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County OKs SKIA plan

After listening to testimony from a dozen South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA) plan supporters, the two Kitsap County Commissioners who attended Thursday’s public hearing unanimously voted to approve the plan.

“Land use in Kitsap has really been tough, but I think we’re doing better,” said Commissioner Chris Endresen. “I like the give-and-take which is really clear when you’re reading this document. It really is a win-win situation.”

The speakers at the public meeting — held at Givens Community Center in Port Orchard — were all there in some official capacity. In fact, no one who attended was clearly there as only a resident.

Commissioner Jan Angel said that’s what most officials expected.

“Based on the other SKIA hearings at the port (of Bremerton), we knew we’d gone with a pretty good record into it,” she said. “All we have gotten is high complements.”

Outgoing Commissioner Tim Botkin did not attend the meeting.

The officials, who represented groups as diverse as the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners, the Port Orchard City Council, McCormick Land Co. and the Kitsap Economic Development Council (KEDC), all spoke vehemently in favor of the plan.

Many referenced the time and money already spent on the project.

“I used to have a different color hair before we started this process,” joked now white-haired Linda Niebanck, president of McCormick Land Co.

The SKIA plan calls for 3,400 acres surrounding Bremerton National Airport to undergo master planning for the purpose of attracting primary employers to South Kitsap.

The Port of Bremerton’s property, including the airport, is included in the plan but is being given special consideration. The rest of the property is privately owned.

The plan includes restrictions on the type of businesses that can locate in SKIA. The architects of the plan placed the focus on businesses that support a large number of jobs in a relatively small space — manufacturing, high-technology industries and so on. Officials expect SKIA will be able to support approximately 9,350 employees at build-out.

In addition, the plan emphasizes the need for those jobs to pay employees a living wage, not merely minimum wage.

“The reason we have land is because we have to establish our population growth, and with that comes job growth,” said Zoltan Szigethy, director of the KEDC. “The next part is going to be much more difficult because now we have to encourage people to start businesses and relocate here.”

County planner Darryl Piercy said there is still more work to be done, but the vast majority is housekeeping-type chores. Next month, the county planning commission will be reviewing and approving the ordinances needed to implement the SKIA plan. Next summer, when the county’s comprehensive plan amendments are voted on, the plan approved Thursday and the ordinances now being reviewed will be approved as a package and become part of the county’s comp plan.

“From our perspective, the hardest work’s behind us,” Piercy said. “From this point, it should be pretty straightforward.”

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