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SKIA gets conditional OK

After innumerable changes and some 11th-hour debate last Tuesday, the Kitsap County Planning Commission approved the proposed South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA) plan by a vote of eight to one.

The plan has undergone numerous revisions since it was first brought before the board in July. At Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners squeezed in a few more suggestions and modifications before the final vote.

Most of the changes had to do with the language of the plan, however a few major revisions were introduced for discussion.

Because the 3,400-acre proposed industrial area is centered on Bremerton National Airport and fronts Highway 3, the plan strictly regulates the appearance of the area — particularly with regard to lot size and building height. The original proposal set minimum lot sizes at 2.5 acres and restricted buildings to three stories — 35 feet — or less.

This bothered several commissioners, who said the restrictions made it too difficult for small businesses and fast-growing businesses to settle in SKIA.

Commissioner Lary Coppola said the minimum lot size was too large, particularly for startup companies.

“For a lot of businesses, that’s way too much land for what they do,” he said.

Although county staff at the meeting pointed out individual parcels could have several buildings on each, Coppola said even a system like that would discourage small businesses, especially those which wanted to own their own buildings.

Building height was also an issue for many on the commission. Although the three-story rule stemmed in part from concerns over airport safety and in part over fire control limitations, many commissioners found it unreasonably limiting.

“Someone who wanted to develop could really save money by going up instead of out,” said Commissioner Linda Rowe, who represents South Kitsap.

County planner Darryl Piercy reminded the commission, per building codes, any building over 35 feet must be approved by its local fire district before construction can begin. Several commissioners grumbled at this requirement, saying building permit approval shouldn’t be up to the fire department and SKIA developers would do best by simply ignoring that restriction. Piercy, however, cautioned the commission against launching an adversarial relationship with Fire District 7.

“The fire district we’ve been working with in this case is very open to the idea of taller buildings,” he said.

Because further work on the lot size and building height restrictions would delay approval to at least next month, the commission opted to approve just the plan and send it forward to the county board of commissioners. The two companion ordinances which would implement the plan, however, will be approved separately, after the building restrictions are ironed out.

Commissioner Thomas Nevins, who has in the past spoken out against the need for such a large industrial area in South Kitsap, cast the only dissenting vote.

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