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Commissioners OK Manchester plan

After many delays and continuances, the Kitsap County Commission voted unanimously Monday morning to approve the Manchester Sub-area Plan.

The plan sets a series of land-use guidelines for Manchester apart from the rules standard in the rest of unincorporated Kitsap County.

Many of the rules, such as restrictions on building height and impervious surface percentages, were tailored specifically to the community’s unique concerns. Others, such as minimum lot size requirements and clustering exemptions, were created to address the more common problems of growth management and sprawl.

“We analyzed and re-analyzed (the plan) to be sure this was the best possible solution for the people down there,” said Commissioner Jan Angel, who represents the South Kitsap area. “I feel we’ve covered the bases as best we can at this point.”

The plan was drafted by a committee of 42 Manchester residents, who met regularly for over a year to hammer out a plan most could agree on. However, not all committee members were happy with the plan the commission approved. Some said the county had made significant changes to the committee’s proposal — changes which could negatively impact stormwater, runoff and other environmental problems.

“It was a total sellout to development,” said committee member Dave Kimble.

He expressed disgust the council took nine months from the time the plan was brought forward to the time it was finally voted on. In that time, he said, developers swarmed over Manchester, putting up houses as fast as they could before the new restrictions took effect. He also said the county’s addition of vegetation restrictions ignores the serious problem Manchester has with runoff.

According to county engineers, Manchester’s hillsides are largely made up of impervious soil with a thin layer of topsoil on top. When it rains, most of the water runs down the slopes toward lower-lying areas. In some cases, this means homeowners at the bottom of these hills end up with water in their basements and unwanted ponds in their yards.

Environmental engineers recommend planting ground cover — particularly trees — as a way to coax rain down past the impervious layer.

Kimble and fellow committee member Janice Shaw were irritated the county included vegetation restrictions which limit the type of plants people can plant.

The tree restriction prohibits the planting of trees which, when grown, restrict other homes’ views of Seattle or the sound. This restriction, the plan indicates, is meant to be a companion to the restrictions which limit most houses’ height to 28 feet above the midline of the lot. A shrub restriction prevents homeowners from growing hedges which block other residents views as well.

Neither Kimble nor Shaw believe this shows proper prioritizing on the part of the county.

“I think if they’re going to write a vegetation ordinance of any kind, it should focus on stormwater, not on views.”

Committee member Bob Lamb disagrees.

He believes the plan makes sense for Manchester’s needs and said the county, in fact, did not make any changes to the original plan.

“It’s pretty much what we agreed to,” Lamb said.

He said he’s happy with the results and happy the commission finally acted, allowing the process to continue. Lamb admitted a lot of people didn’t get exactly what they wanted from the plan, but said that was the point of coming to a decision as a committee.

“The committee was probably one of the best representations of the community possible,” he said. “We tried to make it as good for everybody as we could, and I think we did a pretty good job.”

Kimble said those who are not pleased may ask for a reconsideration of the commission’s action, but said he has yet to see if there is a consensus among the 42 committee members.

The commission must still write ordinances as a means to enforce the approved plan, and nearly all committee members hope to be a part of that aspect as well.

No schedule has yet been set for future action on the plan.

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