City OKs only parts of planning policies

The Port Orchard City Council has come up with its “final answer” and as a result the Puget Sound Regional Council is going to have to make do without the city’s approval of the revised countywide planning policies.

By a 4-3 vote, the council voted to ratify the section of the planning policies that designates Silverdale and the South Kitsap Industrial Area as regional centers but ignore the rest of the document.

“If ratified, this document would stand and we would lose our chance to appeal it,” said Councilman Ron Rider. Rider chairs the Growth Management Committee, which was asked to review the policies and return a recommendation. According to Rider, the committee found too many things wrong with the policies to justify approval.

The city has had a rocky time with the proposed changes to the planning policies ever since the document first came before the council Dec. 8.

The council delayed a final vote twice, even convening a special meeting on Dec. 29 to accommodate the council members’ lingering concerns.

The planning policies, as revised by the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council, needed to go on to the PSRC by Dec. 31. The deadline applied largely to the regional center designation request, but KRCC director Mary McClure said the entire package needed to be ratified by all the Kitsap cities, tribes and the county itself by that deadline to be valid.

Without 100 percent approval, McClure said, the PSRC would likely void its offer to give Kitsap one last chance to get in its requests for regional centers.

Regional centers, usually large concentrations of urban housing and/or employment, are eligible through the PSRC for increased federal funding for transportation projects. Even though SKIA and Silverdale are too small to qualify under the PSRC’s current set of guidelines, the agency agreed to grandfather the areas in, so long as the ratification process was all wrapped up by Dec. 31.

Despite McClure’s dire warnings that ratifying only part of the document is essentially the same as ratifying none of it, the city is gambling that the PSRC will see things differently. Councilwoman Rita DiIenno said she looked up the PSRC’s written policies online and found nothing that required the city to approve the planning policy changes as well.

The only entity that cares whether the cities ratify, said DiIenno, is the county.

“I can understand the county wanting ratification because that would take away the cities’ right to challenge it,” she said.

Other council members disagreed with DiIenno’s assessment. Councilman John Clauson, who voted against the partial ratification, said everyone involved with the PSRC — McClure, county commissioners and others — had said the city was taking a terrible chance by only approving part of the policies. He pointed out there was nothing identified in the document as a serious threat to city autonomy and asked the council to not throw away SKIA’s chance for so much federal money over a few imperfections in the policies.

Councilwoman Carolyn Powers agreed.

“We don’t want to cut off our nose to spite our face,” she said. “This council has talked a lot about economic development and we need to do something to create jobs.”

The final say, however, will be up to the PSRC board, which meets next month.

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