Planning Commission denies PEAK appeals, OKs Conditional Use Permit with caveats

Nancy Hilliard
Mercer Island Reporter

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.

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 feet lot.

Barring further appeals to Superior Court or a hearing examiner, and once other permits have been obtained and procedures fulfilled (including MI 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 dollars privately to pay for construction. The club sold the West Mercer property to Islander Michael O'Brien to help pay for the project. The non-profit 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. And 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 on March 26. The group is considering its next actions, she said.

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.” He abstained from approving the CUP.

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. He was told that the building square footage had been reduced by 5,000 square feet and a portion of it had been pushed 12 feet underground. Chappelle voted against the CUP.

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 leasers.

Conditions listed in the CUP approval before the final building permit is issued are as follows:

Utilities shall be placed underground or shielded from abutting properties and streets by site obscuring protective strips of trees or shrubs.

Confirmation by the Code Official that the side yard depth and all other lot requirements are met.

Confirmation by the Code Official that the project meets the impervious surface limits.

A shared parking agreement has been executed by the Mercer Island School District and the Boys and Girls Clubs of King County, in a form and content acceptable to the City and meeting the requirements specified by the applicable First Amendment to Development Agreement.

The Mercer Island School District and Boys and Girls Club of King County shall implement restrictions on operations specified by Development Agreement, in cooperation with the City.

The Mercer Island School District and Boys and Girls Club of King County shall implement the mitigating measures specified by the Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance.

The parties shall continue to comply with the terms and conditions of the Development Agreement and First Amendment to that agreement.

Considerations be made for bicycle storage and pathways to complement pedestrian walkways.

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