Advisory group votes on ‘reasonable measures’

Gathered around tables in Port Orchard City Council Chambers, the Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAG) during Wednesday night rendezvous looked more like a Scout meeting than an example of strategic planning.

Though equipped with crayons and markers used for marking giant maps of the city spread over the tables, the “scouts” are business leaders and citizens who continue to wade through the trials of the planning process one step at a time.

The CAG continued its work on Wednesday designating Port Orchard’s Urban Growth Area (UGA) an area where the coming influx of population will be encouraged to build.

The Reasonable Measures subcommittee, charged with the task of presenting “reasonable measures” that can be taken by the local governments to achieve the goal of the UGA, presented its list.

Committee members include chairman Jerry Harless, Bill Palmer, Mike Gustavson, Tamra Ingwaldenson, Rob Potansuu, Fred Chang and Eva Khoury and James Weaver from Kitsap County’s Department of Community Development.

According to Harless, the subcommittee discussed reasonable measures and came up with nine.

“We did not seek consensus or agreement on all,” Harless said, “but just brainstormed a list for the CAG to consider.”

The committee highlighted what it considers the CAG’s greatest obstacles — how to encourage a greater proportion of growth to locate in UGAs versus rural areas, thus achieving higher urban densities and lower rural densities.

“In the rural area, South Kitsap contains a large portion of the supply of non-conforming (i.e. smaller than five acres) rural lots,” Harless said in his presentation, “so reasonable measures here should address making the city and unincorporated UGA more attractive relative to the rural areas. Measures reasonably likely to increase achieved urban densities are in order.”

However, Harless pointed out that measures reasonably likely to decrease rural density will have to consider the GMA property rights goal as well as the goal to reduce sprawl.

Two suggestions failed when put to a vote, including the committee’s suggestion to implement rural lot aggregation for adjacent non-conforming lots in common ownership.

“Always controversial, this provision has been used in Kitsap County in the past and is encouraged ... (It) would only affect contiguous groupings of undersized lots owned by the same person. That may or may not affect a significant number of parcels,” Harless said.

The other failed suggestion was maximum urban lot size requirements.

“Urban plan designations and zones have minimum density requirements, but these are applied only to new subdivisions and even then there is a ‘pre-planning’ loophole. The county routinely permits large lots in urban areas to be developed with single-family homes, resulting in average achieved densities of around two dwellings per acre.

A maximum lot size requirement for both new subdivisions and new construction would ensure that the scarce urban land supply is utilized to its full potential,” Harless said.

Of the nine presented, seven did pass. The groundwork from the future of Port Orchard development was laid.

• Update the Capital Facilities Plan for Sanitary Sewers. “We have seen that the city of Port Orchard and the Karcher Creek Sewer District plant has sufficient capacity to serve the entire UGA, but that the ‘last mile’ of line is not available to many parcels,“ Harless reported. “An updated plan for sewers that finances this ‘last mile’ as well as any extensions to new areas would remove this barrier and facilitate more growth in urban areas at appropriate urban densities.

“The South Kitsap/Port Orchard urban area has been more successful at attracting residential growth than the county-wide trend, although it appears to be running up against limitations in sewer/water availability,” Harless explained in his presentation to the full CAG.

“What this tells me is that our subcommittee sees the principle barrier to GMA-compliant urban development is the cost and/or lack of urban services,” Harless said after the meeting. “A majority of our committee, which is not necessarily a representative sample of South Kitsap residents, is opposed to regulations prohibiting sprawl.

“My personal opinion,” he said, “is that the regulatory approach will always fail if the necessary facilities — sewer, water, roads, etc. — are not made available. Both may end up being necessary, but the former cannot succeed without the latter.”

• Adjust impact fees so they are lower in UGAs relative to rural areas.

“Currently, impact fees are the same in rural areas as in (unincorporated) UGAs,” Harless said. “One of the guiding principles behind the GMA mandate to encourage growth to locate in urban areas with urban services is that this is a more efficient use of public facilities. If that is true, then the impact fee structure could be adjusted to reflect this with a lower fee schedule in UGAs than in rural areas. Thus a financial incentive to locate in UGAs could impact the urban/rural distribution.”

• Transfer of Development Rights from rural to urban lands. “TDRs are one of those ‘innovative’ planning concepts that is more celebrated in theory than in practice,” Harless said in the meeting. “It has the potential of compensating rural land owners for the loss of their development potential and transferring that potential (at market prices) to urban lands which are more appropriate for receiving growth. Handled well, this could be very effective. But there are significant technical issues such as how the supply and demand for TDRs get translated into price, where to locate receiving areas, urban areas are already zoned for higher densities so why are TDRs needed, etc.”

• Regional stormwater facilities. “State and local regulations increasingly require developers to utilize ever greater areas of valuable urban land for the on-site retention of stormwater,” Harless said. “A recent example is the new clinic at the southeast corner of Tremont and Pottery with the huge ugly visqueen-lined pond. A regional plan and facility, prepared and built by the City and County acting in cooperation could free up a significant proportion of the urban land supply for actual development.”

• Residential on-site sanitary and stormwater facilities. “Add to this a requirement for green roofs and the water goes on the roof and is evaporated with excess into dry wells on site, adding net zero storm water and eliminating the requirement for additional sewers,” Harless said. “The $20,000 cost is easily off set by the avoided costs of the sewer infrastructure, hookup and monthly sewer bills.”

• Reduced off-street parking requirements on transit routes “Reduced off-street parking for medium- to high-density residential developments along transit routes (inside the UGA) could encourage more efficient use of urban lands,” Harless predicted.

• Eliminate building height restrictions in UGAs, which would allow more building up rather than out. “The caveat is that fire districts may need upgraded equipment to serve taller buildings,” Harless said.

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