The controversial Winslow Hotel has found a pocket of supporters: inside city hall.
The destination hotel is planned for a two-parcel, 1.85-acre property at the western end of the city’s main street, Winslow Way.
The 87-room hotel has been under city review since July 2017, when developer and Bainbridge businessman Mike Burns presented an initial concept for a 60-room hotel to city planning staff. The proposal has since been reviewed six times by Bainbridge’s Design Review Board, which tendered its latest recommendation for approval in early June.
Over the past month, the Winslow Hotel project has been forwarded to the city’s Planning Commission, which has taken public comment on the proposal at two meetings.
The commission will meet again to go over details of the project during a study session planned for Thursday, July 11. City officials said planning commissioners will look at modifications to the hotel plans “to make the project compatible with the Comprehensive Plan and the surrounding neighborhood.”
Plans for the hotel, which would be built on parcels at 253 Winslow Way West and 241 Winslow Way West, have prompted concerns from residents in nearby apartment buildings and residential neighborhoods. Some are afraid that hotel operations will increase noise in the downtown, and contribute to existing traffic and parking problems. Some have also claimed that the project is out of scale with existing development in downtown Winslow.
Proponents of the hotel have said, however, that the project will abide by state law and local noise regulations, and the developers have also reached an agreement with Bainbridge Disposal to limit garbage and recycling pickup to between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Garbage and recycling bins will be stored in an enclosed space, and sound-absorbing surfaces are also planned for the walls and doors surrounding the hotel’s loading dock.
Developers of the project also said the hotel will be in harmony with development in the downtown, and that it will be the same height as the three-story commercial building across the street from the hotel site. Other buildings in the vicinity are three- and four-stories tall, including a three-floor residential building to the east, a four-story building directly to the south and a four-floor residential building to the southwest. A total of 11 three- and four-story buildings are within a block of the hotel property.
The project is being designed by Bainbridge-based Cutler Anderson Architects, and project representatives have said the new hotel 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.
The hotel’s proposed footprint is also smaller than the maximum square footage allowed by the city, and architects have noted they have repeatedly modified the design of the building in response to public concerns.
Inside city hall, the project has found favor with the planning staff in charge of the review of the hotel and its compliance with city regulations.
Last month, development engineer Peter Corelis recommended approval of the site plan for the hotel.
In his review of the hotel plans — which include rooms for guests and also a restaurant, spa and banquet rooms — Corelis said the plans fit with city regulations on drainage and stormwater, water quality, streets, sidewalks, public water and sewer services.
It also complies with the city’s comprehensive plan, Bainbridge’s long-term guide for growth and development on the island, Corelis noted.
In a subsequent planning staff report on the proposal, planner Olivia Sontag also said the project was consistent with the city’s comp plan and noted the plans provide more than city regulations require, specifically on parking, tree retention and landscaping requirements.
In her staff report, Sontag said the hotel property is currently “underutilized” and is proposed to be built within Bainbridge’s Central Core, “the most densely developed district” on the island.
“The proposal meets applicable design guidelines, height, dimension, and other density standards,” Sontag wrote. “The design incorporates cedar beams and other natural and sustainable materials that speak to the Island’s character. A glass entry highlights a large coastal redwood in the courtyard and a reflecting pond beyond with landscaping inspired by the Bloedel Reserve.”
The developers have also talked about placing art in the hotel’s courtyard and hopes to display a piece from a Salish tribe.
The project would bring benefits to Bainbridge, Sontag added.
“A hotel increases employment opportunities, economic vitality, provides gathering spaces, and supports tourism,” she said in the staff report, and noted the project is also close to the ferry and public transit, and provides a 6-foot sidewalk and bike lane that will reduce the need for automobiles.
The hotel will have a staff of 50 or more, and a shuttle is also planned to bring guests from the Bainbridge ferry terminal.
“The proposal exceeds parking recommendations from the consultant with all spaces located on site, proposes a van as hotel shuttle service, provides on-street spaces with an electric vehicle charging station and seven others located in the parking garage, and exceeds bicycle parking requirements.”
Sontag noted the development would preserve many trees on the land, and more will be planted.
“The proposal recognizes the island’s natural constraints and proposes rainwater recycling, permeable parking and drive surfaces, and solar panels for low-impact development. The proposal retains over 100 tree units and proposes to plant an additional 137 new trees totaling over 16,000 square feet of newly planted areas using almost exclusively native species.”
On noise impacts, Sontag said: “The applicant consulted with an acoustical engineer in response to neighbor concerns about noise impacts. The proposal uses landscaping, green walls, a bandshell, and enclosed the trash and recycling under the building to reduce impacts from noise, odor, and light. The city has also proposed conditions such as a wall along the west property line to help mitigate noise and light impacts.”
At next week’s meeting, the Planning Commission will not make a final decision on the hotel.
Instead, commissioners will craft a recommendation for the city’s hearing examiner. Three options are available to the Planning Commission; a recommendation for approval, approval with conditions, or a recommendation that the project be rejected.
The final decision on the project will be made by the city’s hearing examiner after a later public hearing.