Winslow Hotel public hearing: What’s expected

Opponents of the Winslow Hotel will have to chance to offer their views on the controversial project at this week’s public hearing on the proposal, but they’ll have to wait until late in the meeting.

The controversial 87-room hotel is the topic of a Thursday hearing before the city’s hearing examiner, who will ultimately decide whether the project is approved or rejected.

According to the city’s adopted rules for public hearings before the examiner, the hearing will begin with a brief introductory statement by the hearing examiner regarding the examiner’s review process.

City Planning Manager Heather Wright, in a report issued last week, recommended that the examiner approve the hotel project, with added conditions of development.

Following the hearing examiner’s introduction, the Winslow Hotel hearing may then turn to a presentation by the city on the project.

The city has two options, however.

Officials can present the staff report or recommendation without the developers of the project first providing testimony, or the city can ask hotel proponents to present information on their application prior to presenting the city’s recommendation.

Winslow Hotel — which started as a proposal for a 60-room hotel more than two years ago — is proposed for two lots on Winslow Way in the city’s downtown core, and the project is being pursued by Madison Avenue Development.

At the hearing examiner’s discretion, the developers may be allowed to give a brief opening statement.

The hearing is expected to then include presentation of testimony by the applicant, followed by public testimony, and may continue with rebuttal of testimony that has been provided, before closing remarks.

Many of the worries raised by opponents — traffic, noise, parking — are expected to be addressed by the developers, as well as city officials and residents testifying at this week’s public hearing.

Opponents of the Winslow Hotel are concerned the development will add to existing parking and traffic troubles in the downtown area, and have said the project will ruin Bainbridge’s “small town” charm and set the table for additional dense development in the future.

Some critics have also claimed that zoning only allows for a 15-room inn in the Winslow core, and that the hotel proposal runs counter to the city’s comp plan and Winslow Master Plan.

In her report recommending approval of the hotel, Wright, the city’s planning chief, countered the notion that large hotels were not allowed in the downtown area.

Wright noted the city’s definition for hotel “means a building or group of buildings containing guest rooms, where, for compensation, lodging is provided for transient visitors. A hotel or motel may contain one or more restaurants. A hotel or motel is not a bed and breakfast lodging or inn as defined and regulated elsewhere in this code.”

Wright also said the project would meet regulations on noise, adding, “additionally, the applicant consulted with an acoustical engineer in response to neighbor concerns about noise impacts. The applicant proposes landscaping, green walls, a bandshell, and enclosed the trash and recycling under the building to reduce impacts from noise. The city has also proposed conditions such as a wall along the west property line to help mitigate noise impacts. … The project is also conditioned to monitor noise and is able to be further conditioned to ensure noise impacts are reduced.”

To protect neighboring properties from noise, the city will require the hotel developer to monitor noise coming from the project, and provide an annual report on noise for the hotel’s first two years.

Parking for the hotel will be provided on site, Wright also noted, “thus eliminating the demand for parking on neighboring streets.”

The city has also accepted the developer’s analysis on traffic impacts from the hotel, Wright said in her report.

“The traffic impact analysis concluded that no mitigation or improvements to intersections were necessary for the traffic impacts from the proposal, however, the project is conditioned to provide frontage improvements including new sidewalks and a bike lane.”

While some opponents said the project will make Winslow lose its “small town feel,” and that downtown is already overcrowded, Wright said city regulations allow for a project to be built on the land that is more dense than the one proposed.

“The design incorporates cedar beams, natural materials, tree retention, and landscaping that capture the island’s character and standard for quality development,” Wright added.

After the hearing, the hearing examiner may approve the Winslow Hotel’s site plan and conditional use permit, approve the permit with conditions, deny the development application, or remand the application.

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