City Council Moves To Invalidate Approved Permits for Winslow Hotel

In a new twist to a long-running Bainbridge saga, City Councilmembers moved on March 23 to retroactively remove permit approval for the Winslow Hotel project. As things stand, that move will be complete if the Ordinance 2021-03 stays as written in the Consent Agenda for the upcoming April 13 City Council Regular Business Meeting.

If you disagree with this action to block development, the retroactive manner in which it is being taken, or simply want to support the project as originally approved, then the time is now to voice your opinion.

While there has been much debate both for and against the hotel development slated for 241-253 Winslow Way West during it’s Conditional Land Permit application process, the Island’s hearing examiner ultimately approved the project, and that decision was upheld after appeal to the Kitsap County Superior Court.

To attempt to retroactively invalidate a multi-year public and legal process brings up 4 specific concerns involving transparency, fairness and fiscal responsibility:

  1. If an Islander, having successfully made it through the permitting process, can see that process later invalidated, then the entire process is thrown into doubt.
  2. If a local business, moving forward in anticipation of an approved Winslow Hotel project projected to bring a boost to economic activity, has committed to plans dependent on that project, this retroactive measure can bring great damage to their operations, especially in this time of pandemic recovery.
  3. That the $850,000 already paid to the city by the developer through the approved project’s density bonuses (AKA Floor Area Ratio, or FAR funds), monies which had primarily been earmarked for the preservation of agricultural land on the island, would simply be lost to the island.
  4. That if a matter already litigated in the County Superior Court is overturned at the City level, significant legal expenses would almost certainly be incurred by COBI, redirecting taxpayer dollars that could otherwise help the island’s pandemic recovery, affordable housing, sustainable transportation, and agricultural preservation efforts.

Put simply, and without getting into the pros and cons of this or any specific project, this City Council move has the potential to significantly undermine confidence in our island’s business structure as a whole.

If you share any of these concerns, or if you are a Bainbridge resident, business owner, or worker concerned about the economic impact caused by the removal of this project, then it is important to make your voice heard: Phone calls and letters to council, or signing up for public comment at the April 13 meeting are the best ways to speak up – and links to do just that can be found at the bottom of this article.

Project Background

The Winslow Hotel project was originally proposed back in 2018 by Madison Avenue Development, a company led by island residents Mike Burns and Greg van Patten, based on designs by Bainbridge’s Cutler Anderson Architects. In a comprehensive Conditional Land Permit process which has already taken more than 3 years and attracted much public discourse and comment, the development of a new 87-room hotel with restaurant, bar, spa, banquet and meeting spaces has been examined and considered at many levels.

After the Design Review Board approved the project, and the Planning Commission did not, COBI Planning Director Heather Wright issued a report and recommendation at the start of 2020 that the project should be approved as ‘compliant with the Bainbridge Island Municipal Code and in accord with the Comprehensive Plan’.

Following a well-attended final public hearing, Bainbridge Island Hearing Examiner Ted Hunter approved the permit application, along with multiple conditions and considerations including underground parking, a shuttle bus running to the ferry terminal, a minimum of 36 shared bicycles, and that solar panels, rainwater reclamation, and onsite affordable housing units for workers be placed upon the project .

Project opponents, led by the well-organized Winslow Neighbors group, advocated against the development at each step based on potential traffic, noise, and parking issues, all the way to an appeal at the Kitsap County Superior Court, an appeal which was ultimately denied at the start of this year and seemingly gave the project a green light to move forward into construction.

The matter arose again in recent weeks as City Council considered a proposed ordinance intended in part to ban the construction of any new hotels in Winslow’s Central Core, Ferry and Gateway districts until the completion of an updated version of the Winslow Master Plan.

In the version of Ordinance 2021-03 being considered, City Attorney Joe Levan included language to clarify that projects which had already been permitted would still be able to proceed, but in a March 23 session which featured two members not present, and significant confusion on how many votes were needed to win motions, Council voted 3-2 to strike the added language, and to move the amended version into the consent agenda at the next council business meeting.

Without a request from any single member of council to remove the item from that agenda, then the retroactive invalidation of the Winslow Hotel permit will simply be passed, without further debate. As debate has been so rich at every stage, that lack of further discussion seems strange – especially for a matter seeming to beg careful consideration not just in terms of the intention, but also how the process pertains to other stated council intentions around creating a walkable business center in Winslow and building sustainable transportation and economic recovery for our community.

UPDATE 04/07/21: At last night’s Council Study Session, Ordinance 2021-03 was removed from the consent agenda and moved into Unfinished Business for the April 13 meeting. This means that, at the very least, more public discussion of the matter is now scheduled – confirming that this the time for anyone who wants to speak up to do so.

Watch The March 23 Council Meeting For Yourself

Watch the previous discussion and vote around this ordinance amendment at the March 23 Council Meeting:
(Click the blue text below the video to jump straight to Item 9A – or skip to the 1:07:23 mark)

Speak Up & Share Your Voice:

The Chamber, along with the Downtown Association, and Visit Bainbridge and other representative island groups will be writing to council in upcoming days to express our concerns about this matter, and we encourage you to do the same:

Write to Councilmembers collectively via [email protected]

Or (more powerfully) write or call each member individually:

Name Title Email Phone
Deets, Joe Councilmember, North Ward [email protected] 206-473-1864
Carr, Christy Councilmember, South Ward [email protected] 206-473-1682
Nassar, Rasham Mayor, Central Ward [email protected] 206-300-6181
Schneider, Leslie Councilmember, Central Ward [email protected] 206-200-4502
Hytopoulos, Kirsten Deputy Mayor, At-Large [email protected] 206-482-4958
Pollock, Michael Councilmember, South Ward [email protected] 206-475-1814
Fantroy-Johnson, Brenda Councilmember, North Ward Email Councilmember Fantroy-Johnson 206-498-4294

As soon as the Agenda is published for next week’s meeting (usually on the Friday beforehand), you can also sign up for public comment via: https://www.bainbridgewa.gov/1101/City-Council-Agendas.

Our Chamber staff are also, as always, here to help – and the best way to reach out in these covid times is via: https://bainbridgechamber.com/contact-us/