DCD back up to full strength

Since approval of the proposed Kitsap County NASCAR track is not likely to face a public vote, hearings conducted by the Department of Community Development (DCD) will provide the major avenue for citizens to voice their support or disapproval of the project.

Department officials say they are ready for the challenge, since DCD is now at full administrative strength for the first time in several years. Said DCD director Cindy Baker, “We finally have a complete management team.”

As DCD waits for the first of the expected permit requests, it resolves to remain objective.

“We don’t know what the permit process will look like yet,” Baker said. “But we will treat NASCAR the same way we would any other large project.”

As an educated guess, Baker predicts that International Speedway Corp. will apply for a conditional use permit, file a master plan, and complete an environmental impact statement.

Once the schedule is clarified, Baker said DCD will create documents that indicate where and when the public can voice its opinion.

Baker predicts there will be at least five opportunities for public input about NASCAR.

Baker was hired as DCD’s assistant director in November 2003 by Kamuron Gurol, who resigned as DCD director in April 2004.

Baker performed both jobs until she was hired as director and her former position was filled by Jim Bolger.

While the management team is in good shape, Baker admits the county has trouble recruiting engineers.

“We need trained engineers to help with the permitting process,” Baker said. “I would even hire someone right out of school if they had the right skills.”

Baker said the complete management team allows her to attend different meetings around Puget Sound and get a better feeling for what’s going on in other areas.

And while she is aware of all important DCD projects, she tends to delegate the day-to-day chores to staff and become directly involved when needed.

While it may increase the department’s efficiency, this strategy has occasionally antagonized observers.

Kitsap Alliance for Property Owners Executive Director Vivian Henderson, for example, has been critical of Baker’s unfamiliarity with the Critical Areas Ordinance.

“This is the most important document to come out of DCD,” Henderson said. “Cindy should have at least read it by now.”

Baker underscored the importance of two-way communication, saying that DCD offers free advice about the development of specific projects any obstacles they may face during the permit process.

“Someone can come in and tell us what they want to do and we will tell them if it will work,” she said.

Baker is pleased with the direction of the 100-person department, saying, “We are where we want to be.

“We have seen a radical turnaround in attitudes recently,” she said. “We have become more customer service-oriented and, we’re finding ways to help people accomplish what they want to do.”

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