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Port Orchard wants role in SKIA annexation

This aerial photo shows the boundaries of the South Kitsap Industrial Area. - Courtesy of the Port of Bremerton
This aerial photo shows the boundaries of the South Kitsap Industrial Area.
— image credit: Courtesy of the Port of Bremerton

Although Port Orchard planning director James Weaver was the last representative to arrive at the South Kitsap Industrial Area forum hosted by the Bremerton Area Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday morning, he wasted little time making his feelings known to the crowd of about 20 concerned Kitsap County residents at the Cloverleaf Sports Bar and Grill in East Bremerton.

Weaver accused the city of Bremerton of “finding a loophole” in the 1998 memorandum of understanding between the city of Bremerton, the city of Port Orchard, the Port of Bremerton and the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners to begin the annexation process for the more than 3,000 acres of mostly industrially-zoned property surrounding the Bremerton National Airport.

“We are concerned that the city of Bremerton will take the ball and run with it alone,” Weaver said. “We have to decide if we are going to work together or if we are going to continue with the rancor we have been under for the past 30 years.”

Those comments drew a sharp response from David Overton, who owns the majority of the land in SKIA not owned by the Port of Bremerton. Overton was the primary initiator of both SKIA annexation petitions.

“It’s not a loophole, it’s the law," Overton said, adding that if anyone in the crowd knew of a loophole in the state’s annexation laws he would be more than glad to hear it.

When the SKIA area was approved as an Urban Growth Area, the next step is annexation, Overton said.

“It has been known from the beginning that this property would be annexed into a city, and that city is Bremerton,” Overton said, noting that only the city of Bremerton has a contiguous boundary with SKIA to the north.

Overton also pointed to the fact that the Port Orchard City Council chose to install sewers in Gorst, which are essential to the area’s development.

“The city of Bremerton took up the mantle,” Overton said.

Bremerton City Council President Will Maupin reiterated the fact that under the state’s Growth Management Act all UGAs are required to be annexed into cities and said the decision to accept the two annexation petitions was not one the city took lightly.

“We could have accepted them when they were presented, but we had 60 days and we used that time to conduct an analysis of it,” Maupin said. “If it was going to put a hardship on the rest of the city’s taxpayers, we wouldn’t have allowed it to move ahead.”

Port Commissioner Bill Mahan, meanwhile, said the time has come to put to rest the persistent rumor that a high-tech firm like Microsoft was going to relocate in Kitsap County.

“It’s not going to happen,” Mahan said. “At this point in time it’s open to anyone who can develop it.”

While the port is exploring options for the area, there isn’t one specific industry or company, which is being targeted, he said.

When the area is fully developed, the entire county will benefit because the property will be on the tax rolls, thus reducing the tax burden on homeowners, Mahan said.

In his passionate defense of Port Orchard’s claim to SKIA, Weaver said the largest cost will be the necessary infrastructure, which will be a tremendous up-front cost.

“In its analysis, the city of Bremerton used averaging, but the up-front costs could be far more,” Weaver said.

In order to pay for those costs, the city of Bremerton can’t do it alone and it will take a partnership with every entity involved, Weaver said.

Acknowledging that partnerships like the ones used by Bremerton to redevelop its downtown waterfront and its entire downtown core, Overton expressed irritation at Port Orchard’s demands to be one of the partners.

“You’re trying to force us to make you a partner,” Overton said.

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