City hoping to explore annexation

The Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce met Thursday to hear Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel discuss the changes the city might be faced with in the coming year and to kick off a food drive that will last until the Chamber’s next meeting on Feb. 9.

Abel started with a sort of “State of the City”-style address, informing members of the four different developers interested in transforming downtown Port Orchard and the upcoming study session during which councilmembers will decide what limitations currently exist under the city’s code.

Abel also explained that this year’s budget allocates $50,000 for the city to come up with a plan to run its downtown utilities underground, a project she said she hopes will be budgeted for 2007.

A new police position, the new ability to pay the city by credit card and the upcoming broadcast of council meetings on the local access channel were also announced.

Abel then expressed the city’s desire to explore its annexation options and her desire to hear questions and concerns from Chamber members.

“People think that Port Orchard is where they get their government services, regardless of whether or not they live within the city limits,” Abel said. “I want to make that happen.”

“We have a real urban area around the city limits,” Abel said, explaining that an area cannot be annexed unless it’s located within the current Urban Growth Area (UGA), the area in which the city would like growth to settle over the next 20 years.

The area must also share a boundary with the current Port Orchard city limits.

With those caveats in place, the process is still not a simple one. An area that wants to be annexed must collect the affirmative signatures of 75 percent of the landowners in that area — and even then, the decision is up to the city council.

If the city wants to annex an area, it can hold an “election,” in which a simple majority of those within the area to be annexed must vote affirmatively.

As Abel said, South Kitsap expects close to 30,000 more residents in the next 20 years, and she is anxious to hear feedback from the Port Orchard community on annexation.

Attendees raised concerns over taxes, representation, utilities, city versus county responsibilities, revenue versus the cost of increased services and city versus county restrictions.

“As you dense-itize and urbanize,” Abel finished, “it’s important to think things through.”

With urbanization also come more people in need, and the Chamber then took time to announce its plans to tackle the ongoing problem.

“South Kitsap does have a great need,” said Abel of the reasons behind the food drive. “We have many low-income families.”

According the Chamber President Billie Gurnsey, the South Kitsap Helpline’s supplies took a major hit this holiday season and the Chamber will be collecting donations of non-perishable food items from businesses and individuals to help the food bank replenish its resources.

Abel said she plans to challenge the city of Port Orchard’s individual departments to compete for donations and create a city proclamation honoring the Chamber’s efforts.

“It’s a simple thing,” said Chamber Executive Director Melode Sapp. “It’s a simple thing that can make a big difference.”

Businesses and individuals, regardless of Chamber status, can bring their donations to the Feb. 9 Chamber meeting at Le Garmanche in Westbay Center at 11:30 a.m., or drop them off at the Chamber office.

The Chamber can also be contacted to pick up donations.

For more information, call the Chamber at (360) 876-3505.

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