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Parking may scuttle PEAK

Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter This artist’s rendering depicts how PEAK may look if completed on 86th Avenue S.E. just north of the school district administration building. Parking issues have stalled the project. -
Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter This artist’s rendering depicts how PEAK may look if completed on 86th Avenue S.E. just north of the school district administration building. Parking issues have stalled the project.
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The long-awaited vote concerning the development agreement between the school district and the city for the Boys & Girls Club’s PEAK project has been delayed. The vote has yet to be rescheduled.

The vote was scheduled before City Council on Monday Feb. 5. Council is seeking amendments to a development agreement reached last June that covered the impervious surfaces development regulations for the project. The amendments have to do with the impacts the project will have on the surrounding neighborhood. The development agreement must be approved before permits can be issued to begin construction.

The amendments would obligate the school district to devise a “demand management plan” for parking that will reduce the number of trips to the campus over time. The school district already imposes some parking management tools, such as encouraging carpooling, and collecting parking fees from students. But Council wants the district to come up with a goal of reduced trips within a certain time frame.

The Boys & Girls Club originally hoped such agreements would have been resolved by last Fall, the club’s executive director Blair Rasmussen said. He was also hoping the amendments would be passed next week so the project could remain on schedule.

City Attorney Londi Lindell said postponing the vote was necessary because the city and school district are still trying to work out a compromise with Council’s requests.

“The item has been pulled from the Feb. 5 meeting because of discussions at the Council retreat,” Lindell said last Friday. “The school board was to have given some information to the city for purposes of finalizing the development agreement and that has not occurred. This will require some additional meetings between City Council representatives and School Board representatives.”

City Council member Jim Pearman said Council is essentially asking the district to come up with a plan to resolve parking problems, such as spill-over parking during school hours, before it votes to approve the development agreement.

According to Rasmussen, it is possible the Boys and Girls Club of King County, the parent organization that largely responsible for funding the project, would not want to continue with the project if an agreement cannot be reached . But Daniel Johnson, the CEO of the county-level organization, said the club is confident an agreement will be reached but in the event that one is not, the county board of directors will evaluate its options at that time. If the agreement is reached soon, construction may begin as soon as late July and on schedule, Rasmussen said.

At the Council retreat two weeks ago, Council was concerned that the school district disagreed with and refused to accept their terms to resolve the parking situation.

“The issues outstanding all have to do with parking to ensure that the high school campus with the addition of the PEAK facility will not have an adverse impact on the surrounding neighborhoods and traffic with spill over parking,” Lindell said.

“The message we sent is that we are not going to go forward unless there is a meaningful commitment to reduce the number of trips going to that area,” Council member Dan Grausz said at the retreat.

Residents near the high school are concerned the new facility will add more traffic to their neighborhood. Many have stated that the area is already plagued with traffic and parking problems because of the district campus and high school.

In December, the city hosted a town meeting to propose a residential parking zone or expand the current restricted zone, but neither option was favored by residents. According to the tally published by the city, most residents did not want any changes to the current restrictions instead wanted their rights to park in front of their own homes without restrictions, reinstated.

Council has not however, given the school district the parameters on the limits on traffic and parking that they wish to see.

“The district recognizes that there’s a need,” Associate Superintendent of Business Services Liz Dodd said of the parking plan. “We just can’t do it in a couple weeks, or even a couple months.”

“We would do it ourselves. It’s something we’ve been aware of that’s needed to be done and it’s a need beyond PEAK. We don’t see the two (PEAK and the demand management plan) tied together at all. It’s something that needs to be done whether PEAK goes in or not. We’ve been living on this campus for years without it.”

Resolving the parking issue is the latest hurdle for the PEAK project. Earlier in the planning process, the Boys and Girls club decided to drop its daycare service. The district, however, insisted that the club provide the space for daycare at the new site as it has at the current site, and it was added back into the plans.

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