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Critical Areas Ordinance gets final hearing

The final public hearing to discuss the fate of the local Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) was held on Monday afternoon, soliciting a variety of public comment from those on all sides of the issue.

The commissioners are scheduled to deliberate for two days before making a final decision. These meetings have not yet been scheduled and will depend on the volume of testimony received.

The meeting began with three short reports, one from Department of Community Development (DCD) Director Cindy Baker,  another from Assistant Director Jim Bolger and the last from Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Lisa Nickel.

Baker provided some brief background, while Bolger summarized data collected at past meetings. DCD assembled a document stating opinions in broadest terms, noting that of 156 people testifying, 76 favored the CAO while 80 opposed it. Of the opposition, half favored the strengthening of the CAO.

A more specific accounting of the response was scheduled for posting on the DCD Web site, www.kitsapgov.com/dcd/.

Bolger also summarized the recommendations in three categories — those from the staff, those from the Kitsap County Planning Commission and those from a “minority report” prepared by the three planning commissioners from North Kitsap who disagreed with the remainder of that board.

For example, the recommendation for natural shoreline buffer widths was 100 feet from the staff and the Planning Commission, but 150 feet from the minority.

This information was also scheduled for posting on the Web site. 

In past meetings, the commissioners had some difficulty holding speakers to the three-minute limit. On Monday, however, the meeting utilized a scoreboard displaying the limit on a rolling basis, giving the speaker an up-to-the second indication of time left.

“The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation that followed stressed the vital importance of critical areas to community,” said Bob Burkholder, of Bainbridge Island. “In New Orleans, the buffering function of the natural delta has been seriously impaired. We all share on the horrific costs in both lives and dollars as a result.”

Throughout, several questioned the process.

“The staff has finally achieved its primary objective,” said Jack Hamilton of Silverdale. “They have placed before you so much material and so little supporting documentation, all without cross-reference, to make effective review unreasonable. They could not dazzle us with brilliance so they baffled us with volume. I recommend you reject all versions of the ordinance placed before you.”

More than 120 people expressed a desire to speak, which made it likely that the meeting would last to the scheduled 10 p.m. end time.

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