County, city will continue parking discussion

Kitsap County officials continued to facilitate discussion last week regarding a proposal that would relax the setback and barrier requirements on two lots the Port Orchard City Council temporarily alotted the county last month for the purpose of creating parking spaces for County courthouse employees.

Construction of the new county administration building claimed 91 spaces from employees in April.

The two temporary lots are located near the intersections of Sidney Avenue and Division Street and Austin Avenue and Taylor Street. Currently, the city requires a setback of 10 feet around the edge of a lot, meaning the 10 feet of space around the lot’s inside perimeter cannot be used for parking. The city also requires a six-foot barrier, like a fence, be built around the lot for the benefit of any residential areas that border it.

Officials had been in meeting with the street committee, preparing a proposal, asking the city council to relax its lot requirements. With the recent change in committee assignments, however, county officials must start over in talks with the Growth Management Committee (GMC), chaired by Councilman Bob Geiger and including members Carolyn Powers and Ron Rider.

“Two weeks ago, county staff came forward to make sure we were complying with the city’s requirements,” said Malcolm Fleming, Kitsap County administrator. “We brought a proposal to the street committee and showed them what the lots would look like if we complied with the city’s code, but we also said, ‘Here’s an alternative.’ ”

The alternative, according to County Commissioner Jan Angel, is a narrower setback, from 10 feet to five, with additional landscaping and a potentially lower and partially open barrier, allowing the county to utilize up to 20 more parking spaces between the two lots.

“We had asked for an update (on the parking situation), and what (County Administrator) Malcolm (Fleming) shared with us is the setback is such that it was taking approximately 20 parking places between the two lots,” Angel said. “We had concerns about the barriers, especially when it gets dark.”

Fleming said when he brought the proposal to the street committee, its members supported the alternative measures, but the city subsequently moved the proposal to the newly-constituted GMC.

“I have talked with Mayor (Kim) Abel,” Fleming said, “and she said she was hopeful the proposal could go to the committee (this) week. Unfortunately, the county’s actions months ago are still playing into debates on the issue, and for the past two months we have been trying to work out solutions that both the city and the county can agree to. I’m hoping (this) week we’ll have a clearer direction.”

John Lackey, a Port Orchard resident, said agreeing to relax lot requirements would be an inconsistent with prior council decisions.

According to Lackey, the city denied Resolution 17.17 several years ago, when private-property owner Don Pennington, who at the time owned the two parcels that now serve as the temporary Taylor lot, requested permission to build 40 parking stalls on his property. The council rejected Pennington on grounds that the request was detrimental to the community.

“Now the county wants to build 56 stalls on the same lot,” Lackey said. “Fifty-six stalls would be unprecedented. I don’t think it’s appropriate to give the county what (the city council) wouldn’t give a private property owner.”

Although Lackey said he disagrees with any relaxation of the setback requirement, he understands the county’s point of view regarding the barriers.

“I believe there should be a barrier where it borders residential neighborhoods,” Lackey said. “But I can understand having it open street-side. It’s a safety issue.”

Lackey said the issue goes beyond lot requirements.

“On Aug. 25, the county presented a master plan to the council that showed exactly how they were going to mitigate parking issues,” Lackey said. “Now (county officials) are saying they can’t follow through because they don’t have the money. They’re not following through with the things they told the city they were going to do.”

“What the city asked us to do was easier, but it made more sense to try to get more of these cars off the street and try to create more visibility in the lots to make them safer,” Angel said. “If it makes sense to (the GMC), it will go to the council for a vote. I think it makes sense.”

“It’s a challenge of communicating clear proposals in an environment where different parties have different perspectives,” Fleming said.

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