Permit process to move ahead School Board approves PEAK settlement

The Mercer Island School Board voted to approve the PEAK settlement during last Thursday’s board meeting, giving the green light to proceed with the next phase of the project — securing construction permits and a final design. PEAK is currently expected to break ground between April and June of 2009.

During the June 26 School Board meeting, members of the board expressed their appreciation to all parties involved in the PEAK compromise, thanking Lisa Strauch-Eggers in particular for her role as mediator between the school district, the city, the Boys & Girls Club and Island residents.

“Ultimately, we’re doing this for the sake of Mercer Island kids. It wasn’t easy for the neighbors. It wasn’t easy for the city or the School Board,” Strauch-Eggers said, thanking all groups involved. “This settlement wouldn’t have been reached if not for the countless hours of work everyone put in.”

The City Council approved the settlement, which lays out a number of stipulations for PEAK, including a reduction in size and parking restrictions, on June 21 during its summer planning session. The document was then passed on to the School Board for final approval.

In agreeing to the settlement, Islanders for Common Sense, PEAK’s main opposition for months, has promised to no longer protest the project. Originally, Islanders for Common Sense leader Amanda Clark and her husband — future neighbors of PEAK — had threatened to contest the former PEAK plan during an upcoming design review process. Now that a compromise has been met, the couple has agreed to no longer oppose the project.

“I’m pleased that the parties have finally realized an agreement. The community has waited a long time for this,” said Superintendent Gary Plano.

In total, the settlement highlights 29 stipulations for the construction and utilization of PEAK. Five parties — Islanders for Common Sense, the Boys & Girls Club of King County, the City of Mercer Island, the Mercer Island School District and Amanda Clark — signed the settlement.

One of the more noteworthy stipulations, which was brought up for brief discussion at the School Board meeting, states that the school district must provide a “campus master plan” of the high school and adjacent facilities within two years. The plan must clearly outline any “development and redevelopment of the campus in accordance with the Superintendent of Public Instructions’ protocol.”

Other topics covered traffic flow in the neighborhood, creating a residential parking zone, efforts to relocate the school district buses, limiting PEAK’s hours on Sunday mornings and reducing the overall area from 45,000 square feet to 41,300 square feet. The smaller project size allows the club to give up 18 code-required parking spaces, eight of which the club plans to. A subsequent amendment to the current development agreement must be approved by the City Council and School Board as part of that condition. The space planned for those parking spots will be planted with additional landscaping to buffer the views of the parking lot from adjacent homes.

The club cannot begin construction on PEAK until all financial obligations are met. The president of the Boys & Girls Club of King County, Daniel Johnson, said the club still has to raise $2 million of the $16 million needed. Thanks to the recent agreement, he is confident that all funds will be earned.

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