an additional 12 parking spaces on the hotel property.
Nearly a hundred people jammed city hall, and the meeting was halted for a spell so the location could be shifted from the room adjacent to the council chambers into the chambers itself to accommodate the large crowd.
Opponents easily outnumbered the trio of supporters for the hotel, and Cutler began his presentation by turning to the audience and chastising opponents who have complained about the proposed hotel.
The proposal was not out of scale for the downtown, despite what some critics have said, Cutler maintained.
He showed a map with 11 nearby properties in Winslow that were more densely developed, and added the hotel would be exactly the same height as the building across the street.
Opponents have also raised the fear of additional traffic in downtown because of the hotel, as well as potential impacts on parking.
Cutler said the project would have no impact on traffic; a comment that prompted derisive laughter from the audience.
But Cutler reminded the crowd the land where the hotel would be built was once home to a restaurant, a barbecue joint and another business with 35 employees.
“Compared to today, yes, there’s a traffic impact. Compared to those [earlier] uses, there’s less,” he said.
Some in the audience wouldn’t accept that, however.
“If you want to dispute facts, go out and get your own study,” Cutler said.
Cutler added the hotel had been designed with “overkill” on the amount of parking.
City regulations require hotels to provide one parking space per guest room; Cutler said Hotel Winslow would have 142 spaces.
National hotel experts who looked at the plan for the Bainbridge hotel had suggested 132 spaces, he added.
“We put in 142 because we wanted overkill,” he said.
Opponents repeatedly interrupted Cutler as he spoke, with the architect time and again stressing that he was only sharing facts about the proposal.
“If you want to go hire your own experts on parking, go out and do that,” he said.
“I deal in facts. I work in facts. If you don’t want to deal with facts and just be emotional, that’s your business,” Cutler added.
Previous businesses on the property generated an estimated 108 peak-hour daily car trips. The new hotel would add 75, Cutler said.
Again, there was a skeptical response from the audience.
“Go out and get your own experts, but they are going to tell you the exact same thing,” he said.
Opponents of the project have also complained about how the building would be fit onto the two parcels where it would be sit on Winslow Way.
Cutler said city regulations in the downtown allow buildings to be constructed right up to the property line.
“We do not have to set the building back one inch from the property line,” he noted.
Even so, that wasn’t the case for Hotel Winslow.
Instead, the setback from nearby properties would range from 46 to 54 feet.
“If you want to shake your head and say that’s not the truth, go out and get your measuring tape and take a look,” Cutler added.
He also noted the hotel was smaller than what Bainbridge would allow on the site.
A mixed-use building on the property could be up to 120,000 square feet in size. If the land was developed for a single commercial use, the building could total 80,000 square feet.
The hotel is 71,000 square feet in size, and has been designed to include a courtyard that would preserve a giant sequoia tree that’s more than 62 inches thick.
Cutler repeatedly reminded the crowd the project had been the subject of numerous public meetings and notices since 2017. The project proponents had met with the neighbors four times and city officials more times than that.
“Nobody’s sneaking around here,” he said.
When one person in the audience complained that many in the community were just finding out about the proposal, an exasperated Cutler recalled the hotel had been featured in a front-page story in the Review.
Cutler, an award-winning architect of national renown, also warned about the loss the island would face if the Winslow Hotel project fell through.
“This is the last thing I’ll ever do on Bainbridge Island,” he said.
The property itself would likely be developed by people with no connection to Bainbridge.
“He’ll sell it. He’ll sell it to somebody not on this island,” Cutler said of the property owner.
A developer from Texas could come in, with plans for a 120,000 square feet project, he added.
“And when you come here, you’ll have an equal number of lawyers facing you, because it will be Marriott, or it’s going to be a Ramada,” Cutler told the crowd.
At the close of its three-hour meeting, the Design Review Board unanimously voted to recommend approval of both sets of changes to the project’s design.
The proposal will now go to the city’s planning commission, and later, the city’s hearing examiner, for a final decision.