"Grow west, Port Orchard"
June 12, 2008 · Updated 10:25 AM
"Growth, as the saying goes, is inevitable. Insofar as this is true in Port Orchard, future population growth will be moving westward for several reasons, not the least of whih is that residential growth is already occurring there and areas east of the city are nearing their capacity for increased population. City and Kitsap County officials working on this issue are attempting to comply with the state's Growth Management Act, which was designed to protect rural areas while trying to locate growth around areas that already are centers of urban activity. The problem is, people caught in the middle of this growth often look around in dismay as once-rural land becomes more urban with the influx of new residents. Attention recently has focused on what is called the South Kitsap urban growth area, which includes areas both to the east and west of Port Orchard. More particularly, it has focused on McCormick Woods, the 1,200-acre residential development lying west of the city that is zoned for roughly the same number of dwelling units. The site also includes a golf course and clubhouse.Because the McCormick Woods area isn't geographically connected to Port Orchard, some residents of the Anderson Hill-Berry Lake area - which lies between McCormick Woods and the city - fear their way of life may also change if and when the city annexes their neighborhoods. Currently, county and city planners are looking at three alternatives for adding more land around McCormick Woods inside the city's urban growth boundary. If approved by the county board of commissioners later this year, the preferred alternative would include a variety of zoning classifications, including those for commercial uses and a business park. Already included on land north of McCormick Woods is zoning that allows construction of a proposed hotel and conference center by McCormick Land Co., which developed McCormick Woods. Planners have sought citizen input on these issues, and the first in a series of public meetings concerning them was held at Port Orchard City Hall on July 12. More such meetings are scheduled in the coming months. Some residents living near McCormick Woods, or even inside McCormick Woods itself, question why officials are looking to add population there.Some of the concerns that came out of the meeting is why we're focusing all of the growth for South Kitsap County for the next 15 years in the same spot, said Mike McCuddin, a McCormick Woods resident. It seems like it's pretty intensive for one area of the county.Fred Sandberg, another McCormick Woods resident, concurs.I do think it's concentrated in one area, he said of the proposed new growth areas. We haven't looked at others.But Robert Wenman, Port Orchard's city planner, said the reasons for focusing on the McCormick Woods area are fairly straightforward: The area has already been designated for urban growth, and the capacity for additional population growth elsewhere is limited. An additional 10,000 people are expected to reside within South Kitsap urban planning areas between 2013 to 2017, Wenman said, and the capacity of Port Orchard proper to absorb more people is only about 3,000. There is no additional capacity for unincorporated areas east of Port Orchard to absorb predicted growth beyond the roughly 2,000 people allocated through 2012, he said. Even zoning changes to the area would add only an additional capacity of about 1,000. The Growth Management Act was meant to protect rural areas, Wenman said. Something has to give.McCuddin and others like him, on the other hand, question whether growth in the McCormick Woods area can be adequately accommodated.I understand that growth is coming to this area, McCuddin said. My question is, is it too much, too fast? Can the area support it, do the roads support it, do we have enough water? With a proposal this size, that's well over a million gallons a day. Where's that water going to come from?Rick Kimball, an official with the county's Department of Community Development who will prepare environmental impact statements, said those concerns are being taken into account.We're in the process of pulling together everybody's notes from the July 12 meeting, including concerns about groundwater and how development might affect it, traffic impacts, roads, wildlife, and whether the urban growth area will be expanded and how it would affect development and other areas, he said. The mix of uses envisioned for the McCormick Woods area is the result of the county's comprehensive plan and the Growth Management Act, Kimball said.You're creating a more complete community, he said. When you're planning more growth, you're supposed to consider that.Linda Niebanck, president of Port Orchard-based McCormick Land Co., acknowledged her company is a willing participant in the planning effort currently under way. Wenman, meanwhile, said McCormick Land Co. is providing partial funding for the study effort, along with Port Orchard and Kitsap County. We really wanted to look comprehensively out here, Niebanck said. We want to look at all this at same time.She said the county and McCormick Land Co. have extremely high standards for environmental protection.Wenman said a lot of history has led up to current planning efforts, noting that it took the county nearly eight years to have its comprehensive plan approved. The state GMA hearings board approved the county's plan in 1998 after two earlier plans were turned down. Port Orchard adopted its own revised comprehensive plan in 1995.The intent is to facilitate coordination with the city and the county over urbanization, Wenman said. Any decisions made today are predicated by previous decisions. "