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Greenbelt proposal, Ross Point project draw fire

It was standing room only at Monday night’s Port Orchard City Council meeting, during which the council held its first public hearing on this year’s proposed comprehensive plan amendments.

Apart form the usual site-specific requests from developers, the city is considering changing the plan designation of most of Port Orchard. The changes, which would apply primarily to residential areas, are the result of two new proposed comp plan designations — greenbelt and medium-density residential.

Most city residents were not aware before now these designations were not part of the comprehensive plan. Most of the residential areas south of Bay Street are zoned as medium-density, and the zoning map includes greenbelt areas along Blackjack Creek, Ross Creek and Port Orchard Boulevard. However, as the city planners pointed out, without a matching designation in the comp plan, those areas could be rezoned for higher-density development at any time.

City planner Rob Wenman proposed the changes to bring the comprehensive plan more in line with the city’s current zoning. He said the blanket changes would give the city “breathing room” to deal with upcoming discussions of city growth planning. He also pointed out landowners who felt their property was misdesignated could always apply to the city for a site-specific comp plan change.

“There is always the ability to make amendments to this map when it’s in the city’s best interest,” Wenman said.

The planning commission has recommended the council deny these two major changes even though the commissioners said they stand behind the principles of the proposals. Commission chairman Gil Michael said the concern was over the method — the commission wanted the city to be more precise about which areas were included in the change.

Michael said many landowners could be caught unaware and forced into a difficult position if the city’s decision made their properties virtually undevelopable — a possibility if a property was designated greenbelt. Michael and most of the other commissioners support surveying the potentially affected areas parcel-by-parcel and making a change proposal based on those findings.

For the most part, residents who spoke on the issue tended to agree.

“It’s inappropriate when someone has a property by Blackjack Creek that’s flat as a pancake and has no wetlands and you’re going to take two out of five acres (for greenbelt setback),” said resident Richard Brown. “One size does not fit all.”

Another controversial proposal was the redesignation of land atop Ross Point’s plateau.

Two developers — Evergreen Pacific and Chuck Childress — applied for a change so they could create a housing development on the plateau. Much of the land was originally zoned industrial/medium density residential — a relic from a time when developers were trying to create residential communities centered around high-tech employment.

Childress’ property is designated low density residential, although portions of it are under consideration as part of the greenbelt proposal. Both developers want the properties redesignated medium density residential.

“It’s a matter of increasing diversity — being able to offer homebuyers different housing types on different lot sizes,” said Evergreen Pacific representative Dan Pebbles.

The main challenge of developing the site lies primarily in access. A road to the new houses would either have to climb the steep slope of Ross Point from Bay Street or come through Childress’ property across Ross Creek from Tremont Street. Resident Gary Douthit urged the council to reject Childress’ request on those grounds.

“To develop that road would cause irreparable damage to Ross Creek,” he said.

The planning commission agreed. The commissioners recommended approving Evergreen Pacific’s request and denying Childress’ request.

Discussion on other proposed amendments included:

• The Crawford law firm and resident Warren Van Zee requested their parcels of land along the north side of the Kitsap County Courthouse campus be resdesignated as professional office (commercial). The law firm currently operates in the primarily residential area under a conditional use permit but will need to rezone in order to expand significantly. Representatives from the law firm spoke in favor of the plan, but one woman objected to the Van Zee property being included. She said up-zoning the Van Zee parcels would erode the residential character of the neighborhood.

The planning commission recommended denial.

• The county requested the properties north of the courthouse parking lot be redesignated from high density residential to public and community spaces. The county owns the properties and needs the redesignation in order to build a proposed public administration building on the site. The planning commission has recommended approval and no one spoke against the proposal.

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