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Kitsap Commissioners deny appeal for Manchester’s Spruce House

The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners Monday upheld its Hearing Examiner’s decision to deny a permit for Spruce House — a three-story, multi-use project proposed for downtown Manchester.

Before the board voted, South Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido thanked William Palmer, who represented the project’s permit applicant and property owner during the appeal, for thoroughly explaining what he felt were seven errors in Hearing Examiner Kimberly Allen’s decision.

“I commend Mr. Palmer for staying on point, and pointing out to us exactly what we needed to pay attention to,” Garrido said March 22.

The plan for Spruce House at the corner of Colchester Drive and Spruce Street included an underground parking garage, retail and 19 parking spaces at street level, and two more levels with 11 residences.

In October, Allen collected testimony from Palmer and several nearby residents, ultimately deciding that an ongoing dispute with an adjacent property owner and unresolved stormwater issues necessitated halting the project.

Palmer filed an appeal after Allen’s denial, and last month the commissioners held a public hearing on the matter.

“The applicant and his representative respectfully request the (board of commissioners) overrule the Hearing Examiner and approve the proposed Spruce House project,” said Palmer, who also submitted a 17-page document detailing his appeal. “This request is made based on the support of the record for the project and on the fact that the Hearing Examiner did not fairly consider and evaluate the Spruce House conditional use permit.”

“I carefully reviewed the entire file, and reviewed Mr. Palmer’s list of seven items very, very carefully,” Garrido said, addressing each item separately, and explaining that she did not agree with Palmer and found Allen’s conclusions to be supported by facts and not in error.

Garrido did not address an issue that Palmer said he found particularly troubling, which was Allen’s assertion that the project should not go forward until an “ongoing lawsuit” was resolved.

Shawn Merritt’s property abuts Spruce House’s plat, and he claims the building as it is proposed would block current access to his garage. Merritt said the developers filed a lawsuit against him, and he filed a countersuit.

Allen said she had no jurisdiction to resolve the lawsuit, and “because use of the property and property encroachment on which landscaping is proposed is still in dispute, development ... would be materially detrimental to uses or property in the immediate vicinity.”

Palmer said delaying projects for lawsuits would set a dangerous precedent, and if any person wanting to oppose a project could derail it by filing a lawsuit, “potentially no controversial project could be approved.”

Garrido and Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown then voted to deny Palmer’s appeal, and the motion passed. North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer said he was abstaining from the vote because he was not in attendance for the public hearing.

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