Port Orchard urges joint development of SKIA

With the city of Bremerton poised to annex the Port of Bremerton’s 3,400-acre South Kitsap Industrial Area, Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola on Monday issued a draft proposal that suggests a plan for developing the site under an inter-local agreement consisting of the port, Kitsap County and the cities of Port Orchard and Bremerton — with each sharing the costs as well as the anticipated benefits.

Calling SKIA “the most important economic development opportunity in South Kitsap, and possibly the entire Kitsap Peninsula,” Coppola argued that “the potential gains that can be made with a joint effort ... are so much greater than what may be accomplished by one entity. The costs are just too much for any one jurisdiction to bear.”

The Kitsap County commissioners are scheduled to meet with Port of Bremerton officials on Monday to discuss the future of the site, about half of which is owned by the port with the remainder owned by private land owners.

Port Orchard officials, however, were not invited to Monday’s meeting.

Since SKIA sits entirely in unincorporated Kitsap County, the county commissioners are currently responsible for its governance. But that would change under the Port Orchard plan, which would encourage the port to take on that additional responsibility.

Primarily, though, the Port Orchard draft proposal stresses the importance of sharing the cost of developing the infrastructure needed to make SKIA attractive to prospective tenants.

“The 2003 SKIA sub-area plan depended heavily on a supply-side strategy for economic development, essentially relying on the concept that providing sufficient land capacity in the anticipation that the employers and manufacturing base (would follow),” the report noted. “The time has come to take the next step and provide the infrastructure and the incentives for those companies to relocate to Kitsap.”

The draft proposal identifies each element of the needed infrastructure (sewer/wastewater, electricity, stormwater management, natural gas and transportation) and offers suggestions on how an integrated plan would be more effective than Bremerton taking on the entire burden by itself.

In order to fund the improvements, Coppola suggests the creation of a special taxing district within which all sales and property taxes, plus any revenues obtained when property is removed from forest land designation would also be committed to this special district fund.

“These dedications of tax revenues would provide the needed jump-start for the infrastructure and, in combination with the joint bonding capacity of the four jurisdictions working together, may provide a formidable presence in securing additional state, federal, grant and other outside financing,” the report said.

Coppola anticipates the tax dedications lasting for five years, with an extension of another five years a possibility. After that point, all tax revenues would be divided equally between the county, the port and Bremerton and Port Orchard.

In an e-mail sent to the county commissioners accompanying the draft proposal, Coppola further questioned whether Bremerton had the legal right to unilaterally annex the SKIA site. “Our city attorney has reviewed the previously agreed-upon (memorandum of understanding) and believes it is still legally valid and binding,” he wrote. “It specifically says that no annexations will be proposed until all parties have executed the Inter-Local Agreement (ILA), and amended their Comprehensive Plans as necessary. That has yet to occur.”

Coppola did not elaborate on how Port Orchard might respond if the city is left out of the process, though.

“The decisions about SKIA concern all of our futures,” he said. “All that remains to be accomplished is for all the parties involved — government and private sector alike — to make a sincere commitment to finalize the details and make this project work.”

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