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Hearing examiner addresses Manchester appeals

Manchester building heights were the focus of appeals heard by the Kitsap County Hearing Examiner on Thursday.

William Palmer, principal of WM Palmer Consultants, represented the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners, John M. Park, David Hopkins, David Studebaker and Kevin Tweten in two different appeals to a director’s interpretation of the Manchester Community Plan.

Carrilu Thompson and Carole Lein-inger, co-chairs of the Manchester Down-town Design Committee, filed the a request for the interpretation with the Department of Community Development director, specifically looking at building heights and the number of allowed floors.

On April 5, DCD Director Larry Keeton issued an interpretation limiting buildings to 35 feet in height and two stories because of the need for compatibility with the surrounding area.

Palmer appealed the interpretations twice, focusing on different aspects for each. The first appeal questioned Keeton’s ability as director to offer an interpretation in this matter. The second questioned the specifics of the interpretation.

“I didn’t want to risk only arguing that he didn’t have the authority,” Palmer said. “On both counts, I believe the county is in error.”

Community Planning Manager Scott Diener represented county staff in recommending that the Hearing Examiner dismiss both appeals.

Palmer said the director’s interpretation inappropriately moved beyond the administrative duties of the position.

“We have crossed over from adminis-trative review to a legislative process,” Palmer said. In the formal appeal, he said an interpretation cannot be made “independent of a land-use permit or building application.”

Hearing Examiner Stephen Causseaux scrutinized arguments from Diener and Palmer. He questioned Diener regarding the contradiction between the Manchester Community Plan and the Kitsap County Comprehensive plan, and questioned Palmer’s argument of interpretation, explaining that every application is an interpretation of the code.

Causseaux debated with Palmer over the legislative argument, explaining that in many situations a planning department employs multiple director’s, and a larger interpretation may be necessary.

Causseaux will take the information from Thursday’s meeting and will issue a formal decision in the coming weeks.

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