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County, city OKs growth expansion

It appears years of waiting have ended.

On Tuesday night, in a historic joint meeting, the Port Orchard City Council and the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners unanimously decided to forgo further subarea planning around the city and simply expand Port Orchard’s urban growth area (UGA).

This may not seem like a big deal, but the issue of how to plan and where to plan has been raging since 1998, when the county’s new comprehensive plan sunk large areas of planned commercial and residential growth — most famously McCormick Woods and the Sidney/Sedgwick area.

After the McCormick Woods annexation — which was underway when the comp plan was adopted — was canceled, the area underwent planning as a stand-alone UGA. The county called it “phase one” of a three-part process. The other two phases — Sidney/Sedgwick and Berry Lake/Anderson Hill — were delayed indefinitely as the McCormick Woods planning dragged on.

The county finally signed an agreement with the city pledging to finish planning the other two phases, but that too hit a road block when the county commissioners publicly disavowed that agreement last fall.

Then-board chair Commissioner Chris Endresen said she could no longer support the agreement because it would make the county an easy target for appeals. The projected cost of the two subarea plans didn’t help either. Doing the two plans together would have cost between $260,000 and $310,000; doing them separately would have cost even more.

“I don’t know how your budget is, but ours isn’t too flush,” Endresen said, addressing the city council.

By dumping the subarea plan idea and simply expanding Port Orchard’s UGA, the county avoids costly and controversial environmental impact studies. In addition, all the work on the UGA can be done in-house, which saves consultant costs as well.

“I think the UGA expansion is the most logical, least expensive way of getting back to some properties we can develop,” said Councilman Don Morrison.

At the joint meeting, the city emphasized over and over the importance of moving quickly to attract and retain businesses. Many council members alluded to the “big box” stores which passed over Port Orchard in favor of settling in Gig Harbor.

“We’re looking at what we can do to improve our economic base and prepare for when the (Tacoma Narrows) bridge is built in a couple of years,” said Councilman Ron Rider, chair of the growth management committee. “We’ve seen a lot of business that wanted to locate at Sidney/Sedgwick go south on us.”

The commissioners appeared to be listening and said they shared the city’s concerns. Current board chair Commissioner Jan Angel, who represents South Kitsap, talked at length about several growing Port Orchard businesses she was familiar with. She said she was surprised that businesses with an international reputation chose to stay in Kitsap County but also said she understood most businesses stayed because their employee base was also here.

“When those folks want to expand, when they have needs and want to stay in the area, we have to look at that,” Angel said. “We have to make our own economy.”

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