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‘Smart Growth’ goals OKed

The Kitsap County commissioners on Feb. 25 took a step toward finding common ground in planning for growth demands on the peninsula.

But the journey won’t be without a few pitfalls.

While commissioners Tim Botkin and Chris Endresen on Monday readily endorsed the goals and concepts outlined by a Kitsap Smart Growth Coalition resolution, fellow commissioner Jan Angel, citing affordable housing concerns, abstained from the vote.

“The manner in which these smart growth concepts and goals are written in this resolution today paint a wonderful vision, but I am worried about the negative aspects of smart growth that would affect our families and our citizens,” said Angel. “The lack of affordable housing will not draw employers, as employees will not look at the driving distance to work as much as they will the amount of their mortgage payment.”

Both Botkin and Endresen lauded the Smart Growth vision statement, crafted by an informal working group representing various interests including environmental, real estate and development.

“To come up with a list of goals that the coalition agrees to is a big step forward for the county,” said Endresen. “It’s not a magic pill or potion or a panacea, but it’s a good start for the county.”

Many Smart Growth goal supporters say the document can prevent the in-fighting among citizens and interest groups that cropped up in the mid-1990s during the comprehensive planning efforts.

That aside, Botkin said Smart Growth supporters want to prepare for the demands on land use in the future as the county’s population increases.

“Constant on the minds of the coalition members is the question of affordability,” Botkin said. “The Northwest is considered a wonderful place to live, and other people in the country decided it was a great place to live as well and moved here. If you have quality, others want it and you have to work on affordability.”

Botkin said the smart growth vision statement establishes a foundation from which developers, county officials and other stakeholders can work now and into the future as more people move to Kitsap.

“These goals are about what’s smart for Kitsap County, and it’s a collective vision,” Botkin said. “Some have a pre-conceived notion of what smart growth is. We need to start thinking about growth now. Our population in Kitsap may triple in the next 50 years...There will be issues.”

But skeptics piped up before Botkin and Endresen approved the Smart Growth Coalition’s goals.

North Kitsap businessman Scott Henden, who ran unsuccessfully against Endresen during the 2000 election, said the list of goals on the surface sound agreeable, but he worries when implemented they could really amount to “rural cleansing” and “class warfare.”

Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners executive director Vivian Henderson said smart growth concepts haven’t worked elsewhere in the country and, in fact, drove up the cost of housing in Portland, Ore., where such concepts were implemented.

“One of the first casualties of smart growth policies is affordable housing, even in the urban areas,” Henderson said. “There are no winners with smart growth.”

On the other hand, environmentalists and developers belonging to the coalition encouraged the commissioners to endorse the document, developed over the last two years.

“The coalition that brings me and Art Castle (of the homebuilders) together is the coalition to endorse,” joked Bill Matchett, president of the Hood Canal Environmental Council.

Art Castle, the executive director of the Homebuilders Association of Kitsap County agreed, saying the goals and principles endorsed this week can serve as the basis for rational growth solutions for Kitsap, rather than emotional responses.

“This is a positive process,” Castle said. “It allows a group of participants that historically haven’t always played well together, to collaborate.”

There are seven overriding smart growth goals members of the Kitsap Smart Growth Coalition agree on:

• supporting and enhancing existing communities in Kitsap, a concept that involves re-development where services and infrastructure are already in place;

• protecting natural systems, a principle that involves preserving critical areas and prudent management of natural resources;

• Respect rural areas and communities, which can involve insuring a high ratio of open space to built-up areas;

• developing livable communities, guided by mixed land uses, innovative designs and community-oriented schools;

• maximizing infrastructure efficiency, which could involve reducing tax burdens and implementing state-of-the-art telecommunications;

• achieving economic and social equity; and,

• focusing on our future, which involves using incentives and developing a consensus about quality of life issues that is market-sensitive and innovative.

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