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Will new council revisit Overlay District issue?

In the aftermath of the general election earlier this month, the Port Orchard City Council will welcome a number of new faces, and fewer long-time members.

Councilman Rick Wyatt was voted out and Robert Geiger opted not to run, leaving members Carolyn Powers and John Clauson the only remaining to have served more than one term.

That, with the newfound civic energy from those upset over the Downtown Overlay District, begs the question of what will happen to the recently completed document in the coming year.

Each candidate has a different take on the Downtown Overlay District, but those incumbents who voted for the final draft — Clauson, Fred Chang, Powers and Rob Putaansuu — still hold a majority on the council.

At least one new member, Jerry Childs, has been actively outspoken against certain sections of the document, including the 55-foot building heights, the exclusion of regulations to protect the views of those south of Bay Street and the inclusion of amenities, which are required for developers to build to the maximum height.

Childs has indicated he would like to revisit certain aspects of the document, and Mayor-elect Lary Coppola has his own ideas for minor changes, but the remaining five either voted for the document — Powers, Putaansuu, Clauson and Chang — or have not officially opposed the regulations.

“It’s always possible that someone could want to revisit it,” Chang said, but added, “I don’t see the momentum for that.”

But Childs does plan to discuss the item, encouraging another look at the View Protection Ordinance and the amenities. He maintains Port Orchard does not need taller buildings, and that downtown’s prospects are not as dire as many think.

“I think the town looks fine,” Childs said. “It just needs to be spruced up.”

He noted concerns over the viability of the View Protection Ordinance, but felt changes could be made to improve the document.

Coppola also wants to see changes on the amenities, but not necessarily an omission.

“What I’d like to see is that money put into a dedicated fund where the city decides what the amenities are going to be,” he said. “We can use that money to improve things that would make us a better city.”

He noted that some developers may build, add the amenity and leave.

“The rest of us are going to be here from now on,” he said. “I want us to have more of an opportunity to decide what those amenities are going to be.”

When this issues will come up, and what will happen remains, but Chang notes that for much of Port Orchard, the DOD is just one issue.

“I think the DOD is certainly an important part of the city, but I don’t think it’s the only issue,” Chang said, adding that for those close to downtown the topic was very important. “I think for them that was true, but I don’t think for the voting population as a whole that was true.”

He also noted that for many, including himself, taking office changes perceptions and ideas.

“Part of it is that when new people come in, they sort of come in as a blank slate,” he said. “Sometimes their initial notions change. I know I certainly changed because I was not aware of the processes and the protocols when I started.”

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