Opponents of the proposed Winslow Hotel have been making personal and pointed appeals to Planning Director Heather Wright to stop the development.
Nearly a hundred letters have been sent to the city since the planning commission issued its unanimous recommendation that the site plan for the 87-room hotel be denied.
Called the Winslow Hotel, the development, planned for two parcels at 253 Winslow Way West and 241 Winslow Way West at the western end of downtown’s main street, has been highly controversial. In its review of the project, the planning commission said the proposed 87-room hotel did not mesh with the goals and policies of the city’s comprehensive plan and the Winslow Master Plan, and commissioners echoed the criticism of those fighting the hotel proposal, who have claimed the project is too big for downtown Winslow and will add more traffic and noise to Winslow Way.
Wright is expected to make a recommendation on the project to the city’s hearing examiner, who will then make the final decision on the hotel.
Letters asking Wright to reject the project started coming in to the city right after the planning commission’s recommendation in July. Many of those who wrote asked Wright to support the planning commission’s decision, and some said it would lead to more unwanted development on the island if approved.
“Such a large hotel/convention center would negatively impact the small town atmosphere of Winslow,” wrote Richard and Karen Adler. “Approval of this complex would also open the door for future, uncontrolled development that would destroy the quality of life on Bainbridge.”
“We do not want our island to become Bellevue,” added Cynthia Bellas.
“I urge you to be a hero of the people in your determination, an ancestor in your decisions, not a ghost in our shared history who stood with the darkest side of business at a critical juncture. Think of the lasting effects of precedent with your determination,” Bellas wrote Wright.
“’We have come to a critical juncture as a species. All of us need to take stock and decide where we stand. Business has no end to its appetite. Business will take every tree and every drop of water. Business will destroy every landscape to extract what lies beneath it. Business puts a price on everything, including children. Business tells us that if we stop business, we will all die a terrible death in chaos and misery,’” she continued, quoting the words of Amiria Hina. “’The truth is, business must begin to take no for an answer. Some things are not for sale. Some things are not for development or financial gain, human entertainment or other marketable agendas. Some things are for watersheds, for beauty, for biological diversity, for habitat, for prayer or wonder.’”
“Be brave Heather and we will stand with you,” Bellas added.
“This Winslow Hotel monstrosity needs to go away,” wrote Melissa Carlsen. “Not good for anything but more stress wear and tear on Bainbridge Island. I am confident you will do the right thing and deny this hotel from going forward.
“Help restore the faith in our democracy being alive and well,” Carlsen added. “I’m so sick of the elitists getting their way just because they can. Greed is so destructive.”
Some of those who wrote the city’s planning chief said the hotel would be better in a different location — away from the downtown area.
“This type of larger‐scale development might be reasonably placed in a mid‐island space like the development near the new Walgreens or near Safeway, where other large hotels and condos exist,” wrote Andrea Chymiy. “Winslow Way has always been friendly to small businesses and has offered a wonderful small‐town vibe for residents and visitors alike.”
“We do not need such an establishment in our community as we already have inns, hotels, and other lodgings that are not fully utilized. Convention center needs are available in Suquamish or Seattle, and would not serve the needs of the people of Bainbridge Island community,” wrote Eileen Safford.
“We already have so much tourist traffic in Winslow that locals are often discouraged about shopping, eating out, or even going to Winslow! The city should act in the best interests of the people of Bainbridge Island,” she added.
Many of those who wrote raised traffic concerns about congestion and parking.
“As a resident of Winslow and a small business owner downtown, I felt compelled to write and express my concern about the proposed Winslow Hotel. In reviewing the plans for the proposed project, it seems clear to me that should this project be approved it will have a significantly negative impact on the neighborhood,” wrote Blain Crandell.
“The increased traffic and the need for parking have not been adequately addressed in the plans, and I am quite concerned about how this will impact my business; my staff and my clients have frequently expressed concern about finding adequate parking, and this development can only make things worse,” Crandell added.
