DOD's Growth Management Act compliance questioned

Port Orchard’s Downtown Overlay District (DOD) will face scrutiny when two city residents bring it before the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board, citing a number of housing and environmental concerns.

Marge Gissberg and Paulie Williams of 840 Prospect Alley have been outspoken opponents of the DOD, concerned about the loss of their views to potential 27- to 55-foot buildings on Bay Street. But that’s just one of several aspects of the document they say don’t comply with the Growth Management Act in a petition for review given to the hearings board Nov. 20.

“It isn’t just a view issue,” Gissberg said Wednesday. “It’s a matter of principle about the few over the many, and I just wouldn’t sit still for it.”

The Downtown Overlay District, completed this fall, regulates building and design within the central core of Port Orchard’s downtown. Of particular debate is the allowance of buildings ranging from 27 to 55 feet in height.

Gissberg and Williams’ petition asserts there was no consideration in the document for pollution draining into Sinclair Inlet or the collapse of the hillside abutting Bay Street, “which is grossly unstable based on underground springs and water runoff from Tremont Street.”

“The water all travels down the top from Tremont all the way down to Bay Street,” Gissberg said, “and we have untold underground springs which are active year round.”

Additionally, the document states that by encouraging mixed-use developments with high-end condominiums on the upper floors, the DOD will displace almost 100 low-income residents living in apartments along Bay Street.

“The low-income occupants of the buildings downtown have had no provision made for them by the city in the (DOD) for relocation of any type,” the document states.

It also contends that the DOD serves only a section of the population, ignoring the fact that the city’s Comprehensive Plan has not been revised since 1995.

Gissberg said Wednesday that the city moved forward without taking environmental and infrastructure considerations into account.

“There was no research done on additional sewage, water usage, where these things were going to drain into,” she said. “There were no studies done ahead of time, it was just done on the whim of people who want to get rich and were greedy.”

The city will meet with Gissberg and Williams at a pre-hearing Dec. 17, with a formal hearing scheduled for March 27.

Until then, hearing board staff attorney Julie Taylor said city affairs could go on as normal, meaning for the moment development applications can go through.

“Essentially at this point it’s in the preliminary stage,” she said. “No decision has been made whether the city is or isn’t in compliance. Things go on as is until there’s a decision.”

Mayor Kim Abel declined comment about the petition, other than to acknowledge it was in the works, and that the city will continue with business as usual until a ruling is made.

“Cities have people file actions against them on a number of things, and they just get dealt with and then they move on,” she said, adding that the issues surrounding the DOD will gather more attention to the proceedings.

Meanwhile Gissberg says she didn’t just sit aside and complain about the legislation, she took action.

“For all the naysayers who went to these meetings and yapped, ‘We don't want it,’ but didn't do anything — I did something about it,” she said.

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