Offer of stop signs earns Leora Park needed backing

In the end, all it really took was a couple of stop signs to get the Port Orchard Planning Commission’s approval for Leora Park — the latest housing development proposed for the South Flower Avenue neighborhood.

When the agency first heard testimony last month on the proposed eight-home subdivision, neighbors on every side of the property spoke harshly of the plan, and especially of its developers, Chuck Childress and Howard and Leonard Minor.

The neighbors said they’d already suffered as a result of Childress’ other major Flower Avenue project, Flower Mead-ows.

They talked about the dust, the traffic and the callousness of the construction workers, who they said “whipped” around the quiet streets with complete disregard for pedestrians and schoolchildren waiting for the bus.

However, after the planning commission toured the site and both the neighbors and the project’s representative — Mark Kuhlman — met with South Kitsap School District officials to talk about bus stop safety, the neighbors seemed less incensed at the thought of the development.

At Monday’s night’s planning commission meeting, only two Flower residents showed up, and they mostly re-emphasized the need for traffic controls in the increasingly busy neighborhood.

“The road is not marked, so they drive wherever they want,” said Kathy Lipka, who lives near Leora Park.

To calm the residents’ concerns, the planning commission struck a deal with Kuhlman in which the commission lowered the development’s amount of park improvement fees by $400 and then added a condition to the planning commission report recommending the project developers pay up to $200 toward the cost of putting the three-way stop in at the intersection of Flower and Fireweed Street.

Combined with another stop sign where Flower meets Leora, the residents seemed to feel that would be enough to slow down wild drivers and make it easier to get in and out of driveways during busy times.

“Having the stop signs put in place now would add an immediate benefit,” said Flower resident Christine Sanders.

In addition, Kuhlman agreed to prepare an agreement that would require the developers to pay their portion of the cost of improving Flower when improvements finally become necessary.

The issue of future road improvements has been a sticky one at both the planning commission and the Port Orchard City Council. Flower is currently a substandard road, thanks to a near-complete lack of oversight when the street first went in decades ago.

The road has little to no shoulder, an off-kilter alignment and even varies in width as it winds back into the neighborhood.

The city knows it will eventually have to bring Flower up to modern standards, but because this type of road improvement is usually triggered by population growth, the city expects the developers who helped attract new residents will have to contribute financially to the project.

Thus far, the sticky question has been: how does the city charge developers for road work that may not take place for another 10 years or more?

By asking the Leora Park developers to pledge their future support of the road work now, the planning commission is apparently attempting to find a workable solution to a controversial problem. In agreeing to the condition, Kuhlman expressed concern for Flower’s condition but said there’s really nothing any one developer can do at this point — hence the need for the pledge.

“There is no fix that we can provide at this location that will solve all the comprehensive problems associated with South Flower,” he said.

The planning commission unanimously voted to recommend the project — with the road improvement and stop sign conditions attached — to the city council.

The council is expected to deliberate on Leora Park sometime next month; a specific date has not yet been set.

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