Opinion

Smart Growth by any other name is still wrong

The Countywide Planning Policies (CPPs) and their revisions are a product of the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council (KRCC) and by KRCC’s own admission the policies are based on ex-Commissioner Tim Botkin’s Smart Growth Coalition and the “Smart Goals” developed by that coalition in January 2002.

To quote exactly the motion made by then-Commissioner Botkin on May 7, 2002 (a member of the KRCC at that time), the council voted to “endorse the concepts set forth in the Smart Growth Coalition’s ‘Smart Goals — January 2002’; encourage their implementation throughout Kitsap County and recommend that all the KRCC member jurisdictions commit to continue participation in the efforts of the Kitsap Smart Growth Coalition.”

When one reads the January 2002 “Smart Goals,” some of them sound pretty innocuous. We all want clean air and clean water, a healthy market place, reduced tax burdens, etc. But these lofty goals serve only to beguile us.

The dirty work is done through terms like “minimum negative impact of humans on eco systems,” “high ratio of open space to built areas,” “less intensive public services,” “retention of the character of existing rural villages,” “rural preservation,” “development in existing communities” and terms like “environmental amenities, view corridors, canopy cover, trip reduction, rural character, sense of place, critical areas, habitat protection, population distribution.”

These terms are simply vague euphemisms used to take way from citizens’ choices as to how and where they want to live and how they will commute and travel.

Simply put, Smart Growth policies which are synonymous with the Countywide Planning Policies are designed to force citizens to live in high rises in urban areas and ride the bus.

Only the rich will be able to afford to live in rural areas and a premium of one kind or another will be imposed on the use of your own private automobile.

One of the most troubling goals of the “Countywide Planning Policies” is to “Achieve economic and social equity.”

How does a government agency “achieve economic and social equity” among its citizens? Such a prospect is frightening.

The policies the Port Orchard City Council rejected are just the beginning. There are six more uncompleted elements of the CPPs in the Phase II revision.

The gradual journey toward “Smart Growth” has just begun. Multi-countywide Planning Policies are just on the horizon and beyond that on a nationwide scale, the American Planning Association’s “Growing Smart Legislative Guidebook” (which was funded with your tax dollars).

It has ecobabble terms we have never used before; like “minimum densities,” “densification,” “amortization of non-conforming uses,” just to name a few. Don’t know what these terms mean? They mean government control.

When local governments rubber stamp the garbage that comes out of the KRCC, they are relinquishing more of their autonomy to the KRCC. And the KRCC marches to the beat of another drummer, the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) — a bigger fish. “The Puget Sound Regional Council is an association of cities, towns, counties, ports and state agencies that serves as a forum for developing policies and making decisions about regional growth and transportation issues in the four-county central Puget Sound Region.”

Kitsap is one of the four counties. As a citizen, taxpayer and voter, your influence (your vote — your political capital) is meaningless with regional governing councils. Don’t ever forget that.

Local planning will be orchestrated by entities outside of our own city and county borders. We will no longer have local control.

As Mary McClure, executive director of the KRCC has explained in her own words to the Port Orchard City Council, “There are 40 cities in King County. There are 20 cities in Snohomish County. I don’t know how many there are in Pierce County but a lot more than in Kitsap County. We (Kitsap County) are the small tail of the PSRC. We don’t have much political capital.”

McClure admits that, as we turn over control of our government to the PSRC, we will not “…have much political capital.”

Why in the world would we want to do that?

Kitsap County government and the cities of Bainbridge Island, Poulsbo and Bremerton just rubber stamped the Countywide Planning Policies thus turning over our “political capital” to the KRCC and PSRC. All three county commissioners voted to ratify these policies.

My thanks to the four members of the Port Orchard City Council for asking the hard questions. Thanks for not rubber stamping policies from KRCC that will restrict the freedoms and choices of our citizens. Thanks for not being bullied by an arbitrary deadline imposed by a council (PSRC) who thinks they have more clout and authority than you do.

Thanks for your part in keeping government local and those we elect accountable to us, the citizens of Kitsap County.

But four Port Orchard Council Members can’t stop this “turnover” by themselves. The county commissioners must reign in the power KRCC has been amassing. We have two county commissioners who have denounced Smart Growth policies on numerous occasions.

Commissioner Patty Lent was very outspoken about her anti-Smart Growth position before she was elected. Why did these two commissioners vote to ratify Smart Growth policies for Kitsap County?

I’ve asked this question and I’ve gotten no answer. Will council members in our Kitsap County cities start paying attention and asking hard questions like the four Port Orchard City Council Members did? Or will they continue to rubber stamp whatever comes out of KRCC?

As citizens we all need to publicly ask these questions of our elected officials. Ask them now — today. Your political capital is too precious to allow those you elect to give it away.

Vivian Henderson is executive director of the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners.

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