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McCormick expansion plan approved

In a last-minute twist to the McCormick Woods controversy, Kitsap County commissioners on Monday approved a series of policies that will be used to craft a town-center-style community around McCor-mick Woods.

The commission’s proposal was an amalgam of the “preferred” development alternative recommended by county staff and a series of “Smart Growth” community planning techniques which essentially call for a community to first be planned, and then zoning codes drafted to fit the proposal.

“It’s sort of looking at it from another perspective,” said county planner Darryl Piercy. “It’s pretty unique in Kitsap County.”

The commission set out a wide variety of guidelines for the McCormick mini-town. Most were intended to give the community a sense of cohesiveness and livability — networked walking trails, pedestrian-friendly urban/commercial area, combined residential and commercial storefronts, community gathering places and so on. The commission also insisted the community include high-density urban and low-income residential developments. They also insisted on having shopping opportunities within walking distance of residential neighborhoods and workplaces, although they also asked for mass transit and traditional transportation options to be considered as well.

“I believe this plan has so much opportunity for South Kitsap and Port Orchard,” said Commissioner Jan Angel, who represents South Kitsap. “We’ve had so many Band-Aid fixes, maybe it’s time for a community we can plan.”

The commission has left it up to the county staff to draw up a series of ordinances that would ensure the commission’s vision is followed during the development period. These ordinances will have their own public comment period and pass through the county planning commission for consideration before they come before the council for approval.

Piercy speculated the entire process could take three to six months.

Chris Endresen was the only commissioner to oppose the modified alternative plan. Although she apologized to McCormick Land Co. president Linda Niebanck, who was in the audience, and said it was the hardest decision she’d ever made, Endresen said she felt the plan put too much of South Kitsap’s population allocation in one spot.

According to state projections, South Kitsap is expected to absorb approximately 10,000 new residents by 2017. The proposed McCormick developments are expected to handle 6,400 people — Port Orchard is expected to take the balance.

“The addition of 6,400 additional people in this area is, in my opinion, creating a small city,” Endresen said. “If we were planning a new town, this is not where we’d put it.”

Commissioner Tim Botkin disagreed. He pointed out a new population projection for 2022 is being done this year, which could make the 207 numbers look like a drop in the bucket. Botkin talked about the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Bill, which recently passed in the state legislature, and the amount of growth a new bridge could potentially bring to the area.

“We know the growth is coming,” he said. “If you don’t plan for it, you have economic and environmental wreckage.”

He added: “You have to put it somewhere. What are the alternatives? It’s going to be a big lump no matter where you put it.”

Niebanck looked annoyed as Endresen voiced her concerns about the preferred alternative, but later said she felt the commission voiced much of what had been left unsaid in the original plan. She pointed out “Smart Growth” had not been adopted as a policy when the plan was being developed in the late 1990s. If it had, Niebanck said, it likely would have been wrapped into one or more of the proposed alternatives.

“Everything is there, but somehow the picture never got drawn,” she said. “We can certainly live with what the commission came up with today. It’s not wonderful, but it’s better than it could have been.”

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