Zoning approved for schools projects

Members of the Lakes community gathered once again with representatives of the Mercer Island School District Wednesday, May 14 at City Hall to further review the proposed p-zone, which will allow the school district to move forward with its plans for a fourth elementary school and major remodeling of Islander Middle School and Mercer Island High School.

With several community members taking the podium, members of the Lakes community asked the district to tweak its setbacks for the Islander Middle School project, going from setbacks of 65 feet from property lines with one-and-a-half foot setbacks with each additional foot in height to 65 feet with two-and-a-half foot setbacks, with a maximum height of 43 feet.

“It wasn’t presented before, but our design works with that,” said Mercer Island Schools owner’s representative Brandy Fox. “If that was something they wanted to do, it wouldn’t impact the school.”

The proposal at Wednesday’s meeting was otherwise the same as the proposal from the week before, with the exception of the density of the landscape buffer at north end of the property at Island Park, which Fox says the district will be using a residential calculation to produce the additional buffer.

Regarding the hearing’s second agenda item, rezoning of public school properties to public institution  p-zone, the Council received a motion at Monday night’s City Council meeting encouraging confirmation of the school district’s current plan limiting location of parking and vehicle access from S.E. 72nd Street along the western portion of the middle school site.

Throughout the rezoning process, Fox said there has been a lot of emotion, which usually comes anytime a property is rezoned.

“We did a lot of listening to the Lakes community about what was important to them and how they felt about the school and how they wanted to experience the school,” said Fox. “We’ve had five or six community meetings with them, we’ve spent a lot of time with them on a project we’ve done redesigning to be responsive to them. It was more about ‘how can we design a building that will be a good neighbor for the next fifty years, and what’s important to you as a neighborhood.’”

While she’ll admit the process has been challenging at times, Fox believes common ground has been found for all parties involved.

“I feel very positive we can develop a responsive design that meets the school’s needs and neighbors’ needs and provides first-class education for kids. I don’t feel we’ve compromised anything, I feel we’ve come to a really good solution for everybody.”


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