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Bethel going commercial

As the commercial development of the Bethel corridor trudges forward, many Kitsap County officials are starting to see the fruits of their labor — and many on the fringe are already becoming frustrated.

Kitsap County Commissioner Jan Angel said she was excited to see how far the project has progressed after years of planning and design.

“We’re seeing the growth of the Bethel corridor as it was intended,” Angel said. “There will be everything from office space to a roller rink.”

Jeff Smith, senior planner for Kitsap County’s Department of Community Development, said the developmental possibilities have not even been decided completely.

“There are several projects still being considered in that area,” Smith said. “There is going to be some tweaking from time to time. For example, Home Depot has applied for a comprehensive plan amendment to add additional acreage. Wal-Mart is proposing 100 percent expansion for a grocery addition and various other projects are being considered.”

Port Orchard City Councilman Rick Wyatt, however, said he has been against the project from the start and the changes in land classification are already beginning to affect those who live on reclassified land off Bethel Avenue.

“The Bethel corridor is a very large and expensive project for our area,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt cites the parcel home to the former K-Mart as an example, where three families live on nearby farms.

“Until a portion of the property was actually sold to K-Mart, the property taxes stayed residential,” Wyatt said. “At the point of sale, the taxes went to a commercial rate. You take a look at the corridor and it’s all commercial, as far as the county’s concerned, and that’s really put a burden on the property owners. Most are using their land as residential property.”

“A lot of what is zoned commercial will stay commercial,” Smith admits.

“After going through years of looking both at the plan and at changes to that plan, though it is beautiful, (the project) just doesn’t look like it belongs (in Kitsap County),” Wyatt said. “It looks like it belongs someplace like Beverly Hills. I felt at the time the county commissioner could have done a better job for the people,” Wyatt said.

The development continues, however, and Jeff Rowe-Hornbaker, interim division manager for Kitsap County’s Development Engineering Section, points several signature construction projects one might observe on Bethel at any given time during the next few months:

n the Autozone project located behind the bank near RiteAid;

n the proposed Wal-Mart expansion still in litigation;

n Home Depot’s request;

n the “Rollarena,”

n Bethel Center; and,

n the Cutter’s Coffee being built adjacent to the Chevron just off Sedgwick.

“The additions we’ve seen in the last year will move this forward a lot faster,” Angel said.

According to Angel, the pace of the development has been offset on several occasions, although the county was always able to regroup. She cites the county’s responsibility to protect endangered salmon as one stumbling block of the project.

“Where we got kind of slowed down was the reclassification of a salmon stream,” Angel said. “We had to redo some of the plans we had. It cost us a lot more money than we anticipated. Whenever you have to reconstruct things, it costs money.”

In sharp contrast to the commercial development of Bethel, the road-widening project is still lagging, with a projected finish date over a decade away.

“Our Bethel project is in design right now,” said Randy Casteel, Kitsap County’s public works director. “We’re buying some right of way, (but) there’s nothing being built yet.”

Since Casteel expects most of the right of way to be acquired by the end of next year, the project can then move forward into construction.

“Right now, it’s broken into three phases,” Casteel said. “The first phase is Lund to Salmonberry. We don’t anticipate being done with that until 2007. The second phase we’ll probably start designing in 2008, and it might be done in 2010 or 2011.”

But for now, both the development and road plans still make sense to the county officials who helped make them, though many expect the process to be slow.

“This plan provides a phased approach to better coordinate land use and provide better transportation,” Smith said. “(Construction delays) are going to be happening from time to time as construction increases on the Bethel corridor. For two or three years it’s going to be very extensive.”

“It’s coming,” Angel said.

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