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City OKs comp plan amendments

The Port Orchard City Council ap-proved all of the proposed amendments to the city’s Comprehensive Plan Monday night, despite recommendations from the city’s planning commission to approve only two of the six.

The latest batch of changes sparked controversy and filled public hearings as the city considered changing the plan designation of most of Port Orchard with two new zoning designations of greenbelt and medium-density residential, both of which the planning commission voted against.

City Planner Rob Wenman said he proposed the changes to align the comp plan with the city’s current zoning, adding that they would also give the city more flexibility in dealing with upcoming discussions of city growth planning.

He also pointed out that landowners could apply to the city for site-specific changes if they felt their property was misdesignated.

“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 recommended against adding the greenbelt and medium-density zoning designations to the comp plan primarily to avoid landowners — including those along Blackjack and Ross Creek — being forced into a difficult position by having their properties become virtually undevelopable, said planning commission chairman Gil Michael.

Council member Rick Wyatt expressed a similar sentiment at Monday’s meeting, saying he believed there was usable land in those designations, especially near Ross Point.

“It seems like you’re kind of tying some hands,” Wyatt said. “It may be difficult to develop, but there’s potential.”

Wenman said the greenbelt designation did not remove any chance for future development, and that most of the land that would receive the designation--on steep slopes and creek banks--is virtually undevelopable regardless.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find any usable land,” Wenman said. “I really don’t think we’re taking away anyone’s development rights.”

All city council members voted for all the amendments, with the exception of Councilman Todd Cramer, who voted for only two of the changes, saying he didn’t understand why the council had planning commissioners if it wasn’t going to listen to their recommendations.

“They’ve put in the time and they’ve done the research, but we don’t listen to them,” said Cramer. “We do we have all these meetings if we don’t listen to them?”

Powers responded to Cramer’s comment by saying that the commission is only an advisory body, while the council is the deciding body.

“We have a responsibility to examine all the issues and make our own decisions,” said Powers.

Planning commission member Fred Chang said he agreed with Powers that the commission is only advisory, but he added that he also felt the council did not adequately consider the commission’s concerns about the amendments.

“I’m somewhat surprised that they passed everything, but then somewhat not,” Chang said. “(The commission) understood the intent, but we didn’t feel the execution was thorough enough, and we felt there were lots of errors in the mapping (of the zoning).”

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