Port Orchard reverses its planning policy vote

South Kitsap’s chance for federal transportation dollars hangs in the balance as the Port Orchard City Council last Monday overturned its earlier ratification of a proposed set of changes to the countywide planning policies.

Contained in those changes was a section — element B — that called for South Kitsap Industrial Area and Silverdale to be named centers under the standards of the Puget Sound Regional Council. The PSRC, which distributes monies from a $50 million federal pot in question, mandated all Kitsap cities must approve the policy document in order for the center request to be valid. At present, Port Orchard’s is the only signature missing.

“I don’t know what the next steps are going to be,” said Mary McClure, executive director for the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council.

The KRCC was the agency tasked with drawing up the policy changes and making the rounds to the cities, tribes and the county. The PSRC had given the KRCC until Jan. 1 to have all the needed approvals in place. Now that Port Orchard has overturned its earlier vote to ratify, McClure said the whole document may be worthless.

She said she intends to either ask the PSRC for a deadline extension — provided Port Orchard opts to re-ratify the document before the PSRC meets in February — or ask for an exemption that would make the policies valid without Port Orchard’s approval. However, McClure admitted she has no idea whether PSRC would grant such a request.

“It’s really hard to know,” she said. “They have complete authority.”

Even when the City Council discussed — and approved — the policy document last month, several council members expressed distaste for the other elements included. Everyone appeared to support getting SKIA and Silverdale listed as centers, but were leery of the other policy changes they were asked to sign off on.

On Monday, the council voted 4-2 to amend its ratification vote so the ratification only applied to element B. However, the entire issue was also tabled and sent back to the council’s growth management committee for further review. It appears the council will wait for a report back from growth management before issuing a final vote on any aspect of the document.

Councilman Rick Wyatt, who initiated the reconsideration proceedings, said further study of the issue was all he was looking for.

“Whatever (the committee) decides I’ll back 100 percent,” he said.

Mayor Kim Abel said she has taken responsibility for making sure the committee gets everything it needs to come back with a recommendation before the PSRC’s next meeting. However, McClure feels the damage may already have been done. She said the PSRC’s offer to include Silverdale and SKIA on its centers list was something of a favor — Kitsap, along with Pierce and Snohomish counties, had areas they wanted center designations for but that were too small to be considered under the PSRC’s new guidelines. The PSRC offered to grandfather these areas in and, according to McClure, both Pierce and Snohomish counties made the deadline.

It will be hard, she said, to go back and ask for more favors for Kitsap when Pierce and Snohomish followed the rules as requested.

“We are an equal partner, but we are the smallest,” McClure said. “We don’t command a lot of votes. I’m sure many on the board would be just fine with not creating any new centers.”

Because the federal grant process is always competitive, she explained, no one but Kitsap benefits if two more eligible centers are added to the pool. The situation is especially bleak for Silverdale, which is not only much smaller than the usual crop of regional centers — downtown Seattle and downtown Tacoma, for example — but isn’t even incorporated. McClure said she isn’t sure if another example of an unincorporated regional center exists under the PSRC’s jurisdiction. She said in some ways PSRC is making a special double exemption by allowing Silverdale to grandfather itself in.

“It’s quite an oddity,” McClure said. “It was a challenge to get Silverdale into the running.”

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