Neighbors settle with PEAK

Having recently reached a settlement of several compromises for both sides, the organization of neighbors opposing the Boys and Girls Club’s PEAK project are no longer against the proposed youth athletic facility and will revoke their appeal of the conditional use permit approved by the city’s Planning Commission earlier this year.

Islanders for Common Sense, led by resident Amanda Clark, and the Boys and Girls Club have agreed to several terms that include a slight reduction of square footage and promises a future master plan of the high school and school district campus. The city will also institute a residential parking zone in the neighborhood and work with the club to prevent users from parking illegally in the neighborhood. The City Council, as a member of a development agreement between the club and school district, approved the settlement on Saturday during its summer planning session at the community center. The School Board must also approve the agreement before it is finalized. During the planning session, Councilmember Dan Grausz said this agreement would not have been possible without the work of School Board member Lisa Strauch-Eggers.

President of the Boys and Girls Club of King County, Daniel Johnson, said last week that he was thrilled the two sides had reached an agreement and the club looks forward to moving on with the project.

“This signifies that both the community group and the club worked hard to both listen and compromise to make [the project] go forward. This will streamline the process as we will be moving forward to get remaining entitlements to construction,” said Johnson.

PEAK’s project manager, Sid Kitchings, said there are still another nine to 12 months of design review and permitting. He said the project would most likely break ground between April and June of 2009.

In all, the two sides agreed to 29 conditions in the settlement. As their share in the compromise, Islanders for Common Sense will no longer publicly oppose the project and will try to persuade others to support it as well. The agreement states that Clark and undersigned members of Islanders for Common Sense “will not support or encourage any opposition to the project by any other persons” and agree to “not publicly oppose the project.”

One of the significant gains made by the neighborhood organization in exchange for its support is the school district’s promise for a master plan of the high school and adjacent district campus within two years. Resident Dave Ross, who was part of Islanders for Common Sense and spoke publicly before the Council asking for a master plan on several occasions, said that was significant because it allows the neighborhood to be involved in the future of the campus.

“I feel that too little attention was given to how the high school campus will look in five years or in 10 years. Up to now, it’s been done piecemeal,” said Ross. “Neighbors have long been concerned that it doesn’t appear to fit with the neighborhood. ”

Ross said the agreement would never have been possible without the organizing efforts of Clark. “Amanda [Clark] deserves credit for the progress we made,” he said.

The settlement states “all parties will in good faith explore the feasibility of relocating, within five years, the school bus parking from the existing Mercer Island High School campus to a new location.”

As part of the deal, the Boys and Girls Club will reduce the size of the building by at least 3,700 square feet so that the total project will not be more than 41,300 square feet. Johnson said the reduction in size will have some impact on the club’s programs, but nothing severe.

“Any decrease is a compromise, but these were thoughtful reductions that don’t significantly undermine the programs,” Johnson said.

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.

Ross said reducing the building size and adding landscaping as a buffer makes the project a better fit.

“As the neighborhood near the high school, we bear the grunt during football games, dances or orientation,” said Ross. “We just want some consideration of how the neighbors feel. We were never against the Boys and Girls Club. We wanted the project to be more in keeping with the neighborhood.”

In exchange for the compromise made by the club, Clark and her husband will not contest the architects’ proposed plan during the upcoming design review process. As part of the development agreement with the school district and city, the club cannot begin construction until all the funds are raised. Johnson said the club still has to raise $2 million of the $16 million needed but is confident that will happen now that the organized opposition supports the project.

“We are going to do a full-court press to get that final $2 million,” Johnson said.

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