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Hearing Examiner to rule on three-story Manchester project

Developers wanting to add a three-story residential and retail building to downtown Manchester are appealing a decision by Kitsap County staff to deny the project a conditional-use permit.

William Palmer, who said he was representing both the permit applicant John Park and the property owner Tri-Hutch testified before Kitsap County Hearing Examiner Kim Allen last week in support of the development, called Spruce House.

Palmer said the site plan included four components: an underground parking garage with 40 spaces; retail and 19 parking spaces at street level; a second floor with six dwellings, and a third floor with five dwellings.

“This project does comply with all aspects of the Comprehensive Plan, and there are three projects of a similar nature (that have been approved in Manchester),” he added, describing them as the Anchors Project on E. Main Street, which is completed; Colchester Commons, at Colchester Drive and E. Main Street, which also includes underground parking, retail and housing units; and Manchester Place, which he said was not under construction, but has been approved for the corner of Spring Avenue and E. Main Street.

When Allen asked if Palmer felt that the projects represented a “binding” precedent, Palmer said he did not, only that they could have a “potential influence on your decision.”

Palmer, whom Allen said had the “burden of proof” at the Oct. 22 hearing, then addressed the staff’s “project findings,” which deemed that the project did not contain the required amount of landscaping — 15 percent; it did not have a “viable stormwater solution,” and that it does not “respond appropriately to the existing character, appearance, quality and physical characteristics of the subject property and the immediate vicinity.”

In its findings, staff alleged that only 11.33 percent of the project site included landscaping, that the stormwater solution proposed for the project involved private property without the necessary approval, and that the county’s Department of Community Development received “approximately 17 letters of opposition” that listed concerns such as: increased traffic, increased demand for parking, “excessive height, bulk and scale,” and general “incompatibility with current buildings in Manchester.”

Dennis Oost, a senior planner for the DCD, told Allen that the “denial was based strongly on two issues: stormwater, and landscaping.”

As to the stormwater issue, Palmer said the developers had proposed solutions, one of which was to utilize a manhole on Spruce Street that “has an existing outflow pipe to Puget Sound.”

When Allen asked if any of the solutions had “extra stormwater capacity,” Palmer said, “I am not qualified to answer that. Our burden is to provide a feasible solution, and we believe we have met that burden.”

As to the landscaping, Palmer argued that the project included gardens on the roof and other plants on and near the building that should be included in the total landscaping percentage, as he alleged they had been in Manchester Place.

Another objection to the project was raised by Shawn Merritt, who said that the building as it is proposed would block his current access to his garage.

“There has been a lawsuit filed against me over this, and I filed a countersuit,” Merritt said.

Palmer said it would be possible to modify the project’s landscaping to allow Merritt access to his garage, but he told Allen that the developers were waiting for the conclusion of the lawsuit.

“There is a back-up plan if that is not settled,” he said.

Several Manchester residents opposed to the project also testified Oct. 22, including Carrilu Thompson, Carole Leininger, and Doug Holme, who owns the Manchester Family Inn.

“The two most important issues in Manchester are parking and stormwater drainage,” Thompson said, explaining if built, the Spruce House would replace a “huge amount of permeable surface with concrete. Where is that water going to go? We feel that (the runoff) will compromise our valuable sea life.”

Thompson also said that taken individually, each project might not “be causing problems, but in tandem, they are.”

Frank Tweten, who said he owned the currently for sale Manchester Place, spoke in favor of Spruce House.

“The stormwater runoff problem could be solved with simple solutions,” Tweten said. “Manchester is a really cool place, and if merchants supported the projects, they’d see their businesses pick up. I would like to see this project get built.”

Following the testimony, Allen said she would “keep the record open” until Oct. 28 at 3 p.m. to collect more comments.

“You can only comment on testimony received today, however,” she said, explaining that she would be issuing her decision 14 days from Oct. 28.

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