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Planning policy put on hold yet again

Eager to sign the South Kitsap Industrial Area up for federal transportation funding but reluctant to sign an excess of planning powers over to outside agencies, the Port Orchard City Council has opted to delay signing the latest batch of revisions to countywide planning policies.

The council plans to revisit the issue at a special meeting on Monday, after the council members have a chance to review both the proposed policies and objections filed by the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners. KAPO spokeswoman Vivian Henderson gave the council an itemized list of concerns KAPO had with the planning policy document and asked the council not to approve it.

“Rubberstamping these documents from the (Kitsap Regional Coordinating COuncil) gives the KRCC and the (Puget Sound Regional Council) more power and the City of Port Orchard less autonomy,” Henderson said.

The document being reviewed by the council contains mostly broad planning guidelines approved by the council years ago. There are some changes though, and two major additions. The additions call for SKIA and Silverdale to be designated as urban/employment centers under PSRC criteria.

The PSRC has set a Jan. 1 deadline for the KRCC to get the center designation ratified by all four Kitsap cities, the county and the tribes. After that, SKIA might not qualify as a center because the PSRC has plans to overhaul the way it identifies employment centers.

A center designation will give both areas high-priority status when the state doles out federal transportation monies.

“Most of that funding is with regard to road improvements,” city planner Rob Wenman pointed out.

Nevertheless, the policy document appears to be a package deal, and city officials fresh off another round of frustrating urban growth area negotiations with the county are loath to sign up for anything that could potentially restrict their options even further.

Councilwoman Carolyn Powers, in particular, was bothered that the PSRC was apparently making SKIA’s inclusion into the transportation fund pot contingent on the city signing off on the rest of the planning changes as well.

“I don’t like hearing that PSRC says we have to do all of it,” she said.

The city has asked its attorney to determine whether the council can selectively ratify the portions of the document it likes — namely, the Silverdale and SKIA center designations — and ignore the rest. He is expected to report back on Monday.

The discussion may be academic, anyway. Bremerton has taken a stance against the planning policy document and it’s City Council has thus far refused to ratify it. If Bremerton rejects the policy changes, it won’t matter what Port Orchard decides — the PSRC is calling for unanimous approval in order to move forward.

Bremerton reportedly has another council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, at which point the council could reverse its earlier position. Both Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island, plus the county and the tribes, approved the document earlier this month.

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