Citizen Group to Appeal Planning Department’s SEPA Determination for Visconsi Shopping Center

Posted by on December 1, 2013 at 11:24 am

Bainbridge Island City Hall

On November 14, the City Planning Commission, a group of seven community volunteers with expertise in city planning, unanimously voted against approving the commercial center application by Ohio-based Visconsi Companies. The shopping development site is the wooded and partial wetland at the northeast corner of Highway 305 and High School Road. The Planning Commission determined that the proposed development violates fundamental principles of the Comprehensive Plan, citing significant safety, environmental, and traffic problems.

On November 22, the City of Bainbridge Island (COBI) Planning Department, run by full-time staff, issued a favorable SEPA determination for the Visconsi development. According to the Planning Deparment, the Visconsi proposal poses no significant adverse environmental impacts. Included along with the Planning Department’s determination of Mitigated Nonsignificance are nine SEPA conditions. None of the nine conditions poses any signifcant change in the Visconsi site plan.

Ron Peltier, founder of Islanders for Responsible Development (IFRD), a grassroots organization that has gained substantial community support, said his group will appeal the Department’s decision because, according to IFRD, the mission of the Planning Department makes it biased in favor of developers: “Our Planning Commission is made up of citizen volunteers primarily charged with upholding our Comprehensive Plan, while the Department of Planning is made up of paid staff who see their careers directly tied to successfully approving land use applications,” said Peltier.

Islanders for Responsible Development will make its appeal to the City Hearing Examiner, Stafford Smith, who will review all aspects of the proposed development and analyses of its impact on the community. Peltier said IFRD will be hiring an attorney and proving expert witnesses “to effectively represent community concerns.”

As the basis for its appeal, IFRD cited the following “deficiencies” of the COBI Planning Department’s SEPA determination:

  • “A poorly conducted traffic study that understates the future impact of additional traffic on levels of service, completely ignores impacts to pedestrian safety, and gives no consideration to how increased traffic would impact the adjacent Stonecress neighborhood
  • Absolutely no consideration of impacts to air quality as a result of removing hundreds of trees, followed by a significant increase in motor vehicle traffic
  • No consideration for impacts to environmental aesthetics
  • A gross understatement of noise and light pollution impacts to the nearby Stonecress neighborhood”

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Photo by Julie Hall.

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One Response to “Citizen Group to Appeal Planning Department’s SEPA Determination for Visconsi Shopping Center”

  1. Cindy says:

    How can island residents get involved in protesting the development at this point?

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