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Future of Ross Point must be 'flexible'
"Evergreen Pacific Foundation president Dan Pebbles' vision for the Ross Point property in Port Orchard could be likened to a Du Pont, Snoqualmie Ridge or an Issaquah Highlands.Or, it could be a retirement area, where elderly people could live safely in senior housing near bus routes, golf courses and green spaces.Flexibility is key. It needs to have flexibility to catch the right situation at the time, Pebbles said.The Port Orchard City Council on Oct. 23 granted the first level of flexibility by approving development for an employment-based community on the Ross Point property. The council's approval the same night of a medium-density designation for development will pave Pebble's way to move forward with the project.Now, thanks to the city, we have the opportunity to go fishing for the right company, and now I have the right kind of bait, Pebbles said.Within the 104-acre property, Pebbles plans to develop about 48 acres with light industrial companies, offices and single-family homes to allow people to live near where they work.Trails would allow employees to ride bicycles to work and buses would run through the neighborhoods to the work sites and offices, curbing the traffic-riddled commute.The undeveloped areas will remain green space, to be enjoyed by people and to preserve Ross Creek, wetlands and eagles' nests.The one thing that sold me on (the proposal) was the great amount of open space, said Councilman Tom Stansbery. The owners of the property have been very good stewards of the property.Pebbles said that kind of community planning could benefit the region by bringing in businesses and solving transportation problems. Port Orchard's relatively low real estate costs compared to King County could also attract businesses to Ross Point.The cost of real estate and the cost of locating high-tech businesses in King County is so high, it's just a matter of time before businesses begin looking elsewhere, Pebbles said.You have to put employment centers close to where people live. Unfortunately, Kitsap County hasn't been able to get too many employers. Now that we're becoming much more of a wireless community, more businesses will be able to have technology features without the infrastructure of a big city, he said.Council members agreed the Ross Point plan has potential, though some were hesitant to comment this early in the planning process. I think it's a good plan. It's comprehensive in scope. Rather than building another subdivision, people can live near where they work, Stansbery said.Councilman John Clauson said he is looking forward to seeing the Ross Point area develop, so long as it adheres to development issues the city faces. We're always interested to see quality develoment take place, he added.The only real sticking point the council encountered was how to mix residential uses on the property, limiting rental units in favor of homes for sale.A very large percentage of Port Orchard is affordable housing and rentals. You have to have some upscale with some affordable just to provide some balance. Port Orchard worked very hard to provide affordable housing. Now, we're more interested in building ownership, Clauson said.Stansbery said the Ross Point project could eventually boost home ownership from a paltry 46 percent. That's terrible. Those are backwards numbers, he said. I want houses that encourage home ownership. I think we have our fair share of affordable housing. I think we need more upscale houses, he said.The next phase, Pebbles said, will be to work with the county Economic Development Council and the city to market opportunities.Ultimately, Pebbles said he wants to create a sub-community in Port Orchard where people could walk to work. That would be a perfect world, he said. "