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Port officials probed about annexation

During an unusually interactive meeting last week, the Port of Bremerton's Board of Commissioners answered several audience questions, including one about why it began the process of annexing the South Kitsap Industrial Area into Bremerton.

"Why did you vote for annexation?" asked Russ Porterfield during the May 13 meeting, which began at 7 p.m. as a way to allow more community members to attend.

The commissioners answered one by one, starting with Bill Mahan.

"I didn't vote for annexation yet," Mahan clarified, explaining that the petition the commissioners signed last month only began the process with 10 percent of the landowners on board.

Commissioner Larry Stokes said he wanted to support "whatever is best for the port.

"If the port doesn’t benefit in some way, I would vote 'no,'" Stokes said.

Board President Cheryl Kincer said annexing into Bremerton appeared to be the path that would lead to development of SKIA.

"Half of the landowners are being held hostage (when it comes to wanting to develop their land), and since they are our partners, we should do what we can to help move that process forward," Kincer said.

She also told the audience that during her recent meetings in Seattle with "large developers," the general theme that was "driven home" was that they would prefer to work with a city government when it came to development.

"They thought it would be easier to deal with a city entity rather than a county," she said.

Asked about a memorandum of understanding signed by SKIA stakeholders in 1998 and whether that might hinder the annexation process, the board said no.

"I believe all the elements in the (MOU) have been satisfied," Kincer said, asking port attorney Gordon Walgren for verification.

"My examination of that document indicates to me that most all elements have been met," said Walgren. "The only caveat I have is whether or not there needs to be an (Inter-Local Agreement), but the chances are remote it would have an effect on the annexation process."

South Kitsap resident Mary Colborn then asked the commissioners if they were concerned about losing the $1 million promised by Kitsap County for the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) project if they were to annex SKIA into the city of Bremerton.

Stokes said he wasn't sure if the $1 million had ever been guaranteed, and asked if it would indeed "go away" if Bremerton annexed SKIA.

Kincer said she was concerned about losing the $1 million, but that couldn't control her decision.

"I can't spend a lot of time worrying about it," she said. "It would be nice to have it, but it is not my decision what the county commissioners do."

Colborn also expressed concern that it appeared to her that many of the proponents of SKIA annexing into Bremerton were also the biggest supporters of NASCAR having a track built there, and said she hoped annexation wouldn’t mean that a track would be built after all.

Kincer and SKIA landowner David Overton dismissed that idea immediately.

"There is no NASCAR project," he said, adding that this was the third time he stated so publicly. "The folks from NASCAR were treated very poorly, and hopefully at some point the true hospitality of Kitsap and North Mason can come out."

"NASCAR (officials) had it up to their eyeballs with how the county and state treated them," Kincer added. "I don't think they would be interested, and if they were thinking about it, I’d know about it."

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