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Port Orchard creates 'business professional' zone

Port Orchard is moving ahead to create a “business professional” area designed to encourage certain types of new business while imposing greater restrictions than a standard commercial zone.

The purpose of the zone — which will occupy several non-contiguous areas within the city limits — is to provide a place for small businesses that depend on individual entrepreneurship, while keeping the focus on service professionals rather than retail outlets that generate a lot of traffic.

The action was supported by the Port Orchard Planning Commission, and approved as part of the 2010 comprehensive plan. While it received unanimous council support, the intention is to return to the topic “so we can tweak it,” according to Mayor Lary Coppola.

Coppola made this statement to clear up any confusion and to mollify council members who did not expect to approve the measure without further discussion.

Supporters of the plan believe it will allow small businesses to operate in a less congested environment, while opponents feel the restrictions will discourage innovative businesses from locating in Port Orchard.

“This adds a level of bureaucracy we don’t need,” said Frank Tweten, who owns land within the new zone that he hopes to develop. “If you have more restrictions, businesses will not settle here.”

Tweten said the restriction on research and development will discourage “idea” businesses that may not have determined a specific growth path.

“Anyone who develops a new idea for use on the Internet cannot use this area,” Tweten said. “This could encourage them to go to some other town, and Port Orchard could lose out in the long run.”

Planning Commission chairperson Bek Ashby does not think the designation was too restrictive, saying the prime motivation is to “exclude strip malls.”

Most of the land designated as part of the business professional zone is locate adjacent to the medical facilities on Tremont St, while there are a few pockets downtown and nearby the county government center.

The permitted activities for the new zone are fairly narrow. Medical offices are allowed, along with attorneys. Day care is allowed, but only for six children or less. Restaurants are also prohibited, while limited food service is allowed as long as there is no drive-up window.

Bail Bonds businesses are also prohibited, prompting Coppola to joke that “we may want to designate the entire downtown area as business professional.”

The city council is expected to fine-tune what is allowed in the new zone at a future study session.

Tweten, who did not say what kind of business he hopes to locate on his land, intends to continue his opposition to the action.

“Port Orchard is a city on the grow,” he said. “It is the responsibility of our city to promote the entrepreneurial spirit and not tie the hands of the professional and businesspeople who want to locate into this new district.”

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