County rules two stories only in Manchester

At the request of concerned Manchester residents, the Kitsap County Department of Community Development issued a “Director’s Interpretation” of the Manchester Plan that suppports what many Manchester residents have said all along — that buildings are restricted to two stories and a maximum 35-foot height.

The main point of contention between residents and developers has been the two-story restriction.

“It is clear that (the plan) provides for 35-foot high buildings,” the interpretation reads. “However, this policy cannot be the loan interpretation/design standard for the community.”

According to the interpretation, the Manchester Village Commercial area is intended to hold two-story, mixed-use development.

Previously, county code interpreted the 35-foot restriction, but not the two-story request.

If this decision stands, all future developments — including hotly contested developments being currently planned but not yet approved — will be limited to two stories. However, Scott Deiner, community planning manager for DCD, said the decision is appealable and could be overturned by the hearing examiner.

“In that we do not have any projects in as accepted as complete or vested, all projects must come in compliance with two stories,” Diener said. But only if the Director’s Interpretation stands after an expected appeal.

Diener said the decision is huge for those in the midst of this debate, calling the conflict between developers and residents “a clash of profit margins versus character.”

“We’re at a very critical area in Manchester right now,” Diener said.

Carrilu Thompson, resident of Manchester, said she and others who are working on design standards for downtown Manchester are “cautiously optimistic.”

“This is a temporary ruling, and we hope to get it permanent with the re-writing and updating of the plan,” Thompson said. “It’s what we requested all along.”

The request was one of several strategies Manchester residents are pursuing to stop developments from receiving approval before the new Manchester plan can be drafted.

The plan, currently being developed, could be completed by September, but many developers are already in the pre-application process for three-story, mixed-use buildings.

“It doesn’t do you any good to have downtown design standards when they don’t apply to anything,” Thompson said.

As expected, appeals will be submitted to the hearing examiner. At least one will come from Bill Palmer, a consultant for the property being developed on the Southeast corner of Colchester and Main.

Palmer contends the hearing examiner’s recommendation for approvals on developments in the area, namely the Manchester Commons (now called The Anchors) and the Colchester Commons, looked at the height issue and already made a clear decision.

“I’m amazed,” Palmer said of the interpretation. “Whoever prepared that response ... didn’t bother to look at the hearing examiner’s recommendations for approval on the Manchester Commons and Colchester Commons because he specifically addressed the height issue in his report.”

Palmer called the decision “unfair” and argued that the Manchester Plan cannot be binding on the issue of number of stories because any mention of two-story restrictions resided in the discussion portions of the plan, and is not backed by zoning or specific regulations.

“If you’re going to put something in the Comprehensive Plan that’s material to how you want land-use controls to be implemented, then you must take the step and draft your zoning regulations to reflect the intent of the Comprehensive Plans,” Palmer said. “That was not done.”

Palmer will be filing an appeal, which costs $250, and expects the hearing examiner will stand by the original decision made for the two developments.

However, if the decision stands, Palmer’s three-story, mixed-use development will be of the first required to comply with a two-story restriction.

The Anchors, located directly across the street on the Northeast corner of Colchester and Main, has already been approved, and construction will begin soon.

But Palmer is confident the hearing examiner will rule in his favor.

“If the hearing examiner has already wrestled with that issue,” Palmer said, “I find it hard to believe that the director’s opinion would prevail.”

Opponents of the three-story buildings will continue trying to curb the developments they believe are out of character if the hearing examiner overturns the interpretation.

Thompson said the next step, if this interpretation doesn’t stand, is to request interim zoning codes until the Manchester plan is complete.

Residents of Manchester continue to revise the Manchester Plan and have requested the county help put “teeth” in the plan to prevent confusion and gray-areas in future developments.

The next meeting of Manchester residents with the county takes place April 17 at Council Chambers at the Kitsap County Administration Building at 6:30 p.m.

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