PEAK plans hit speed bump

Nancy Hilliard
Mercer Island Reporter

The Mercer Island Planning Commission was expected to reach decisions last night (past deadline) on challenges to the Boys and Girls Club’s proposed PEAK project after hearing seven hours of public testimony and argument on March 5 and 19.

On March 19, the commission put the decision on hold (until March 25) to approve a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the 45,000-square-foot PEAK project on 86th Avenue S.E. Also, it continued decisions to settle two appeals by Amanda Clark and Islanders for Common Sense who challenge the city’s by-pass of a full Environmental Impact Statement Impact Statement (EIS) and its calculation of impervious surfaces and requirements for re-subdivision.

Clark replied to planning commissioner Ann Nielsen that she and her group do not challenge the recreational use in a residential neighborhood. If PEAK were smaller, there would not be an issue, she said. Neighbor Paul Crane detailed how the impacts would deteriorate a neighborhood already in an over-programmed locale, which does not even have sidewalks for residents. Another parent who lives nearby said any side effects are worth handling because the project is for a good cause and will increase the community’s well-being.

Charles Wolfe, attorney for Islanders For Common Sense, argued that the “cart was put before the horse,” and that proceedings should stop until a full EIS is done. He asked for reversing the “Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance,” considering there had been no code compliance and other issues had not been addressed.

These included downsizing the proposed field house by one-third to offset the extra traffic; relocating the proposed mega-club for access from S.E. 40th Street rather than from residential streets; further provisions for parking, traffic reduction and enforcement procedures; and greater examination of potential water quality issues.

Rich Hill, attorney for the city, claimed “no merit” and cited actions to the contrary. He asked that appeals be dismissed. The proper time, he said, for these concerns would have been in the 21 days after the development agreement was reached, not in the conditional use process for the actual project. He claims that the PEAK public process “is the most scrutinized in the city’s history”; and Steve Lancaster, director of development services and the city’s compliance officer, said that it has thoroughly met all SEPA requirements.

The proposed PEAK project has been approved by the School District and the city, and is a complex partnership of shared access and facilities, which have been “scaled back considerably from the original proposal,” said Blair Rasmussen, BGC director. “These delays are frustrating when it could be such a remarkable opportunity for the youth in this community and for students and teachers at the high school and at Crest.”

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