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Hearing examiner reverses decision on Montessori school

The Kitsap County Hearing Examiner last week reversed an earlier decision and granted the Montessori Farmhouse School in South Kitsap a conditional-use permit.

At the last Kitsap County Board of Commissioners’ meeting, the commissioners voted to have Hearing Examiner Ted Hunter reconsider his February decision that denied school owner and operator Annette Weaver a permit to run a full-day program at her six-acre site on the 13500 block of Bethel-Burley Road.

“Based upon new information submitted at the closed record appeal, the Hearing Examiner reverses his initial decision of denial and on remand approves the revised Condition Use Permit request with condition to mitigate noise, traffic, and environmental impacts,” states the decision released Aug. 8.

Weaver said she was “grateful for the outcome,” but that there was still “some considerations that need to be worked out,” referring to the hours that the school can operate.

According to the hearing examiner, he reversed his decision based on “new information submitted at the closed record appeal,” which Weaver said was the fact that she agreed to reduce the number of students from 40 to 34, and to operate the school from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. instead of from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

However, Weaver said while she did agree to reduce the number of students, she wants to offer “before-school” activities from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., and “after-school” activities from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

She said offering those extended times was important for families with working parents, particularly those who commute to Seattle and might have to find alternative child-care if they could not drop off their children earlier and pick them up later.

Weaver said she would be filing with the county regarding the hours of operation, and that even if all goes well, it likely would be nine months from now before everything was completed and her school was operating as she hoped.

“It is really frustrating, but I am grateful for the decision, and grateful for my supporters and my attorneys,” she said.

Currently, Weaver runs a “small, half-day” program with 16 children that she says the county allowed her to operate while she completed the permit process, as long as she didn’t actively market her school or expand to full-day classes.

To qualify for the conditional use permit, Weaver says she and her husband Terry “upgraded the septic and the well systems, improved the driveway, provided parking spaces for parents picking up their children, and planted trees and the vegetable garden.”

Kitsap County staff recommended approval of the permit, but some of Weaver’s neighbors were opposed to the project, telling Hunter they worried the children would make a lot of noise, do damage to the surrounding habitat and that it would be dangerous having so many cars pulling in and out of the school’s location.

Hunter denied the permit, and Weaver hired attorneys Ron Templeton and Bill Broughton to file an appeal, who called the hearing examiner’s decision “erroneous and capricious.”

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