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Bethel annexation 'misses by that much.'
The citizen-supported initiative to annex the Bethel Corridor into the city of Port Orchard fell about $10 million short of its goal, but advocates have a plan to continue the effort without having to start over again.
“We’ve already done a huge amount of work on this,” said Gary K. Anderson of the Kitsap Commercial Group. “We’d rather get it done now, then have to do it again in six months.”
The 554-acre region is valued at $145 million and includes the retail area of Bethel Avenue and Tremont-Lund, which holds Wal-Mart, Safeway and several other outlets.
In order for annexation to proceed, owners of 60 percent of the property’s assessed value (approximately $87 million) would need to sign on.
An annexation effort is given six months to gather the required signatures.
As of the deadline last Friday, only 53 percent had signed on.
Even if this can be considered a shortfall, the progress made through the annexation has been considerable. The first signatures were collected on July 27, 2009, with about 28 percent of the required number collected by the end of the year.
At that point, Anderson and his partners in the effort — commercial real estate agents Eric Kvitsland and Lars Kvitsland — nearly doubled the support as measured by the valuation amount.
While the three have yet to figure out the details, they now plan to invalidate an undetermined amount of the early signatures in order to extend the deadline.
For example, if they decide to cut signatures collected in August and September, they would need to get everyone on those petitions to sign again as well as making up the extra 7 percent.
At the same time, they would have an additional two months to gather all the necessary signatures.
Port Orchard Development Director James Weaver said the procedure was legal, and the only requirement that all the signatures be gathered within a six-month period.
If signature-gatherers decide to invalidate August and September and are not able to meet the goal, they could then invalidate another few months to gain extra time.
Such a “rollover” could theoretically continue indefinitely.
Anderson said he has asked the city to break down the signatures and when they were collected to determine which months will be disqualified.
On behalf of the city, Weaver said his department will help annexation advocates any way it can, but “annexations aren’t our first priority, and they are supposed to be citizen-driven.”
As the residents support the annexation, Mayor Lary Coppola and some members of the city council won’t be upset if the action is postponed.
A revenue-sharing agreement with Kitsap County expires in September, and the city will receive more tax money should the annexation occur after that time.
This particular annexation will also continue without the active support of Wal-Mart, which represents about 11 percent of the valuation.
The store is in the middle of a permit revision with the county and a change in status has the potential of slowing the process.
Annexation advocates hope to determine strategy as soon as possible, since the longer they wait the more signatures will need to be recovered.
“We don’t know exactly what we need to do next,” Eric Kvitsland said. “We will be deciding what to do during the next few weeks.”