“The hotel would add more cars, more congestion and bad air,” wrote Susan Hassenmiller, who noted she came to Bainbridge in 1966.
“I try to support the local stores, but sometimes, when I have tried to find a parking space at T&C, I give up and drive to Poulsbo. This is happening more and more often. Even in the evening, parking is hard to find so we do not go to any restaurants in the downtown core. While the city promised years ago to build a parking garage, they never followed through. Please help keep Winslow a livable place,” Hassenmiller wrote.
Added Sharon Kane, an island resident since 1988: “No more growth until there are more downtown parking options.”
Others who offered encouragement to reject the project, however, said they were recent arrivals to Bainbridge.
“An 80‐something room hotel in downtown Winslow, or indeed anywhere on the island, would feel like the beginning of the end for our town. The streets are already horribly congested during summer months due to weekend tourists, and the amenities of our small town are already feeling overrun,” wrote Loree Hollander and Duke Hall.
“My wife and I are new to the island, having moved here from Washington, D.C. last year. We selected this island based on its bucolic nature, friendly confines, and proximity to Seattle,” added Robert Scott Schirmer.
“Our neighborhood is peaceful, quiet, and convenient, just like the whole of the Winslow area. We feel this is a direct result of reasonable and efficient city planning and oversight. Please accept the decision of the planning commission and deny the application,” Schirmer wrote.
Some of the appeals to Wright were personal.
“Democracy is at risk if we allow one person (you) to override/ignore democratically developed zoning laws, that we the people have chosen,” wrote Bobbie Morgan. “This hotel decision of yours is key to maintaining our precious democracy.”
Opposition against the hotel is not universal on the island, according to letters submitted to the city since the planning commission’s review.
Some of those who have written to Wright have told her that the hotel proposal should be approved.
“It is appropriate for and will add value to the downtown core of Bainbridge Island,” wrote Douglas Hansmann, who said he disagreed with the commission’s decision.
“As a 30-plus year resident of Bainbridge and currently a homeowner on Parfitt Way, I wanted to let you know I am in support of this project. A well conceived and financed hotel project with all the amenities it can offer would be an asset in our downtown,” added Roger Day.
Wrote JJ Johnson: “Too many NIMBY’s here, afraid of the future!”
Some offered glowing endorsements of the Winslow Hotel.
“I do work for one of B.I.’s primary tourism drivers and from what I can see, the Winslow Hotel project has made every effort to comply with city codes, ordinances, etc. Tourism revenue is essential to island retail/culinary businesses and cultural nonprofits, and summer day trip business alone isn’t enough — overnight stays within the retail core (not up on High School Road) would have a substantial impact on the success of our local entrepreneurs. Traffic studies have come back positively for the project. Parking problems have been mitigated,” wrote Korum Bischoff.
“We have a chance at a first‐class operation, designed by an internationally recognized firm, and they’ve gone as far as to include low-cost housing for staff, all on a lot that is a blight on downtown.
“This could be a positive game‐changer for Winslow with little‐to‐no effect on the rest of the Island. Please approve this proposal and let’s free everyone up to move forward to other projects,” Bischoff added.
Several supporters of the hotel also submitted encouraging notes to the city’s planning chief.
“Please don’t be discouraged by any amount of negative pressure you feel from the nextdoor mob. It is standard for there to be opposition to any change, and in this case the change is very well planned and deserving of approval,” wrote Dan Cohn.
“A new hotel, built to embody the unique character of the island, would provide a desperately needed economic infusion by encouraging mainland tourists to make Bainbridge an overnight destination,” added Andrew McComas, a 25-year Bainbridge resident. “It would also provide a superior lodging option for out‐of‐town guests.”
“I realize that there are several vocal members of the community campaigning to kill this project but I hope you see that there are many others who welcome it. I am normally opposed to most development projects but this one is different,” McComas added.