Colchester Commons project getting the green light

After three appeals, the proposed Colchester Commons development is back on track.

The three-story, multi-use development, slated to be built on the southeast corner of Colchester Drive and Main Street in Manchester, has been a contentious, stop-and-go affair for some time.

Opponents call the design large and boxy, and argue that it doesn’t match the character of Manchester’s downtown core. One appeal to a site review plan from Doug and Cerissa Holme argued that the development was not in compliance with the Manchester Community Plan

Proponents, however, believe the design complies with the Manchester Community Plan and hope it continues to spur development downtown. Bill Palmer, the property owner’s designated representative, appealed a director’s interpretation of the plan that capped buildings at two stories.

“Manchester has progressively deteriorated,” said Manchester resident Ron Hutchinson, who spoke in favor of the development at appeal sessions. “I would love to see it come back and be a vibrant little town.”

Two out of three related appeal decisions from Kitsap County Hearing Examiner Stephen K. Causseaux Jr. favored the development.

An appeal of the development’s site review plan by the Holmes, owners of the Family Inn At Manchester, questioned the development’s harmony with the surrounding area.

The development is three stories, and opponents say the building is too boxy. Causseaux approved the site plan review to move forward in this appeal.

The other appeals were filed by Palmer, disputed an interpretation from Director of Community Development Larry Keeton.

Keeton’s interpretation, requested by Carrilu Thompson and Carole Leininger, of Manchester, examined the Manchester Community Plan, and determined that buildings in the downtown core are restricted to two stories.

Palmer’s appeals first questioned the interpretation itself, then argued that Keeton did not have the authority to make such an interpretation.

Causseaux’s decision granted the appeal on the interpretation, explaining that the plan does not limit to two stories, but “encourages” two-story development, but denied the portions of both appeals questioning the director’s authority.

The Kitsap County commissioners can appeal Causseaux’s decision, but will likely not.

Thompson has not decided whether opponents to the development will appeal the decision on the director’s interpretation, but noted that the appeal did allow buy some time for those working on a new draft of the Manchester Community Plan.

Meanwhile, Palmer is moving forward on the development’s next step, submitting an application for a building permit. Palmer is making some cosmetic changes to the building’s design, and said some people might like the improvements.

But he conceded it would be “doubtful (the changes would) satisfy everybody.”

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