City backs county campus compromise

Apparently embracing the inevitable, Kitsap County has said it is comfortable with a compromise that would allow residents within its proposed courthouse campus expansion area to develop their properties into government-supportive uses.

The compromise, proposed and approved by the Port Orchard City Council last week, would allow homeowners between Smith and Kendall streets to do something with their land besides sitting around and waiting for the county to buy it from them.

The decision was made in response to numerous residents who complained the county’s expansion plans had left them with no options — or at least no good options.

“I think if someone’s lived there for hundreds of years and wants to develop their property, they should have the right to do so,” said Councilman Todd Cramer.

The county initially objected to any council action that would allow residents’ to make commercial use of their residential property. There were concerns land speculation would drive the costs of the parcels up to prohibitively high levels and make it hard for the county to afford the expansion. However, county officials accepted the revised proposal because the uses were limited to government-supportive services — no mini-marts need apply.

Although the specific guidelines for what will and won’t be allowed have not yet been drafted, the council members seemed to be looking primarily at uses like the ones already surrounding the campus: lawyers’ offices, coffee shops and the like.

As Councilman Don Morrison pointed out, as the county builds outwards, the home-based law firms are going to move along with it, staying at the edge of whatever boundaries the county sets. Either the firms are going to simply occupy whatever house is available at the moment, Morrison said, or the city can exercise some control by directing them to a particular area.

The land between Smith and Kendall, he continued, is a perfect spot for those stand-alone firms — it’s close to the courthouse and the county won’t need the land for another 20 years or more.

“It’s good compromise,” said city attorney Loren Combs. “You’ve designed a growth area for both the public and private sector.”

Combs agreed to draft up an ordinance that outlined how the separate growth areas would be defined and managed and bring it back for the council’s next meeting — scheduled for next Monday. He even tossed out the possibility of adding employee-supportive businesses like in-home barber shops and day care centers to the list of allowed uses, but at the same time warned the council not to go overboard.

“You don’t want this to be a commercial zone,” Combs said.

The council also asked Combs to include in the ordinance language designed to protect those who want to stay in their homes. Most of the residents who have complained about the county’s plans to build around them live within the five-to-10-year portion of the expansion plan and therefore are not affected by the commercial development compromise. The council said it wanted to make sure these people maintained their quality of life after the county expanded into their neighborhood.

“There’s mutual property rights that need to be respected,” agreed county project manager Karen Ross.

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