Casino could yet win permit
June 12, 2008 · Updated 10:33 AM
On Monday, a Kitsap Superior Court judge ruled the city of Port Orchard was required to grant a conditional-use permit for a proposed casino on Bay Street assuming the projects developer still wants one.
The appeal was filed by West Bay Center LP on behalf of Hank OSullivan, a Belfair mini-casino owner. The Port Orchard City Council last June turned down OSullivans application to build a mini-casino in the West Bay Shopping Center. Because OSullivan had already signed a 15-year contract with the property owners, the citys denial made it virtually impossible for the landlord to collect any rent on that contract, OSullivan said.
The basis for the citys denial was that the casinos proposed facade would not fit in with the surrounding buildings. OSullivan argued that they been told by city staff elevation drawings did not need to be included with permit applications.
A subsequent request for more time in which to produce such drawings was rejected by the city council. At the same time, the city council unanimously voted to draft an ordinance banning casinos and other gambling establishments within city limits.
This last denial was one of the key issues which motivated the judges decision.
The fact that the ultimate reason for rejection of the permit application was the petitioners failure to produce detailed exterior plans, when they had been led to believe by the city staff that no such plans were required for the CUP (conditional use permit) application process, weighs heavily in the mind of the court, read one portion of the judges written finding.
None of the three council members who resisted the councils decision to deny OSullivan additional time were available for comment Monday. Two of the three Tom Stansbery and Warren Van Zee are no longer on the council.
Three voted for the measure and Mayor Jay Weatherill cast the deciding vote.
Weatherill, as of Monday evening, had not yet read the judges finding report. Although he expressed surprise the judge had found against the city and was curious as to what the judges reasoning was, he said he hasnt thought much about the issue since it last came before the city council. However, he said he was prepared to accept whatever the judge said.
Were going to do what the court says we have to do, Weatherill said. Thats all I can tell you about it. If it must be, it must be.
Former councilman Warren Van Zee said he still supports the idea of doing something with the West Bay Center and does not have a problem with thatsomething being a mini-casino. He didnt express surprise that the judge found the citys method of denial invalid.
I thought if he went to court hed probably win, Van Zee said. We approved (the casino) until we got bombarded, and then we tried to find a way to get out of it.
The whole point could be moot, anyway. OSullivan expressed disgust over the way his application was handled by the city, particularly by the mayor and city council members. He said, regardless of the judges decision, he may not want to accept the permit and establish a business in Port Orchard.
I think I was made a mockery of, OSullivan said.
Nevertheless, he said he plans to consult with his investors and decide whether or not to pursue his original proposal.