Proposed Mullenix gas station on hold

Plans to construct a gas station and convenience store at the intersection of SE Mullenix Road and Highway 16 hit a road block and could be delayed indefinitely.

Jeff Stokes, son of Port of Bremerton Commissioner Larry Stokes, long has planned to construct a two-story, 3,593-square-foot building with six gas pumps and double-walled fiberglass underground tanks.

Hearing Examiner Kimberly A. Allen on March 22 approved the project with 12 conditions, including lighting, landscaping, fencing and signs. She also required Stokes to construct a right-turn acceleration lane on Mullenix for access to Highway 16.

Stokes said the latter requirement could put the project on hold indefinitely. That is not because he is unwilling to construct the lane. Stokes’ planning consultant, Bill Palmer, said the issue comes down to storm drainage. Before the lane requirement was put into place, Palmer said Stokes’ proposal met Kitsap County’s regulation that it “disturbs one acre or less.” That no longer is the case, although Palmer and Stokes said they disagree with the county’s interpretation of the rule.

Kitsap County director of community development Larry Keeton said the right-turn lane is a Washington State Department of Transportation requirement, but it must be included in Stokes’ project.

Keeton said Stokes could request to meet again with the hearing examiner to contest the requirement, or he could place a stoplight at the intersection in lieu of building an acceleration lane.

“We work with him in a lot of ways, but there are some things we just can’t do,” Keeton said. “He’s being held to the same standard that everyone else.”

Stokes said he “is not looking to throw mud,” but takes exception with the implication that he is seeking preferential treatment. He said he has worked hard to bridge concerns with the county since his project first was proposed in 2007.

“I do everything I’ve been told to do,” Stokes said. “I’ve never asked for any special treatment.”

Palmer said Stokes also could pay additional money for three times the storage capacity to meet regulations. Palmer estimated that could triple or quadruple that portion of the budget, which was set at $100,000 to $150,000. Stokes called that prospect a “budget buster.”

“We were hoping to build this summer,” he said, adding that the project likely will be delayed for at least a year now. “The rules and regulations are getting hard to overcome. It just seems like we can’t get over the hurdles.”

Burley Creek flows through a 0.9-acre adjacent protected parcel. But Palmer said it is protected through a series of buffers, setbacks and stormwater management features, such as a rain garden, which will protect the creek.

“Protecting the ecology and the creek has been a priority of ours,” Stokes said. “We want to be a positive part of the county.”

Stokes, who moved to Kitsap County as a 15-year-old in 1975, said he surveyed friends and family about the best use for the property when he was planning how to develop it six years ago. He said a gas station frequently was mentioned.

Palmer’s data from the Department of Transportation shows an average of 19,200 cars per day entering and exiting the highway at all four ramps. Matt Randish, who has owned gas stations with his wife, Marie, in Port Orchard, Poulsbo and Bainbridge, also is a consultant for Stokes on the project. He said more than 21,000 people live east of the Mullenix interchange.

Both Palmer and Randish said Stokes’ gas station and convenience store will be different than usual. Palmer said it will feature a deli and submarine sandwich bar and provide free WiFi.

“This is not your typical beer and cigarette station,” Palmer said.

There also are plans to construct an electric car charging station there.

“This is not a profit center for him,” Palmer said. “It’s about the community.”

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