Planning policy draws yawns

To judge from the turnout at a hearing held Tuesday to discuss the latest batch of changes to the Kitsap Countywide Planning Policies, land use and the Growth Management Act just aren’t the hot issues they used to be.

Two dozen people, many of them official representatives of local private and public organizations, filtered into Silverdale’s community center on Tuesday night, filling only a handful of the chairs set out for the crowds that never came.

Even the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council Board of Directors’ attendance was light — Poulsbo sent its alternate to the meeting and Bremerton and Bainbridge Island sent no one at all.

The rest of the board members who did attend — Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel, all three Kitsap County commissioners and two representatives from the Suquamish Tribe — were perhaps representative of a recent shift in attitudes regarding countywide planning. Although the policies affect everyone in the county, the loudest voices — both for and against — have come from South Kitsap and the tribes to the north.

The Suquamish Tribe is currently embroiled in an appeal of the county’s comprehensive plan, claiming the county violated basic tenets of the GMA when it approved last year’s batch of comp plan amendments — a list that included McCormick Woods’ planned expansion.

Port Orchard is also in the middle of a planning tussle with the county. Although the debate is still amicable, the proposed planning areas — Anderson Hill/Berry Lake and Sidney/Sedgwick — are at the center of intense controversy fueled by both the county’s planning precedents and the GMA.

The residents who opted to testify fit that pattern as well. South Kitsap resident Vivian Henderson, representing the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners; Anderson Hill resident Jerry Harless; South Kitsap resident Tom Donnelly, representing Kitsap Citizens for Responsible Planning; and South Kitsap resident and land owner Dick Brown commanded the loudest voices, trading off at the podium and — for the most part — blasting the proposed CPP amendments.

“This is undoubtedly the most difficult document KAPO’s technicians have ever had to plow through,” Henderson said. “How in the world can an ordinary taxpayer ever even begin to understand this document and its implications?”

Henderson presented the board with a long list of problems both she and KAPO had with the CPP revisions. She accused the KRCC of ignoring all suggestions and proposed revisions KAPO submitted and said the new draft CPPs were, if anything, worse than the old ones had been.

Henderson said the CPP changes effectively revised the intent of the GMA, didn’t take into account the needs of citizens, exceeded the authority given to the KRCC and the Puget Sound Regional Council — a regional planning body to whom the KRCC reports — and subordinated the authority of the cities and the county to the PSRC.

“I cannot believe the people of Kitsap County would ever choose to live this way,” she concluded.

Others who did not share Henderson’s chagrin also criticized the policies for being vague and badly worded. Donnelly said the county still hasn’t found a way to enforce its original batch of CPPs and didn’t see anything in the revisions that would help with that.

Harless warned the amendments still didn’t address “fatal flaws” that could potentially lead to lawsuits down the road. He said the CPPs, which were supposed to reflect the requirements of the GMA, still left loopholes that allowed for new stand-alone urban growth areas — urbanized areas not attached to an incorporated city — and stipulated target rages instead of hard numbers.

“These aren’t going to get you past the hearings board,” Harless said. “Snohomish got its CPPs invalidated because it included a loophole that wasn’t in the Act. The writing’s on the wall. We don’t want to make a mistake and be back here in two years.”

Several speakers also criticized parts of the CPPs that weren’t specifically up for review this year. Doug Rowe of Bainbridge Island said many of the policies were too short-sighted and ignored advances in technology and the upward trend in home-based businesses and homeschooling. He also wondered why the county hadn’t done more to convince CEOs that already live in Kitsap to relocate their businesses there.

Brown questioned the growth projections tied into the CPPs and said he doubted the tenets of the CPPs intended to manage steady growth would really work as expected.

“Kitsap’s growing in spurts — huge, huge spurts,” he said. “We need to look realistically at growth patterns.”

Nevertheless, most in attendance — including a representative from Kitsap Transit, Port Orchard CIty Councilwoman Rita DiIenno and several other South Kitsap residents and landowners — appeared satisfied to sit and listen. Although DiIenno, who chairs the council’s growth management committee, had previously expressed frustration with the KRCC’s handling of the city’s comments, she said any comments she or the other council members had to make would be filed at a later date.

Although Tuesday was the only scheduled hearing on the CPPs, the KRCC will be taking public comment in written form through April 30.

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