City gives its OK to planning policies

After a failed attempt to ratify only portions of the newest version of Kitsap’s countywide planning policies, the Port Orchard City Council on Monday night opted to sign off on the entire document as a whole.

The council had balked at approving the proposed planning policy changes for weeks, citing concerns with both the amendments and previously approved sections of the document. After coming to no conclusion at its last regular meeting on Dec. 22, the council had to arrange a special meeting just to decide whether or not it would ratify the policies.

The Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council, which drafted up the changes, was under orders from the Puget Sound Regional Council to have all four Kitsap cities, the county and the tribes ratify the changes before Jan. 1.

The deadline was tied into a KRCC request that the PSRC designate Silverdale and the South Kitsap Industrial Area regional centers — a move that would have to be made before the PSRC overhauled its centers criteria in 2004.

If designated centers under the PSRC, both Silverdale and SKIA would be eligible to receive prioritized federal transportation monies, which could be used for road improvements and other projects. Currently, the only PSRC-approved center in Kitsap County is Bremerton.

Many council members, however, felt the PSRC was overstepping its bounds to tie center designation to approval of other, virtually unrelated planning and land use policies.

Several were concerned that by signing the document to get the SKIA and Silverdale bonuses, the city was rashly committing itself to obey a series of regulations it didn’t completely understand.

“I spent a lot of time this weekend going over this and, as chair of the growth management committee … I don’t think any of us have studied the depth of the ramifications of approving this document,” said Councilman Ron Rider.

Rider suggested simply approving the section of the policies relating to center designation and subject the rest to more intense review. His proposal became a motion at one point, but was struck down by other council members who were worried that cutting up the policy document would render it invalid and sink Silverdale and SKIA’s chances of being included in the list of PSRC centers.

City attorney Greg Jacoby said he had previously approached the PSRC to find out what would happen if the city portioned out the center designation.

He didn’t receive a very confident answer to that question, he said.

“(The PSRC) honestly didn’t know what impact that would have,” Jacoby said. “It’s unsure if the council would move forward if anything less than the items before us are adopted.”

Councilwoman Carolyn Powers suggested the council sign off on the document now, but dedicate some time in the future to establishing what it wanted to see included in the next batch of amendments. County Department of Community Development Director Kamuron Gurol, who testified at the meeting, pointed out the planning policies were subject to review at any time — there is no set schedule by which amendments or additions must be done. Powers hinted that city could have – and perhaps could have had — as much input in the formation of new policies as it wanted.

“We are part of the KRCC — it’s not them against us,” she said. “If we don’t like (the policies), then why don’t we get our oar in the water?”

Several citizens in the audience also offered their objections to the policy document in specific and the whole KRCC/PSRC process in general. However, in the end the council voted 4-2 to ratify the policies and send it on to the PSRC. Rider and Councilman Todd Cramer cast the two dissenting votes.

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