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Indigo Pointe still rocky as year end nears

The proposed Indigo Pointe development has moved at a snail’s pace since the process started last February and now, as it sits stalled with the Port Orchard staff, looks likely to carry on into next year as well.

The plan is not an unusual one — developer Mark Kuhlman wants to rezone a nearly-four-acre parcel on Goldenrod Street and build 21 single-family homes on the site. Unusually, there haven’t even been many complaints from the surrounding community, as is typical when large developments are proposed.

The problems lie in dozens of little technical issues, mostly relating to the potential ecological impact of the project. Complicating matters, the Port Orchard Planning Commission has recommended outright denial of the rezone, maintaining the request is not in accordance with the city comprehensive plan.

“We are not at liberty to change the comprehensive plan,” said Councilwoman-elect and Planning Commissioner Rita DiIenno. “(The plan) tells me we are limited; we are not allowed to approve this rezone as presented.”

The commission’s concerns with the rezone lay primarily with a technicality in the comp plan that allows construction at the requested density only if the houses are attached. Stand-alone homes can only be installed at a lower density if they are to comply with the medium-density designation of the site.

The commission’s — and the neighbors’ — issues with the proposed development, however, are much more complex. The proposed project area was originally much larger and took in another wooded parcel immediately to the west. However, environmental concerns forced Kuhlman to abandon that plan.

“There’s a creek running right down the middle of it,” said city planner Rob Wenman.

The remaining parcel, nevertheless, was still subject to some relatively intense environmental scrutiny. Its proximity to sensitive wetlands areas, in part, made it necessary for Kuhlman to complete a habitat management plan. The plan was supposed to detail how Kuhlman would project the surrounding environment during and after construction, but there was little agreement about what precisely the report should contain.

“No developer’s really had to prepare one in the city before,” said Goldenrod resident and Mayor-elect Kim Abel. “I think it’s pretty, what they came up with, but I don’t know how much it does for the habitat.”

The planning commission had its doubts as well and spent much of October wrestling with buffer zones, setbacks and other environment-protection measures. In the end, it came up with an extensive list of changes it wanted made before it would recommend approval.

“We felt the habitat management plans they provided didn’t address the problems or how to solve them,” said Planning Commissioner Fred Chang.

Despite that, everything looked good to go at last week’s regularly scheduled Port Orchard City Council meeting. However, before public testimony could begin, Wenman said Kuhlman wanted the item pulled off the agenda so the city staff could review a brand-new habitat plan Kuhlman had submitted that day.

The city council discussed sending the proposal — and its new habitat plan — back to the planning commission for reconsideration. Fearing for another month-plus of delays, Wenman said Kuhlman was hoping to get it on the already tight-packed Dec. 8 council agenda.

“We don’t deem (the new report) to be significant changes,” Wenman said. “We deem them to be positive changes in the planning commission’s concerns.”

After some discussion, the council agreed to tack Indigo Pointe onto a special budget meeting the city plans to hold Dec. 1. However, if the issue runs into any more last-minute changes, it’s unlikely it will make it onto any other agendas this year — addressing land use issues during a special budget meeting is unusual and appeared to be the only way the council could find to hear the matter before the end of the year.

Both Councilman Ron Rider and Councilman Todd Cramer, who supported sending Indigo Pointe back to the planning commission, voted against rescheduling.

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