Shoreline board approves Harper widening project

A project to widen a small section of Southworth Drive in Harper is set to begin next spring after a Washington State Shorelines Hearings Board (SHB) approved permits granted by the state Department of Ecology.

The permits were challenged by at least two households along the shore-hugging road, and other petitioners known as “Harper Residents,” who do not agree with how the county has decided to improve safety on the road that provides no room for bicyclists and pedestrians to safely share the road with vehicles.

“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 other appellants were not against adding shoulders in theory.

“We want a safe place for people to walk and ride their bikes, (but we also) want the environment protected,” she said, explaining that 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.

Public Works spokesman Doug Bear said this month that the SHB affirmed the granting of the permits and determined that “as a whole, the project benefits the public and the shoreline, and ... the improved shoulders (will) enhance safety for pedestrian and bicyclists using this scenic roadway,” and safe public access to the water will be improved.

Bear noted that “while the SHB acknowledged that there will be some inevitable impacts due to the development, the county met the requirements to minimize those impacts insofar as it was able for wetlands and stormwater, the two issues on which the appellants focused.”

The residents first appealed to the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners to reverse the granting of the permits, 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.”

South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel said that the area has been a safety concern for a long time.

“This is a great step, and moves us closer to getting this very important project completed,” Angel said after the permits were affirmed. “Our staff designed an excellent project and worked very hard to ensure that we protect the environment while we complete the safety improvements sorely needed along this stretch of road.”

Bear said that the residents have filed a motion to have the decision reconsidered, which should be decided within the next month.

As it stands now, he said, the project is scheduled for construction next spring.

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