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SKIA’s major property owner backs annexation
For David Overton, who owns the majority of the property in the South Kitsap Industrial Area not owned by the Port of Bremerton, annexation into the city of Bremerton is crucial to not only his ability to develop his property, but for the long-awaited economic development of the entire area.
“We have only one legal option, and that is annexation into the city of Bremerton, because Port Orchard is not close to SKIA,” Overton said, noting that Bremerton has the only contiguous land boundary with the area.
Annexation must occur before any decisions can be made on which entities will provide the urban services for the area, even though Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola has pushed for Port Orchard being designated as the sewer service provider for the area ahead of the actual annexation, Overton said.
His comments echo those of Bremerton City Council President Will Maupin about the service provider issue for the area.
Before service decisions can be made, the land-use governance issue must be decided, and that power must be transferred from Kitsap County to Bremerton in order for any real economic development to occur in the area, which encompasses more than 3,000 acres and, according to the county’s subarea plan, will eventually be home to more than 9,000 living-wage jobs, Overton said.
“The current leads we receive from CTED (Washington state Department of Commerce, Trade and Economic Development) and KEDA (Kitsap Economic Development Alliance) all require permits within four to 18 months and pad-ready sites with infrastructure in place,” he said.
Currently, the county’s permit window is measured in years, not months, which has made economic development almost impossible for a decade, Overton said.
“Over the last 10 years, only one project rose to that level, and that was NASCAR,” he said. “There had to have been dozens (which didn’t).”
Because of the permit lag and lack of infrastructure, many developers who expressed an interest SKIA were located north and south of Kitsap County or out-of-state entirely, Overton noted.
“We couldn’t compete because we couldn’t get permits within 18 months,” he said.
That roadblock isn’t a criticism of the county, necessarily, but rather a reflection of the difference between counties and cities in terms of how each jurisdiction views infrastructure planning and construction, Overton said.
“Building infrastructure is something Bremerton does,” he said, adding that the city is more inclined to provide infrastructure up front for job creation than the county might be.
Once the properties are annexed Bremerton, Overton said then and only then should final decisions be made on who provides urban services based upon the land-use guidelines set forth by the city.
“We have a great relationship with the West Sound Utility District, and they could be one of the partners,” he said, pointing out that a premature decision on service issues would be akin to agreeing to build a house without first engineering it and going out for solid bids.
“That’s not a cost-effective way to do things,” Overton said.
Although the Port of Bremerton has yet to say much publicly about its final decision to annex its SKIA property into Bremerton, Overton said he believes a number of things are working in the city’s favor, such as the B&O tax exemption on industrially zoned port property and its willingness to provide airport protections requested by Port Commissioner Larry Stokes.
Those currently don’t exist, but Overton said the property owners in the area, along with the city, are willing to ensure those protections are in place.