Port Orchard, Kitsap County talk SKIA at sitdown

Angel refuses to take sides as Coppola promises to protect city’s investments.

A joint meeting between the Port Orchard City Council and the Kitsap County Commissioners on Monday night served the purpose of opening a dialog about several joint concerns, although any official action will be taken separately by the entities in the future.

“It’s good for us to sit down and talk like this,” said Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola. “We have a lot of things in common and it is in both our interests to work together on a friendly basis.”

Early in the meeting, Port Orchard Planning Director James Weaver, a former county employee, pointed out that the county was the largest employer within the city limits and that it “provides us with the biggest opportunity for urban growth.”

The topics addressed included the McCormick Woods annexation, Bethel Road redevelopment, the disposition of Givens Center, Veteran’s Memorial Park and annexation of the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA).

Cordiality aside, it was the last topic that led to the evening’s only discouraging words. The city of Bremerton has shown an interest in annexing that area, but Port Orchard has already invested an estimated $21.5 million to provide the sewer infrastructure.

Coppola didn’t take a stand on the annexation of SKIA by Bremerton, but said several times that the city would work to protect his city’s investment.

“We are not going to just walk away,” he said. “We feel very strongly about this, which both the city of Bremerton and the Port of Bremerton need to understand.”

South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel said the county would not choose sides and the issue needed to be resolved between Port Orchard, Bremerton and the Port.

With regard to the annexation of McCormick Woods, the next expected action is the gathering of residents’ signatures. The annexation will go ahead if landowners representing 75 percent of the assessed value express their support.

While the county is not involved in the petition process, it will need to resolve certain financial aspects before some residents support or reject the proposal. The county has already collected impact fees, and the disposition of these should be determined prior to the agreement, according to Coppola.

The requirement, as Coppola explained, is that the city should either get the funds collected for certain purposes or the county should perform those services for which the funds were collected.

“We don’t want to end up with something we are unaware of, or that becomes a financial burden for the citizens of Port Orchard,” he said.

Parking is another hot button. Angel said that downtown parking has been an issue for 25 years, during which time it has not been adequately addressed. Coppola noted that the largest downtown parking area is the waterfront, which represents a waste of the most desireable local property.

Also discussed was the possibility of the city buying or leasing the Givens Community Center, a former grade school that houses some county offices. The county no longer needs the space, while the city is looking for places to expand some functions. One option is to move the library into that location, something opposed by Councilman Jerry Childs.

“The downtown area is dying,” Childs said. “If you take the library out of downtown we lose 22,000 visits month,” he said. “If we moved the library, a lot of downtown businesses will suffer.”

When no one at the table — city or county — knew the value of the property, although Coppola made an off-the-cuff offer of $500,000. It was uncertain whether the property was in debt to the tune of $250,000, so the deal began to look less attractive.

Nevertheless, Coppola’s idea was facetious, with him explaining “I just wanted to get the discussion started.”

In fact, the Givens Center has an assessed value of $3,572,170.

Two city councilmen, Fred Olin and Jim Colebank, did not attend. Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown was also absent due to previous commitments.

“I was never going to be able to attend this meeting,” Brown said. “It was put on the calendar well after I had committed to something else.”

Brown said he deferred all decisions affecting Port Orchard to Angel, as it falls within her district.

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