Manchester urged to revise its growth plan

Manchester residents upset about construction of a 40-foot-tall house that at least one homeowner says blocks his view of Mount Ranier could have to wait until next year’s update of their land-use plan to do anything about it, county officials say.

Meanwhile, Richard and Helen Asche will have to accept, for now, the Kitsap county commissioners’ decision on June 12 to deny their appeal to stop construction of the home owned by Melany Bloomquist and Steve Chobot, both dentists.

The two have built a large, 10,000-square-foot home at 2555 Alaska Street that sits in front of the home owned by the Asches. A county hearings examiner on Feb. 9 upheld the decision to allow construction, saying the project met the 28-foot average elevation requirement in the Manchester Community Plan.

County staff recommended residents redefine their codes next year when they update their community plan to tighten restrictions on new home construction and ensure other Manchester residents keep their pristine views of the mountains and Puget Sound.

“Due to the complexities of writing codes, there are loopholes” in Manchester’s plan, said Eric Baker, staff planner with the county’s Department of Community Development. “This is a very unfortunate situation for the Asches, for the Bloomquist-Chobots, and for Manchester as a whole.”

At issue is a requirement that limits how tall a home can be across an elevation. In the case of the Bloomquist-Chobot home, the property actually consists of three separate lots sitting side by side on the arc of a hill.

The county initially approved plans for the home, but the Ashes hired an independent surveyor to look at the height.

When taking the elevations from the corner of the first lot to the far corner of the third lot, across the home construction area, the surveyor found the home exceeded the 28-foot requirement, Baker said.

Work was stopped at the property and Kitsap County Public Works sent its own inspector out to the Bloomquist-Chobot property, where the home already was under construction.

After county officials confirmed the violations, the property’s lot lines were changed to eliminate one small portion of the third parcel, thereby changing the measuring points.

The Ashes filed a lawsuit against the county saying lot line adjustments were illegal under Washington state and county codes. “(The adjustments) brought the home into compliance,” Baker said.

The county commissioners sought legal counsel on the issue and ruled Monday that the revisions were legal, denying the Asches’ appeal to stop the project. They could appeal the decision again if they choose to, leading to a potential showdown with the state Supreme Court.

“I’m leaning in favor of appealing it,” Richard Asche said on Tuesday. “I feel the statute was pretty clear in showing the creation of a nonconforming lot as the result of a boundary line change was illegal.”

Manchester Community Council members, who helped shape the land-use plan the county approved in 2002, say they worked years to develop an effective set of codes that would protect current residents’ views as growth made its way to Manchester. But they admit certain parts of the code could be open to interpretation.

“We know there are issues in the plan — we’ve certainly learned more since the plan was first issued,” said John Winslow, community council secretary.

Addressing growth could be the single biggest challenge facing the small community of mostly retired and second-business residents as more people from out-of-area buy up available land, Baker admits.

“It’s not so much the height of a home but the character of the community,” he said. “Manchester will have to wrestle with a number of options that are a mixture of protecting views and something you could actually accept.”

The county commissioners say they were vexed at how the project has been handled since last year, but they agreed county code has been followed.

Asche said he’s in favor of tightening restrictions in the Manchester code when the land-use plan gets reviewed next year.

“I’ve talked with many residents who are upset this house seems to circumvent the county codes,” Asche said. “I’m all in favor of strengthening the code and protecting our views.”

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