Controversy a no-show at admin building

After months of debate and controversy, the utter lack of public comment at last week’s Port Orchard City Council hearing — a hearing that preceded final approval of the proposed new Kitsap County administration building — perplexed city and county officials alike.

Perhaps anticipating an avalanche of testimony, county project manager Karen Ross and her team of project consultants spoke for more than an hour outlining the various highlights of the building’s design. Ross also re-emphasized the county’s policy of not condemning property, possibly in response to recent claims that property owners were being strong-armed by county representatives.

In addition, in an effort to allay concerns over net parking losses during construction, she counted out every new parking space that would be added in conjunction with the project.

“Those numbers well exceed the 91 we’re taking off by putting the (administration) building there,” Ross pointed out.

Parking seemed to be the only hot topic that surfaced at the Aug. 25 meeting. Ross spoke in depth about the county’s alternative plans for handling future parking needs and managing the inevitable crush of construction workers on the campus while work was underway.

The county has apparently arranged with the American Legion hall on Kendall Street to use its small lot as tem- porary site worker parking. Givens Center, located across the street, also has spare spaces to offer and Ross said plans are underway to partner with Kitsap Transit to provide shuttle service between the lots and the job site.

Ross said she expects the parking situation will go pretty much back to normal after the construction is complete, with perhaps minor differences in the way traffic circulates.

“We’re not adding and car trips,” she said. “It’s the same number of employees — they’re just more dispersed.”

The new 70,000-square-foot administration building will occupy the current county courthouse parking lot and extend down the hill to Dwight Street. New underground parking stalls, plus street parking and enlarged employee parking to the south, Ross said, will more than replace the spots lost during construction.

What is needed, Ross continued, is a better system of directing visitors and employees to the right parking areas.

Current parking signage is more or less the opposite of helpful, she explained. Signs that designate carpool, law enforcement and employee parking mostly say “don’t park here,” but don’t offer visitors hints as to where parking is allowed.

In addition, the newly enlarged parking areas behind the courthouse are poorly identified and therefore still underutilized.

“We need to really clean up our parking agenda,” Ross said.

A few city council members had questions about future parking growth and the possibility of view impacts after the administration building was complete. However, all those with concerns appeared to have their questions adequately addressed — the council voted unanimously to approve the administration building site plan, plus a handful of housekeeping issues related to zoning and a required view protection exemption.

The next chore on the county’s agenda is to bring the entire courthouse campus plan before the city for comment and approval. A date for that hearing had not yet been set because the Port Orchard Planning Commission has not yet completed its review of the plan.

The planning commission will continue its discussion of the master plan at its next regular meeting Sept. 15.

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