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KRCC launches latest policy changes

The Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council has another month to collect input from the public and already it’s been deluged with a hail of responses to its most recent batch of Kitsap County Planning Policy changes, first introduced last month.

One of the biggest contributors to the feedback pile has been the Port Orchard City Council. After complaining in December that it wasn’t given enough time to review last year’s batch of CPP changes, the council scheduled a special meeting just to present its members’ thoughts and suggested changes to the 45-page draft document.

According to city planner Rob Wenman, who forwarded the council’s comments onto the KRCC, some suggestions have already been rolled into the CPPs. More changes will likely follow, but the council’s big concerns are already a high priority for the KRCC staff.

The most extensive suggested overhaul belongs to City Councilwoman Rita DiIenno. At last month’s council review session, DiIenno pointed out that the policies were incredibly difficult to read. The point of the policies, she explained, is to consolidate a wide variety of planning and land use goals and regulations into a sort of one-stop resources for cities, the county and private citizens.

The actual document, DiIenno said, is a mash of background, policies, suggestions and legalese that most citizens — and some administrators — would find impossible to wade through. She suggested taking everything that was background and formatting it so it stood out from the actual policies contained in the CPPs.

“It’s in (Microsoft) Word,” DiIenno pointed out. “It’s not that hard to go in and select a paragraph and put a box around it.”

She also said “shoulds” and “shalls” contained in the policies should match the state and federal regulations upon which they are based. If the state says you “shall” do something, DiIenno said, it’s pointless to make the requirement a suggestion or “should” in the CPPs.

Wenman said in preparation for the KRCC meeting on Tuesday, the whole document was overhauled to DiIenno’s specifications. Other council recommendations, including a request for footnotes that reference the state codes or other regulations mentioned in the document, are still underway.

The big question raised by Port Orchard — whether or not the KRCC has the right to ask the city to ratify the completed policies — may not be answered by Tuesday. Ratification has been a tradition in Kitsap County as long as most officials have been involved in government and many back it as a good way to gain consensus among the cities and county.

During last year’s ratification process, however, several city council members questioned the need for ratification and claimed the county was using a ratification system to deprive cities of their legal rights to appeal. DiIenno, in particular, argued the county had no legal authority to ask the cities to approve any policy document by a majority vote — an act she called illegal delegation of cities’ authority.

“(Ratification) does nothing for the city,” DiIenno said. “It does not one thing for the city except feeling good.”

Others, however, feel the ratification process adds something positive to the policy-amendment process. Councilman Bob Geiger said the ratification language was there to “mollify” any leftover hurt feelings and had no real legal import. Wenman said the city should be proud it could still participate in such a process — other nearby counties such as King are too large to even attempt to gain majority consensus, he said.

Mayor Kim Abel agreed.

“I think there is some value in adding some language saying you will truly work together,” she said.

Right now, Wenman said, city and county attorneys are reviewing the ratification language to see if it really does deprive cities of any important rights and whether it needs to be rewritten or eliminated. He said there’s no way to know when they might return an official report — whenever attorneys from different jurisdictions get together, there’s usually conflict between their legal opinions.

The KRCC will take comments from all interested parties, public and private, through the end of the month. It also plans to hold several additional stakeholders meetings to talk about popular issues such as property rights in an open forum. Following the comment period, all comments will be reviewed and the final draft of the CPP revisions will be handed back to the cities and county for further inspection and, possibly, ratification.

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