Saturday, June 07, 2008

Hearings Board Gets One Right

The Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board (CPSGMHB) finally got one right when it dismissed the Sept. 13, 2007 appeal of Kitsap County’s Comprehensive Plan regarding its Capital Facilities Plan, which had resulted in a sewer planning remand. As a consequence of the ruling, the Kitsap County Commissioners had imposed a development moratorium on all land inside the proposed Urban Growth Areas (UGAs).

The process which defined the UGA expansions were the result of citizen's committees from each specific area coming together over a period of about three years and outlining the proposed boundaries. The plans were completely vetted by county staff, the Planning Commission, and the public, at numerous public hearings.

The arguments of the appellants, the Suquamish Tribe, Kitsap Citizens for Responsible Planning (KCRP), Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, and South Kitsap resident Jerry Harless, were all rejected. The CPSGMHB ruled that the county’s 2006 Comprehensive Plan is compliant with the state’s Growth management Act (GMA) and that all the expanded Urban Growth Areas (UGAs) outlined in the plan are valid.

What annoys me specifically about this appeal is the fact the Suquamish Tribe was personally invited to participate in the joint Kitsap County/City of Port Orchard process for the South Kitsap UGA by it's chairman — yours truly. The idea was for our group to be able to address the Tribe's issues on the front end of the process, and hopefully avoid an appeal.

Tribal chairman Leonard Forsman rejected that idea saying, "We're a sovereign nation. We only deal on a government to government basis." When I gave him the option of being an equal partner and making it a joint County/City/Tribal process, he changed his tune, stating, "It's basically a manpower issue for us. It's cheaper for us to appeal on the back end than to staff it on the front end." When I asked about the fact an appeal costs the citizens of Kitsap upwards of a million dollars to defend, and ties up landowners for a year or more, he simply shrugged his shoulders and said, "Not my problem."

He did this in front of at least 10 witnesses. I also wrote an editorial in the Business Journal at the time, telling this story. Forsman responded with a Letter to the Editor, which we ran, talking about how much the Tribe contributes to the local economy. However, he didn't refute the above details which were also contained in that editorial. And as reaction to the editorial, the tribe canceled its long-running full-page ad in the paper as well.

The Tribe's track record is to appeal land use decisions as a matter of course — in spite of the fact it hypocritically refuses to adhere to the very same rules in its own developments on tribal land it legally tries to force down the throats of the rest of us. It is also rumored to have financed the appeals of other groups. And as its commercial enterprises — the casino, hotel, Kiana Lodge, et. al. — continue to grow and prosper, we are feeding the tribe the very dollars it uses against us that has helped drain the county's coffers fighting its land use appeals. That's why I personally refuse to attend any function held on tribal property that requires me to spend any of my own money.

This decision also directly impacts appellant Harless, a former Kitsap County planner, who has been fighting the expansion of the South Kitsap UGA for the past five years or so. He lives on 5 acres of land situated in the triangle between Old Clifton Road, Berry Lake Road, and Highway 16, and is adamantly opposed to his property being included inside the UGA. As someone who has made a living in the planning field and has an excellent working knowledge of the GMA, Harless has become very skilled in the mechanics of working its processes to delay that inclusion.

Harless served on the Citizen's Advisory Committee for the South Kitsap UGA expansion, as did KCRP member Tom Donnelly. Harless chaired its Reasonable Measures Committee, and both voted in favor of the final version of the plan.

As a result of the ruling, the Board of Commissioners voted to lift the development moratorium at its June 9 meeting. This will open up all of the County's expanded UGAs for new subdivision and development permits. It will also allow land inside the contested UGA’s to now be annexed by the cities.

Lifting the moritorium also opens the door for a possible incorporation of Silverdale, as well as annexation of several areas of South Kitsap by the City of Port Orchard — most notably the Bethel Avenue corridor and the portions of Sidney Road/Pottery Avenue between Sedgwick Road and Tremont Street that are not currently inside the city limits. Both areas are inside the expanded UGA boundaries and targeted for commercial development in the comprehensive plan. A number of property owners in those areas had previously indicated they would petition the city for annexation once the moratorium was lifted.

Annexation of Bethel Road between Lund Avenue and Sedgwick Road would also eliminate the onerous Bethel Corridor Design Standards. The restrictions on development contained in those regulations — which were imposed at the insistence of former county commissioner and current commission candidate Charlotte Garrido — are blamed for making development on Bethel completely unfeasible financially.

Could that be why NO development has occurred on Bethel since they were imposed over a decade ago? It looks like they worked exactly like Charlotte intended them to.

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