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Port Orchard's annexation results mixed

Not unlike the Allied forces moving into France during World War II, Port Orchard is currently involved in annexation-related skirmishes on two fronts.

This week it made major gains in one while suffering setbacks on another.

“Over the next few years, Port Orchard will become a much bigger city,” said Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola. “In addition to McCormick Woods, we’re looking over a dozen annexation petitions. Once they are in process, this will change the city dramatically.”

Earlier this week, Coppola and South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel released a joint jurisdiction letter about the annexation of McCormick Woods, listing the issues and setting a schedule to accomplish these goals.

Concurrently, the Bremerton City Council voted on Wednesday night to annex the South Kitsap Industrial Area, but made no promise to either honor or ignore a previous agreement for Port Orchard to provide SKIA’s wastewater services.

The annexation was characterized as one of the most important land actions in the history of Bremerton due to its increase of the area and bringing Bremerton Airport into the city limits.

During testimony, land owner David Overton expressed support for Bremerton’s “stable leadership and competent staff,” joining later with Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman and two Port of Bremerton commissioners to laud the decision.

Port Orchard Development Director James Weaver spoke during the Bremerton public hearing, requesting the agreement be honored, while saying that cooperation between the cities would represent “a joint economic powerhouse” that will benefit the region. But aside from a oblique reference from City Councilman Mike Shepherd, no council member made any reference to Weaver’s request prior to the motion.

Weaver said later he was disappointed the city council chose to not take an action “that would have brought the cities together.”

He said Port Orchard would not actively oppose the annexation of SKIA by Bremerton, conceding the action “made sense legally.” 

Still, he said if the situation was reversed — if Port Orchard attempted to annex land that Bremerton had invested in — Bremerton would have the same concerns as he voiced before the council.

After the meeting, Bremerton Director of Community Development Andrea Spencer said the council’s lack of acknowledgment of Weaver’s request one way or the other did not indicate a disposition on sewer service.

Whether or not Port Orchard provides sewer service “depends on the growth model we choose for the area,” she said.

On Thursday, Coppola seconded Weaver’s disappointment but did not close the door on legal action, even as he said, “We would prefer negotiation to litigation but we believe the agreement is binding. We will go to the wall on this. And the (Port Orchard) City Council is unanimous in this opinion.”

As for McCormick Woods, the private meeting between Angel, Coppola and their respective staffs has set the process in more active motion than has taken place so far.

Weaver said the city is preparing a draft action plan which will be submitted to the county in the next two weeks. It will then be revised by the county and returned to the city, with the document trade continuing until the completion of the process.

One tangible step is the establishment of a web page that is part of the Port Orchard Web site, providing a central location for all news and documents that pertain to the annexation effort.

“We have identified the tools and the mechanisms for this action,” Weaver said. “Even if it does not succeed it will provide a model for how annexations are done in the future.”

Annexation Committee Chairman Dick Davis said he was pleased by the recent progress, and that he was “taking Jan and Lary at their word they are working diligently to get this done.

“We are confident that this is moving ahead,” he said. “And it looks like we may begin gathering petitions by the end of this month, which is sooner than we thought.”

In order for annexation to proceed, signatures must be gathered by the owners of 75 percent of the assessed value of the entire property.

A meeting to discuss next steps will take place at Noon September 10 at the McCormick Woods Golf Course Meeting Room in the form of a no-host lunch.

The annexation Web site is located at www.cityofportorchard.us/MW_Annexation.htm.

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