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Council considers height standards

The Port Orchard City Council closed public hearing Tuesday night at a special meeting to discuss the Downtown Overlay District. After taking more public testimony, the council scheduled two meetings to deliberate on the document, and could vote on a final draft as soon as May 28.

Mayor Kim Abel urged residents and developers to only comment on new material.

Developers spoke at the meeting, claiming there is a win-win situation for residents. Rudy Swansen of Rings and Things Jewelry on Bay Street warned that emotions often get in the way of discussing these things objectively.

Residents echoed the sentiment that revitalization does not require tall, mixed-use developments.

“I still think we can have revitalization and still maintain the quaintness of this town,” Gerry Harmon of 906 Kitsap Street.

Developers maintained that if building heights are too restrictive, the overall quality of the building would suffer. Building up to a height of at least five stories, they said, allows them to invest more because they will get a better return from the upper-floor condominiums.

Residents appreciated a proposal offered by City Councilman Rick Wyatt that would follow the view ordinance, but Greg Jacoby, one of the city’s lawyers warned that the council would need to examine the draft closely.

The view ordinance, he said, it ambiguous and hard to understand, and could lead to more problems later.

Wednesday evening the councilmembers met in a study session to look at the ordinance. They have been discussing development regulations to consolidate and clarify its wording.

However, after two hours of conversation, it became clear that the view protection ordinance would require more meetings. The council will continue to meet in study sessions and try to clarify the document.

The council had reopened public testimony before deliberating on the proposed regulations to allow materials from the March 18 exercise measuring heights downtown to be entered into the public record.

John Clauson led the exercise by raising a fire truck ladder on Bay Street up to 55 feet, and a cherry-picker on Prospect Alley up to 39 feet, showing that current regulations could also block views.

Because the exercise took place after public record closed, none of the material could be re-entered.

Councilwoman Rita DiIenno encouraged the council to reopen the public record entirely, given that residents may have new insights to offer after viewing the exercise.

With public hearing closed, the council will begin deliberating on the Downtown Overlay District on two dates — April 30 and May 15. If the meetings go well, the council could vote on a final draft by the following City Council meeting on May 28.

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