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Port Orchard, Kitsap to develop joint annexation strategy

The incorporation of McCormick Woods into Port Orchard inched still closer to the finish line this week, as annexation advocates submitted final petitions to the Kitsap County Assessor.

“It has been a long haul but an exciting one,” said annexation committee chairman Dick Davis. “We should take a moment and consider that we participated in a monumental achievement that will be envied by many and duplicated by others.”

City employees, however, don’t have the luxury of a reflective moment, as there are several other items on the annexation plate.

With this in mind, the Port Orchard City Council and the Kitsap County commissioners will hold a joint meeting, perhaps as soon as next week, to discuss the transition between the county and the city with regard to transition of services and the payment of previously incurred debt.

“We need to have a process that helps to iron out the details of annexation,” said South Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido during a visit to the Port Orchard City Council on Tuesday night. “A discussion between the two governments is the best way to work out the details.”

The commissioners and the council last met in August, when Garrido’s predecessor, Jan Angel, and North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer discussed the disposition of the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA).

This time around the meeting will take place on the county’s home turf, with the main discussion topic the annexation of the Bethel Corridor as well as the long-range strategy for Port Orchard to annex the entire Urban Growth Area.

The joint meeting was first discussed at the county commissioners’ Monday briefing, when Special Projects Manager Eric Baker was instructed to help schedule the meeting.

Garrido then volunteered to “drop in” on the city council’s regular study session, for which annexation was already on the agenda.

Garrido’s presence drew some fire from the council, with regard to the protracted process of improving the Bethel Corridor.

“The county has had 20 years to do something about this,” Mayor Lary Coppola said, “but it has spent all of its money on projects in Central Kitsap. It’s gridlock out there, and the county hasn’t done anything to fix it.

“We are just tired of waiting around,” he said.

While taking a moment to indicate that his sentiments were not personal and he did not think Garrido was at fault for the situation, he added, “The county has not lived up to its responsibilities, and we need to do what’s best for Port Orchard.”

Garrido’s concern was that the entire corridor be annexed at one time, in order to prevent county property being surrounded on three or more sides by the city.

While boundaries need to exist somewhere, they should be designed for the convenience of the residents and in a way that allows the coordination of services between the two governments.

Later, Garrido said she understood the mayor’s viewpoint.

“I can see they are frustrated,” she said.

There is still a long road to follow for the McCormick Woods annexation, according to Development Director James Weaver, with the earliest possible completion time in mid-July.

While this is early enough for McCormick Woods residents to vote in both the primary and general election, the action will occur after candidate filing deadline. So it will be 2011 before any residents can run for city office.

The matter is scheduled for initial approval on March 24 at the regular council meeting. The annexation must then be addressed and approved by the Boundary Review Board, where any challenges to annexation will be heard.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Baker said the McCormick annexation was “an example of how annexations should proceed.”

Baker is checking commissioner schedules and will establish a date, then provide the city with several alternatives. The meeting will need to be properly advertised, and it is likely that a committee instead of the entire council will attend, according to Baker.

Another variable is Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown, who was absent at the August meeting.

He indicated on Monday he did not plan to attend the upcoming meeting because, “When all three of us go somewhere, it blows things out of proportion. This is mostly a local issue.”

Bauer disagreed with this, saying he would look forward to meeting with the council.

“This is an important issue that affects the whole county,” he said.

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