Harper residents ask state to stop widening road

Board has three months to decide if Southworth Drive project complies with Shoreline Management Act

A short, skinny stretch of road through Harper that the county has been trying to widen for years will remain narrow for now, as another appeal filed by several residents of Southworth Drive is considered.

Two couples — the McCoys and Ensigns — and other petitioners known as “Harper Residents” filed an appeal with Washington State’s Environmental Hearings Office challenging the shoreline permits Kitsap County granted to allow widening of the half-mile, coast-hugging section of road.

A representative from the office said that a two-day hearing was held July 8 and 9, during which Rebecca McCoy testified as to why she and other residents of the road do not agree with how the county has decided to improve safety on the winding road that provides no room for bicyclists and pedestrians to safely share the road with vehicles.

During past hearings where McCoy argued against granting a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit and a Shoreline Conditional Use Permit(SDP/CUP) for the project, claiming the county’s approach will only increase traffic and erode the area’s habitat and beauty.

“The county is going to ruin the road,” said Rebecca McCoy, who lives on one of 17 plots of land that the county must cut into to add shoulders. “This is a really bad plan for anyone that is not a commuter.”

When the county granted the permits, its Public Works Department had mapped out plans to widen the road by at least 10 feet to create 11-foot traffic lanes and four-foot shoulders on each side that can be used by both bicyclists and walkers.

Though she appealed the permits, McCoy stressed that she and the residents appealing the decision were not against adding shoulders in theory.

“We want people to know that the residents of Southworth Drive want a safe place for people to walk and ride their bikes, (but we also) want the environment protected,” she said. “We want the county to acknowledge they made a mistake, and to go back and start working on something that conforms to the law and respects the environment.”

McCoy said the shoulders do not have to be made of asphalt, and residents on the road would like options such as pervious concrete to be considered for the project.

“We would like the county to step up and make Southworth Drive a model, and maybe this project could set a precedent for other sections of the Mosquito Fleet Trail that need to be widened,” she said.

If the permit is approved by the commissioners, McCoy said she hoped that at the very least, some of the modifications the residents have suggested will be incorporated into the project.

The residents first appealed to the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners to reverse the granting of the appeals, but board declined their request.

“I drove down there recently and it is a beautiful part of our county, (but) a pretty dangerous stretch of road,” said Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown at the time. “I feel for the folks trying to ride their bikes or walk down there.”

“That is why we are doing this,” added South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel, explaining that the area has been a safety concern for a long time, and the county began working on the project years ago. “We’re just lucky we haven’t had a child hit trying to get to a school bus there.”

Now that the residents have appealed to the state, its hearings board is tasked with determining issues such as if the project complies with state laws protecting and managing shorelines, wetlands and critical areas, along with whether or not the state board has jurisdiction to rule on the permits’ compliance, as well.

The ruling by the board will be completed within 90 days of the hearing.

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