Manchester: A tale of two stories

The public discussion over building heights in downtown Manchester heated up this week as residents tallied preferences on height regulations and strongly supported a two-story cap.

Last week, residents and developers expressed anonymous preferences for building heights in the commercial core. The preferences were collected at the meeting and during the Manchester Salmon Bake.

Those polled were given five options:

• 35-foot limit with three stories;

• 35-foot limit with two stories;

• 32-foot limit with 2 stories

• 28-foot limit with 2 stories; and,

• 20-foot limit with only one story.

Those polled were also allowed to write down opinions or other preferences to be entered into the public record.

Of the 220 people polled, the 28 feet with 2 stories option received the most votes — 82, or 37 percent — followed closely by 35 feet with 3 stories — 70 votes, or 32 percent.

However, looking at the numbers a different way, Manchester resident Carrilu Thompson said, shows other results. Almost two-thirds of those polled prefer a two story limit, at whatever height, with just under a third preferring three stories.

In raw height, 61 percent of those polled prefer heights lower than 35 feet.

Thomspon said the data reflects the long-held opinions of Manchester residents. Many believe the last draft of the Manchester Community Plan sufficiently limited heights to two stories and 35 feet, but several developers want to build three story buildings in the commercial core.

“We are a designated rural village,” Thompson said. “The density downtown has to reflect that.”

Thompson said the data is not a vote, but just a tally of preferences to be placed in the public record for the county commissioners.

“It’s simply about letting the county know how (the residents) are feeling,” Thompson said. “We’re not done soliciting input from the community. This is just one avenue for people to express their opinion.”

Building heights take up just a small portion of an overall discussion in revising the Manchester Community Plan, a document that guides regulations within the unincorporated community.

In the coming weeks, the group will continue to work on the various sections of the document.

On July 10, the group drafting the plan will meet for an open house to discuss design standards. The open house will be held at the Manchester Library at 6:30 p.m.

At an unset date in the future, the group will meet a panel of volunteers from other communities that adopted an advisory committee overseeing development in their communities.

Community members from Hansville, Suquamish and Kingston will meet with Manchester residents and developers to discuss the county-appointed groups.

Scott Diener, community planning manager for Kitsap County, warned Manchester residents Tuesday evening their time is limited on putting together the community plan, due in September, and design standards, due in October to meet a November 1 deadline.

“There’s a time line to hit, and that’s vital,” Thompson said.

Next week, two appeals come before the Kitsap County hearing examiner questioning the director’s interpretation that upheld some residents claim for the two-story and 35-foot limit for mixed use buildings.

The appeals will be heard at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. on June 28.

Story edited for corrections June 26, 2007

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