Manchester Community Plan completed, codified

The Manchester Community Plan is, for the moment, completed and agreeable to a group of residents who believe the original document “lacked teeth” in restricting commercial buildings to two stories.

The Kitsap County commissioners approved the plan, which limits buildings to two stories and requires developments to be harmonious and compatible with other buildings in Manchester’s downtown core.

The original plan, drafted in 2002, “encourages” two-story buildings but did not necessarily prohibit them, leaving some residents frustrated by proposed mixed-use projects coming into downtown.

The current plan more clearly restricts development.

“This was (the will of the) overall majority of the citizens, and I believe it was their intention the first time,” South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel said. “So I guess we finally got the job done properly for them.”

The decision was met with cheers and applause from those residents, mostly from the Manchester Community Coun-cil, at a meeting of the Kitsap County commissioners on Monday.

“The community and the county worked together,” Manchester resident Carrilu Thompson said. “We worked hand in hand in rewriting this. We feel closer to what we were trying to do with the 2002 plan. This is the enforceable plan we hoped for in 2002.”

However the debate and deliberation over the plan is far from over, with at least one party interested in appealing the finalized document, explaining that the restrictions will limit the redevelopment of the community’s downtown core.

Development consultant Bill Palmer, who is working with BJP LLC of Gig Harbor to develop the Colchester Commons at the corner of Main and Colchester, said he plans an appeal.

“The problem I saw with the design guidelines as they were presented to the county commissioners is that, in total, it would preclude anybody from building anything else,” Palmer said. “Even trying to remodel property if you were going to do something that would increase the value 50 percent, you couldn’t comply with the guidelines.”

Palmer and other property owners claim that the restrictions tie their hands for redevelopment.

“I think this will have a very negative effect on future development of downtown Manchester,” property owner Ron Hutchinson said. “I think this will future stymie growth.”

Palmer will wait and examine the final language of the Manchester Community Plan before appealing, but the question would go before the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board when he does.

Palmer’s appeal coincides with another recent decision by the Board of County Commissioners halting the Colchester Commons in claiming that the proposed development is not compatible and harmonious with present and future developments in the area.

The commissioners’ decision overturned a ruling from Kitsap County Hearing Examiner Stephen K. Causseaux Jr. that allowed the project to proceed.

“It was real clear that it didn’t fit the character,” Manchester resident Lyle Burbidge said at Monday’s meeting. “And that’s the nature of the plan. It was very encouraging.”

Palmer said any question of that project would have to go to court, and indicated that he could even sue for damages.

Palmer said Thursday he identified 10 legal problems relative to the county’s decision.

He argued that the county holds no criteria to determine the harmony and compatibility of a development.

“If you’re developing an area with a new development,” he said. “It’s bound to be different with what the existing is. There’s no way you can look at the existing development of Manchester and determine that there’s an established character. You’ve got a hodge-podge of stuff. Maybe back in the 1900s there was an established character, but all that went away.”

He added that the county needed to establish where the hearing examiner’s decision was wrong.

“They had to find that the hearing examiner is clearly erroneous,” Palmer said. “They did not make that finding.”

Palmer called the county’s recent decisions on Manchester political, pushed through by what he sees as a minority of vocal community members.

“It would appear to me that the county is on very weak ground at this point,” Palmer said. “They made a political decision rather than a decision based on reason.”

But in the mean time, those residents, minority or otherwise, are very happy with the results, cheering for their success Monday evening, and publicly thanking county employee Katrina Knutson for overseeing the community plan redraft.

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