City denies county request for temporary parking

Kitsap County will either have to build permanent parking lots around its Sidney Avenue courthouse campus or learn to live without them, the Port Orchard City Council ruled Monday night.

The county, in preparation for the start of construction on its new, $2.8 million, 70,000-square-foot county administration building, petitioned the city for permission to use county-owned properties in the surrounding residential neighborhoods as temporary parking lots.

The county said it planned to eventually replace the temporary lots with permanent ones built to city design standards. However, county officials explained, because the permanent lots would require rezones that could take awhile to obtain, they wanted temporary permits to make sure the lots were available for use before construction began.

The first step in construction is to dig up the entire visitor/employee parking lot located across from the courthouse’s main entrance, including the annex building also located on the site. All that parking will be lost until the new building opens and the proposed underground garage becomes available.

“We will have a shortage of approximately 68, 70 spaces,” said county Administrator Malcolm Fleming. “We’re not trying to evade anything — we just don’t know what development regulations apply in this case.”

During last year’s discussions regarding the county campus project, the city agreed to draft up guidelines under which the county could build. However, those have not yet come before the city council and therefore cannot be applied to the parking lot projects. The county said it was only asking for a short-term solution to an imminent problem, but many from the community and on the council have in the past pointed out how temporary solutions can all-too-easily become long-term issues.

The county recently got dinged by the city for not maintaining property it used during jail construction. The county cleaned up the now-empty lots, but Councilwoman Rita DiIenno pointed out it had taken three years for the county to come up to standards and only complied after countless complaints.

Smith Street resident John Lackey, who in the past has expressed concern about the county’s concern for its neighbors, said there was no reason for the city to trust the county to do a good job with the temporary lots. In fact, he pointed out, it might be to the county’s advantage to do a bad job — the county is still looking to buy residential parcels in the area, including Lackey’s, and would directly benefit from lower home values caused by poorly kept surroundings.

“Being a good neighbor is not in their best interest,” he said.

The City Council appeared to agree. It voted 4-3 to deny all the county’s temporary use permit requests, including the ones that would have provided temporary office space for county workers displaced by the construction. County project manager Karen Ross said that means the county will have to cram the extra workers into the already overcrowded county courthouse.

The fire marshal’s office, it appears, will be hardest hit.

“I believe some of them will be in the basement,” Ross said, declining to go into detail about how the fire marshal’s staff took the news.

Ross said now that the city has denied the county’s request, the county will focus on getting the necessary rezones in place before the real demolition work begins May 1. She said she believes it is still possible to get the parking lots done before then, although the timeline is really up to the city to establish.

“We have until then, so that gives us some time,” Ross said.

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