Flower Meadows North OKed

Flower Meadows North has been approved to move forward, but the Port Orchard City Council feels some general issues regarding the housing development’s construction remain.

The council on Monday night voted unanimously to approve an updated Flower Meadows North development plan. The plan presented by project representative Mark Kuhlman last year had been struck down because of problems with issues such as significant tree retention. The new proposal addressed the question of how to preserve significant trees on-site and included provisions for future Flower Street road improvements.

Significant trees, defined as trees more than 18 inches in diameter, usually require a protection radius of one foot for every one inch of trunk diameter. In this project, the protection radii of several large fir trees would have made much of the site unbuildable. The city and the applicant, Chuck Childress, compromised by protecting everything inside the trees’ drip lines — a much smaller radius that is expected to be sufficient to keep the trees healthy.

Although the fate of the on-site trees was a major issue at the last public hearing for the project, the issue of road improvement seemed to be the center of controversy Monday night. The city can ask developers to make road improvements if their projects are expected to significantly change neighborhood traffic flow.

However, the issue of when some change becomes significant change appeared to perplex both city officials and the project’s applicant.

“So long as these streets provide safe access for fire and police vehicles, there is no requirement to make any upgrades,” Kuhlman said.

Flower Meadows North will consist of eight single-family homes — a net increase of five homes over what occupies the property currently. Although the addition of five houses is not expected to have a noticeable impact on South Flower Street, which the project fronts, ever-increasing development in the Flower/Goldenrod Street area is eventually expected to overload both roads.

Flower’s alignment has not changed much since it was first put in and, as a result, is extremely irregular and challenging to maintain. The width of the street actually changes at several locations and portions of it butt directly against residential properties, making expansion difficult. When the road finally does become inadequate, the city estimates it will be very costly to bring up to code — right-of-way will have to be purchased from neighboring residents and the whole length of Flower will likely have to be ripped up and completely redesigned.

The city would like developers to share in that cost but, because the overhaul probably won’t happen for another 10 or 15 years, it is limited in what it can ask. Complicating matters even further, the city recently set a precedent by not asking the developer of Flower Meadows — a 66-unit development also built by Childress that went in last year — to shoulder any future costs of improving Flower Street.

“It’s sort of unfortunate that the plat of Flower Meadows did not address that at the time,” said city planner Rob Wenman.

Childress, in the new plan, included language that made all homeowners in the development — not just those with Flower Street frontage — equally responsible for funding future road improvements. Although the council did finally accept that offer as the best possible alternative, several council members remained bothered by the deal.

“It seems easy for an applicant to agree to something that someone else would have to pay for,” said Councilwoman Carolyn Powers.

In a related issue, the council plans to make a priority of clarifying its noise ordinance — specifically how it relates to construction work hours. Goldenrod resident Lauri Pitman testified at length about the persistent noise problems she has suffered under during the construction of Flower Meadows. She asked the council to place stronger restrictions on when laborers could work and ensure those restrictions were enforced.

Among the issues Pitman cited was work crews’ activity on the site during major holidays. The workers, she said, were out there starting at 7 a.m. on Thanksgiving and 7:30 a.m. on Christmas Day.

The council agreed that, at a minimum, the noise ordinance had to address holidays specifically and referred the matter to the public safety committee for further study. Pitman, who also complained about vandalism, dust, flooding and enforcement issues relating to construction work, said she was satisfied with the council’s decision.

“I feel like that heard; I feel like they really do want to help,” she said. “If I’ve accomplished nothing else, that’s OK.”

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