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Fire officials’ concerns delay McCormick West plan

A planned development that could bring more than 1,400 new homes to the McCormick Woods area hit a speed bump after local fire officials expressed concern about their ability to provide emergency services to the area.

At a public hearing before Kitsap County Hearing Examiner pro tem Keith McGoffin, both South Kitsap Fire and Rescue Chief Wayne Senter and Kitsap County Fire Marshal David Lynam testified about the McCormick West Master Plan, which proposes to build 1,432 single-family residences on 606 acres within the McCormick Urban Village.

However, Senter said the plan was lacking two important elements — a third access road and provisions made for an additional fire station.

“If we do nothing, it will draw down our ability to serve everybody else,” said Senter, addressing the SKFR board of commissioners during their most recent meeting last month. “Every new development should at least keep the (fire district’s) service at the same level, and not balance it on the backs of people in Olalla and the rest of South Kitsap.”

To demonstrate the need for a third access road, Senter likened the situation to a room that gets larger and larger and fills with more and more people, with no more exits added.

“As the room gets bigger, you need more exits,” he said. “And this is the biggest room we’ve ever built — we need more than 1.5 exits.”

In addition to a lack of access roads, Senter requested that the developers set aside five acres for the potential building of an additional fire station.

“Nine to ten thousand people are going to be out there,” he said. “It is reasonable that they consider allocating some land for a future fire station.”

Senter said the developers and the current owners of the land, the McCormick Land Co., disagreed with his assessment that a section of the property should be designated as a fire station site.

“I was accused of wanting to grab some free land,” he said. “And I was told everything was going to be fine.’”

Senter said the developers pointed out that there were already enough SKFR stations near the development; however, he pointed out that the two closest, Station 6 and Station 18, were, respectively, a garage and parade storage.

After listening to Senter and Fire Marshal Lynam’s concerns, the Hearing Examiner essentially put approval of the plan on hold, leaving the record open for 30 days — until April 24 — to allow the fire officials and the developers, GEM 1, LLC — a partnership between the McCormick Land Co. and Granite Land Co. — an opportunity to reach an agreement.

“The two conditions brought up by the (fire officials) were discussed extensively,” said Dennis Oost, a staff planner with the county’s Department of Community Development. “The plan would have been approved had it not been for the fire marshal’s concerns.”

Senter said he was willing to meet with the developers and “we’re certainly willing to be more reasonable. My hope is that they will be a little more reasonable.”

Doug Skrobut with the McCormick Land Co. said Monday that he has met since the public hearing with members of the county’s DCD to review “some options, but my understanding was the county was going to meet with the fire district.”

As to whether an agreement could be reached before the Hearing Examiner was to rule on April 24, Skrobut said he expected and hoped one could.

Fire Marshal Lynam agreed, saying he was confident the two parties could agree and that “we’ve already had substantial movement forward, and we have a couple of weeks yet.”

Lynam said a similar allocation of land was provided to the fire district when the current McCormick Woods development was built in the 1990s, although as a practice he described it as “not very common.

“But we really haven’t had anything to this scope,” he said, explaining that McCormick West would be like adding the population of the city of Port Orchard to the area. “The fire district doesn’t have a (staffed station) close, and with the existing access road they say they can’t adequately protect the new homes.”

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