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County OKs Manchester two-story reg

Despite claims from property owners and developers that Manchester’s development situation is not an emergency, the Kitsap County Commissioners approved an interim ordinance restricting mixed-use buildings to two stories and a height of 35 feet.

Commissioner Jan Angel said she supported the decision, given the large amount of confusion surrounding the Manchester Community Plan drafted in 2002, and allows the continued drafting of a new community plan to tackle the issue further.

“I believe that this ordinance is the right thing to do,” Angel said. “That will allow time for the community to finish what they’re doing.”

However, all three commissioners echoed the sentiment that the decision is to allow residents and developers to discuss the issue between now and the Nov. 1 deadline.

Each commissioner said good developments could include three stories.

“Don’t look at this as two stories versus three stories,” Commissioner Josh Brown said, calling the debate a “delicate balancing act.”

The commissioners agreed about the confusion surrounding the original 2002 plan. Residents believed that the original plan would be enforceable or “have teeth,” as many have said.

The 2002 plan called for two-story buildings no higher than 35 feet, but because the document included ambiguous words like “encourage” and “should” instead of “shall” and “will,” developers began work on three-story buildings.

Residents are in the process of revising the plan and requested the interim decision fearing that, by the time it is complete and codified, the few parcels in Manchester will already be finished.

This decision follows an interpretation of the plan from the county’s director of community planning that stated the same thing residents adjacent to downtown Manchester have been saying all along – two stories only.

Those who spoke against the ordinance at the public hearing Monday called the proposal “knee-jerk” and said the situation was not an emergency.

Bill Palmer, who is working as a planner for several Manchester developments, argued against statements from residents that three-story buildings will alter the character of the town.

“It’s a very subjective statement,” Palmer said, adding that it’s questionable to base the decision on that belief.

After the meeting, Manchester resident Carrilu Thompson said the issue is more than just views. Allowing two stories of residential units would push the population density from “rural” to “urban,” she said, and the downtown can’t support that kind of growth.

“We don’t have the parking, we don’t have the infrastructure,” Thompson said. “We are a one-road downtown.”

Thompson also refuted claims that developers need three stories in order to make any money on a development.

“I don’t believe for a second that a quality development can’t be built with two stories,” she said.

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