Neighbors worry schools will be too close, too tall

Residents who live west of the school properties at the South-end are worried that the buildings will be too big and too close.

About two-dozen community members from The Lakes neighborhood, next to Islander Middle School voiced their concerns about the construction planned for the school properties at a public hearing with the Planning Commission held April 2 at City Hall. The neighbors had questions regarding the height of some of the structures and plans for how traffic will be changed.

Planning Commission member Bryan Cairns said the hearing’s main focus of discussion was the potential for tall buildings on the west side of the middle school and Lakeridge, immediately adjacent to the Lakes, as well as the rerouting of parking and driveways on S.E. 72nd Street, going from Island Crest Way to East Mercer Way in front of the middle school.

“From the original proposal, city staff proposed modifications that would give some protection to people on the eastern boundary of Lakes, but there’s still potential for problems with transportation and tall buildings,” said Cairns, a former mayor of Mercer Island.

The March 20 revised proposal for the height limit of the elementary and middle schools calls for up to 30 feet above average building elevation allowed without additional setback. Up to 48 feet is allowed with an additional setback of 1.5 feet for each additional foot in height for the portion of the building exceeding the 30 feet limit. Up to 53 feet is allowed for a roof that is enclosing mechanical equipment, roof-mounted mechanical equipment and its screening, fly-lofts and gymnasiums, with an additional setback of 1.5 feet for each additional foot in height for the portion of the building exceeding the 30 feet limit.

Some community members expressed they would like to see the school district design a buffer around the school and parking lots. But according to the city’s Development Services Group Director Scott Greenberg, zoning code doesn’t address where parking lots and driveways should be on properties. Cairns said a study hasn’t yet been made regarding how traffic would be handled around middle school.

The commission asked project staff to take another look at some of proposed limitations regarding building height, as well as proposed driveway and parking. An open-record public hearing is scheduled for April 16 at City Hall.

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