Detention center design questioned

As plans for Island County’s Juvenile Detention Center are finalized, one last community board has to give its “thumbs up” before construction can begin.

To help ensure the approval process goes smoothly, the Coupeville Design Review Board met with project officials in an informal public meeting Tuesday morning. The Review Board ensures all construction projects meet Coupeville’s design guidelines.

While no action came from the meeting, it allowed the Review Board to see the Detention Center facility plans and voice any concerns. The county plans to build the facility on the south side of the county jail.

The two-story building provides the county with a facility that gives the county a local, and more effective, way to administer juvenile programs, supporters say. Juvenile offenders currently serve time either in Skagit County or Snohomish County.

The rectangular building, complete with access to the skybridge heading toward the Law and Justice Center, provides a short-term facility to house up to 20 juveniles.

The architect, Peter Alef of KMD Architects in Portland, said the building provides a low-key, functional facility.

“We’re trying to make this thing not scream juvenile detention facility,” Alef said. “It’s a place where kids in trouble are being taken of.”

Nevertheless, several local officials, residents and Design Review Board members were concerned about the building’s appearance.

Those concerns ranged from the mechanical equipment on top of the facility to the surrounding landscaping.

Will Jones, Coupeville resident and former mayor, hoped that the lighting would be minimized and that the equipment on top of the building would be as quiet as possible.

Design Review Board member Fran Einterz questioned whether equipment would be hidden.

Alef said that the rooftop equipment is set back as far as possible and shouldn’t stick out from the top of the building.

As far as the lighting is concerned, Alef said that the only outdoor lighting the facility needs is for the parking. The lighting helps address safety concerns.

Another official wanted to see more landscaping to minimize the visual effect of the detention center on North Main Street.

“I’m a little concerned that we’re going to have a bunch of modern facades going from the hospital to the courthouse,” said Rob Harbour, manager of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. He was referring to the joint fire station and ambulance bay at the hospital that the Design Review Board approved last month.

He wanted to see an aggressive landscaping plan to mitigate the impact of the building. Adding more trees to the south side of the building site would be a way to resolve those concerns, Town Planner Larry Kwarsick said.

Alef said he would be willing to add more trees on the south side of the building just as long as people know such a move would result in the loss of parking spots.

Design Review Board member Millie Fonda advocated heavy landscaping with trees capable of growing as tall as the detention facility.

County officials attending the meeting seemed appreciative of the informal setting.

Public Works Engineer Gary Hess said the comments of the community will be worked into existing plans before the project formally comes to the board for approval.

He said that the county wants to hire a contractor sometime this spring.

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