Neighbors get early input on care center expansion plan

Questions from neighbors about a proposed expansion at Messenger House Care Center at Rolling Bay ranged from traffic and its color palette to even racial equity.

Charlie Wenzlau of Wenzlau Architects answered a number of questions at a public online meeting with the Bainbridge Island Planning Commission July 23.

The facility has been closed for a few years. It hopes to reopen with improvements next year.

Commission chairman Bill Chester opened by saying the event was very early in the process – even pre-application.

Wenzlau said he had already met informally with some neighbors who had reached out to him to get an early start on some of the concerns.

He said the facility used to be a boys schools then an officers school. “The beautiful feature” of the property is its mature trees with open space and a centrally located park.

The main change with this proposal would be increasing the one story assisted living wing to three stories.

Wenzlau said that does not mean the number of clients would increase. That would stay at 96 total beds. But clients would no longer share rooms, and they would have their own little cooking areas.

A number of callers said they were worried about increased traffic, but Wenzlau said there actually could be a decline as the number of employees would drop from about 30 to 12 due to a shift away from skilled nursing in such facilities.

Traffic is a worry of Mike Reicher, who likes to walk with his toddler in the area. Mark Maxwell of Rolling Bay asked how the public can be assured a traffic study would be done.

Planner Jennifer Sutton recommended submitting a public comment and staying involved in the process.

Resident Henry Milander said people enjoy biking and walking in the area. Wenzlau said they have observed walkers and are looking at a complimentary network of paths for neighbors to walk on.

Milander also asked about any non-motorized connection plan in the works in the Manitou Beach area.

Commissioner Lisa Macchio said there is a task force looking into just that type of thing.

“It’s the perfect timing for input,” she said, adding, “That’s not on the radar.”

As for the color of the addition being white, Wenzlau said that had been brought up already by the neighborhood group, and a more environmentally friendly color is in the works.

As for stormwater, Wenzlau said it is pre-treated in onsite filtration then discharged into Puget Sound via an outflow system that has been extended 250 feet.

The Department of Natural Resources allows shellfish harvesting in the area.

“That’s a good indicator it’s functioning properly,” he said.

Plans also call for a rain garden and decrease in pavement in the above parking lot.

Resident Ashley Mathews asked a question not often brought up at such meetings regarding racial equity.

“We’re learning,” Wenzlau said, adding, “we need to learn more,” and the firm is open to ideas from others. “Help us understand.”

He added the center would welcome interaction between neighbors and clients in the park area.

“That interaction would be a wonderful opportunity,” he said.