News

PEAK lease approved

School Board vote is unanimous, neighbors worry about impact

By Elizabeth Celms
Mercer Island Reporter

The Mercer Island School Board voted unanimously to approve the recently revised PEAK draft lease and joint-use agreement on Aug. 23, after nearly two hours of emotional commentary from the public.

Nearly 60 members of the community showed up for the public hearing, which was moved from the administration building to CREST learning center to accommodate the large crowd, and 37 stood to voice their opinions on PEAK. Each citizen was given three minutes to speak.

“I am for PEAK but I’m not for PEAK at the high school. We should let the people vote on this,” said resident Eileen Mitchell.

“Once land is given up, you don’t get it back. Cramming PEAK into that small corner space [of the North Mercer campus] is a bad idea,” opined Eric Jaecks. “I plead that the School Board doesn’t facilitate this project.”

Indeed, the majority of comments had been heard before; complaints about the facility’s size, parking problems, traffic and noise pollution, the Board’s “secretive” management of the bidding process, and whether the facility is actually “needed” at the North Mercer location.

Since the proposed PEAK project was introduced in 2005, the Board has held multiple public meetings for discussion on the plan — Aug. 23 being the last.

Yet many who attended the Thursday meeting felt there hadn’t been enough opportunity for the public — North Mercer neighbors in particular — to speak out.

In response, President Leslie Ferrell pointed out that in August 2005 the Board had sent letters to all North Mercer neighbors, encouraging them to attend an upcoming meeting and voice their opinions on the proposed facility.

“It’s been a long journey,” Ferrell said before approving the draft. “We’ve discussed this, negotiated it and we’re being responsible in a fiduciary manner.”

Just two weeks ago, Board members invited residents to comment on the PEAK draft lease and joint-use agreement — which had been posted online a week prior — at their Aug. 9 meeting. Approximately 20 people showed up.

Since then, the Board has made 11 revisions to the draft. Most are changes within the wording used to clarify particular provisions.

In Section 14 language was added to acknowledge that the annual scheduling of events at PEAK would be coordinated with events for all North Mercer campus users — a concern which was addressed at the Aug. 9 public meeting.

Other wording was altered or added to specify the process of “recapturing” the premises, deduction requirements, lease extensions, and details on how both parties should proceed with an agreement termination, if need be.

Now that the School Board has approved the draft lease and joint-use agreement, the Boys and Girls Club is next in line.

“The Boys and Girls Club of King County Board has reviewed the draft lease and are in agreement,” said organization president/CEO Daniel Johnson. “It will be approved at our Sept. 26th board meeting.”

The organization has also agreed on the final sales terms for the current Boys and Girls Club building on West Mercer Way.

But there is still a long road ahead.

“It’s not done yet. It’s a long process, but it’s also an important process,” Johnson said. “We’ll be working closely with the city, the school district and the community to complete this project.”

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