Opinion

Lent finally representing voters' will

Whatever else you can say about the Kitsap County commissioners’ vote last week to repeal a planned increase in impact fees — and most residents seem to have quite a bit to say on the subject — one thing at least is beyond dispute: This is the outcome the voters wanted.

How can we be sure? Because the most recent county commissioner seat to change hands, the one currently held by Central Kitsap Commissioner Patty Lent, was essentially a referendum on land use, with Lent positioning herself as a pro-growth, development-friendly alternative to incumbent Tim Botkin, who had tied himself inextricably to the concept of Smart Growth.

We won’t make a case for one point of view or the other here. By now the arguments on both sides are familiar. Impact fee backers say development creates the demand for expensive infrastructure improvements which, if not paid for by the developer, must be borne by all of Kitsap County’s taxpayers, thus siphoning off money that might have been used to support schools and parks.

Impact fee opponents, meanwhile, point out that adding several thousand dollars to the price of a new home or commercial structure stifles growth at a time when the county should be encouraging it in order to diversify the economy and expand the tax base.

Both points of view have validity, and both were clearly in play when Lent won her seat in 2002. With South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel firmly entrenched in the anti-impact fee camp and North Kitsap’s Chris Endresen an un-reconstructed impact fee supporter, it was clear to everyone casting a ballot — or should have been — that Lent would provide the swing vote on land-use issues decided by the commissioners.

In fact, the only real surprise in the whole process came last summer, when Lent originally voted in favor of the impact fee increase — much to the chagrin of voters countywide who’d helped her unseat Botkin just six months earlier.

Impact fee backers at that time hailed Lent’s actions as a vote of conscience, but we didn’t see it that way.

Lawmakers can’t poll their constituents about how to vote on every issue. If they could, we wouldn’t need lawmakers, just public opinion pollsters. But land use isn’t just any issue in Kitsap. Not now, anyway.

Lent made a covenant with Kitsap voters with respect to her views on the subject of land use during her campaign against Botkin, and the voters made their wishes crystal clear.

There will be plenty of votes coming before the commissioners on which the precise wishes of Lent’s constituents can’t be known and she’ll therefore be expected to exercise her prerogative and leadership. On the matter of impact fees, though, Lent was elected to do a job — and we’re glad she’s finally living up to her promises.

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