Townhome plan approved

In a reversal of its previous position, the Port Orchard City Council Monday night conditionally approved the proposed Highlands at Karcher Creek development.

At the previous council meeting, held Nov. 25, the council approved up-zoning the 4.89-acre parcel, located on Olney Avenue behind Albertsons, from 4.5 housing units per acre to 20 units per acre. However, the council denied the proposed 50-unit site plan. At Monday’s meeting, the council re-thought its stance on the proposed development and decided it was acceptable — with certain conditions in place.

At both meetings, several council members had expressed concern with the appearance of the project. Because the proposed townhomes featured two-car garages which faced the street, the council was worried people passing by the development would see cars, garages and little else. This, said Councilman John Clauson, violated the planned residential development ordinance’s “uncluttered appearance” requirement.

Although the planning commission had recommended approval of the project, by a narrow 3-2 vote, it had also recommended striking the part of the ordinance requiring alleys. The council, which felt the only way to get the cars out of the public eye was to use alleys, voted to put the requirement back in.

“They didn’t feel the project as a proposal met the criteria, but denying it is a harsh remedy,” said city attorney Greg Aman.

Developer Richard Fitzpatrick must now go back and redesign the Highlands project in accordance with the council’s approved conditions. However, Aman said as long as Fitzpatrick didn’t alter the plan too much, the project could likely come straight back to the council, bypassing the planning commission and streamlining the process.

Members of the planning commission who attended Monday’s meeting were not happy about that because they still felt there were unresolved issues which needed to be discussed.

Many of the commissioners, as well as Councilman Ron Rider, were concerned about Fitzpatrick’s proposal for stormwater handling. Currently, the plan calls for stormwater from the Highlands to collect in an underground vault and then be piped into the neighboring Rockport development’s retention pond. Aman said the proposal was legal and city engineer Larry Curles said he believed the plan would not change the flow into the pond, which was built to handle run-off from the Highlands site.

However, planning commission chairman Gil Michael said he felt the proposal had not been properly outlined to the commissioners during their review process and sounded questionable.

“A concern I have is that the subdivision we had before us six to eight months ago, 25 percent of the staff report was stormwater analysis, stormwater drawings and other things to do with stormwater,” Michael said. “Yet there’s virtually nothing in the (Highlands) application or in our staff report (about stormwater) and I’m wondering why it was required in one application and why it wasn’t provided to us now.”

Rider was bothered that Fitzpatrick was not being required to sign an agreement with the homeowners’ association of Rockport which gave him use of the pond. Rider said he was worried there would be legal concerns if the pond was ever damaged or destroyed while accepting water from the new development.

“There’s no agreement between the two parties who’s going to be responsible to take care of that,” Rider said.

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