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PEAK wins key permit

Illustration courtesy of Weinstein AU This artist
Illustration courtesy of Weinstein AU This artist's rendering shows the proposed entrance of PEAK on 86th Avenue S.E. when completed.
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Planning Commission denies PEAK appeals, OKs conditional use permit with caveats

Reporter Staff

The Mercer Island Planning Commission denied two legal appeals on March 25, challenging the Boys and Girls Club’s proposed PEAK project on the high school campus. It also granted a conditional use permit for the 45,000-square-foot complex to proceed on 86th Avenue S.E.

Commissioners approved the conditional use permit 4-1. Acting Chair Dave Chappelle voted against it and Commissioner Doug Rigby abstained. The appeal against the city’s determination of non-significance regarding the environmental impact statement was rejected 4-2. The other appeal regarding an interpretation by the city’s code official was denied unanimously.

The project for school-aged children includes a multi-story club facility and teen center, an 18,000-square-foot field house for basketball, volleyball, badminton, lacrosse, indoor soccer, baseball batting practice and wrestling, licensed daycare and parking — on a 71,610-square-foot lot.

Barring further appeals to Superior Court or a hearing examiner, and once other permits have been obtained and procedures fulfilled (including design commission determinations), construction would take an estimated 12-15 months.

“This was a big step forward for Mercer Island kids,” said Blair Rasmussen, director of the Boys and Girls Club. “We will press on to complete the facility and be a good neighbor,” such as picking up litter, ensuring the safety of kids, pedestrians and traffic, and seeing to buffers and other amenities. He added that the project — and the sale of the current club at East Mercer School — has been before the public now for four years.

The Boys and Girls Club began the project to replace its aging facility on West Mercer Way more than four years ago. The club has raised $14 million privately to pay for construction. The club sold the West Mercer property to Islander Michael O’Brien to help pay for the project. The nonprofit and its supporters point to the lack of gym space and the need for teens to have a safe and convenient place to gather on the Island as justification for the plan.

The site near the high school makes the most sense, they said. The School Board agreed, leasing the land to the club for $1 a year for up to 20 years.

Amanda Clark and Islanders for Common Sense, a group of about 60 co-signers, expressed disappointment with the rulings.

“I thought it incorrect for the Planning Commission not to use broader discretion on the project’s size and scale and other safety mitigations on 86th Avenue S.E. and S.E. 40th Street,” said Clark. The group is considering its next actions, she said. The group may legally appeal the Commission’s decisions, which would be heard by a hearing examiner.

Not all of the six commissioners endorsed all city staff recommendations.

Commissioner Douglas Rigby proposed that the Commission consider the CUP only after the site plan “is more clearly defined.” His motion died for lack of a second. He said that while “parking and transportation were my main concerns in the beginning, now the balance between the neighborhood population and the resources” use are more prominent. “I see a neighborhood’s quality of life being modified.”

Vice Chair Dave Chappelle, standing in for Chairman Bill Chapman, who recused himself from proceedings, also had some misgivings about added traffic and activity in the neighborhood on weekends and evenings, and wondered if the project’s size and scale had been reduced enough. The building’s square footage has been reduced by 5,000 square feet since its initial proposal and a portion of it has been pushed 12 feet underground, architects of the project said during the proceedings.

Objections to the project aired over the course of the hearings included its size and scope, adding to an already “over-programmed” neighborhood. Other objections included the allowance that impervious surfaces would cover 57 percent of the four lots involved, thereby aversely affecting storm water flow; and inadequate provisions for increased parking and transportation.

Other issues brought up were the need for comprehensive master planning of the 1.88 million-square-foot-high school campus and all its tenants.

In addition to the long list of conditions established by the city, the Planning Commission added that a pedestrian circulation plan be devised so that pathways to the new facility complement existing walkways on the campus. They also required a plan for bicycle storage.

Other conditions in the agreement include placing utilities underground or shielding them from abutting properties and streets by site-obscuring protective strips of trees or shrubs. The city’s code official must confirm that the side yard depth and all other lot requirements are met and that the project meets the impervious surface limits.

A shared-parking agreement and demand management plan executed by the school district and club must also be accepted by the city. The district, club and city must also implement a unified scheduling system to prevent multiple events from taking place at the same time as well. .

The project also needs approval from the Design Commission, which will hold public hearings concerning the proposed structure’s design.

For a list of the PEAK SEPA CUP conditions, go to www.mercergov.org/peak.

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