Downtown Overlay District adopted

The Port Orchard City Council approved the finalized draft of the Downtown Overlay District in a 5-2 vote, putting the regulations in effect once a design review board ordinance is scheduled in the coming weeks.

Councilmembers Rita DiIenno, John Clauson, Fred Chang, Robert Putaansuu and Carolyn Powers voted in favor of the ordinance. Councilmen Robert Geiger and Rick Wyatt voted against the ordinance, with Geiger giving an enthusiastic “no.”

Councilman Clauson kicked off the conversation over the ordinance recognizing the polarized opinions from council members, residents and developers.

“I think the sign of a good plan is everybody’s not happy with it,” Clauson said.

Following the presentation of a poll Port Orchard residents say proves the city does not want 55-foot buildings, proponents of the ordinance refuted claims that the council has not listened to public opinion.

Councilman Chang said the ordinance incorporates public comment, prevents canyon effects along Bay Street and prevents Port Orchard becoming like Bremerton.

“With our design standards, it will not look like Bremerton,” Chang said.

Other proponents of the ordinance argued that it was time to move forward on the ordinance.

“I understand change is difficult, but I think it’s time to change downtown,” Putaansuu said.

Wyatt voted against the ordinance, but noted that he was in favor of 14 and a half pages of the draft, the rest of which falls under a “gray area” he does not support, namely the exclusion of the View Protection Ordinance.

“If it stands the way it is, I’ll support 14 and a half pages of it,” Wyatt said, and gave an official “no” vote to the ordinance.

Councilman Geiger was far more enthusiastic about his opposition to the ordinance, citing a number of different problems, including the exclusion of the view protection ordinance, the amenities requirements which he sees as buying extra height from the city, and loopholes in the parking requirements which he said would cost residents money.

The parking portion of the document takes the current parking situation, and potentially makes it worse, Geiger said.

“Come on, let’s just be realistic,” Geiger said. “Don’t compound the problem.”

The rest of the discussion centered on when to put the regulations into effect. The City Council will discuss the implementation of a design review board to look over building proposals downtown, and decided to link the start date of the Overlay District to that future discussion.

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