Industrial & commercial development in rural Kitsap county.

by Bill Palmer

Prior to the advent of the Growth Management Act (GMA) counties and cities planned for industrial and commercial development taking into consideration historic patterns of development, special considerations, access to transportation networks, strategic infrastructure support and for the changing needs of their constituent population.

New technology often played a role in how communities planned for industrial and commercial development. Some jurisdictions even offered incentives to attract new industry and/or commercial development as a way of enhancing their tax base and to promote the general growth of their communities.

Some incentives came in the form of the willingness to commit large land areas that were easy to develop to industrial commercial development. Tukwila, Kent and Auburn took that approach in the early to mid-1960s.

Other communities sought government funding in the form of federal and state economic development grants to extend water and sewer lines or new roads into areas set aside for commercial and industrial development. The City of Everett took that approach to encourage the Boeing Company to locate their 747 plant in their community and later to facilitate its expansion.

Kitsap County in concert with the U.S. Navy utilized “Trident Impact Funds” to accomplish similar goals benefiting all jurisdictions within the County.

Other jurisdictions adopted expedited permit processes and build-to-suit programs to entice new business to locate within their jurisdiction. Snohomish County employed these incentives in the early to mid-1970s as did jurisdictions like the Ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Bremerton. In fact Port Districts have quite a bit of latitude within their taxing districts to raise funds for economic development activities.

Sadly, with the advent of the Growth Management Act (GMA) counties, cities and even the State of Washington’s options to provide incentives for economic development became much more limited.

A surface analysis might lead to the conclusion that the same set of incentives is available to jurisdictions as was the case prior to 1990-1991. However, the “requirement” to focus development primarily in Urban areas restricts the ability of counties and cities to respond to the location requirements of many industrial users.

For example, a large manufacturing company such as Boeing, Bayliner boat manufacturers, or a Hewlett Packard plant may need 80 -100 acres of relatively flat land for their facilities. Seldom does one find such large tracts of land within an urban area.

Besides available land area, there are a variety of location factors business owners utilize in making decisions of where to place their industrial plants. An educated labor force is vital to many industries. Some may need a rail spur; some have great demands for public water and sanitary sewer. Others need very little public water and sewer facilities and can function quite well with a well and septic disposal. Most of the larger business enterprises need access to major roads and freeways for shipping and receiving of products and component parts.

When the objective is to promote industrial growth, communities need to gather this information and examine the places within their jurisdiction where industry can best be accommodated. The “hamstring” of overly restrictive rules and regulation should not outweigh decisions about what is needed to support the community.

Kitsap County has both the need to promote more economic development while providing support for the industry that it does have. In this county, the South Kitsap Industrial Area represents the principal place where large acreage land assemblies are possible for the industrial user who has those needs. Much of that 2,000 acre plus land will be annexed by the City of Bremerton over time.

In other parts of the County there are a number of places where industrial activities and businesses are located where the expectation of annexation to one of the County’s cites is not anticipated within the next twenty years and maybe longer. Yet businesses in these County areas appear to provide employment for some 2,000 people.

One way to provide for support for these existing businesses and promote opportunities for new industry is to make allowances for growth and expansion of existing industrial areas and the creation of new sites where manufacturing or manufacturing and commercial development can occur with minimal disruption to existing developed residential areas.

A key factor in the planning / regulatory function employed by the County will be the need to both recognize the needs of the businesses and the functional environment in the location the business owner wishes to locate. For example, a business developed in connection with a home, employing family members and a few others may find a relatively remote location very suitable.

Employers with many employees, frequent shipping needs and plant facilities in excess of 20,000 square feet will need ready access to a major arterial and sufficient site area for on-site waste disposal.

Commercial businesses respond to the marketplace somewhat differently than is true of industry. Where industry’s marketplace is county wide or multi-county serving, commercial enterprise is more population dependent within a relatively small radius around a focal center. Almost universally, business owners make decisions about where to locate based first on population density and/or service market area. Also, household income is a factor that is important for business owners in their location decisions.

A market analysis is a critical element in a business owner’s assessment of where to locate. For example, a small convenience store will not go into a remote area where there are few people and virtually no traffic. However, if there are about 1,200 people within a mile radius of an intersection. There are convenience stores owners that will consider placing a small store in that location.

Larger convenience centers with 3,000 to 10,000 square feet of store area will need between 1,200 and 5,000 people within a 1 – 3 mile radius and traffic passing thru and intersection of 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles per day. Note the traffic in all directions is additive, meaning that all the vehicles arriving at each leg of the intersection is totaled. In some instances traffic counts are more determinate than the rings of population. Highway serving commercial facilities such as those found at or close to freeway interchanges is case in point.

A larger “neighborhood” serving commercial facility will require a larger population base with an inner and outer ring. The inner ring would desirably encompass approximately 3,000 people within a mile radius of an intersection and the outer ring being either three or five miles would have to have an additional 5,000 to 10,000 people depending on the business and/or businesses to be located in the center. Traffic passing by the neighborhood commercial center is important as is the household income of the people in the vicinity of the center.

More community serving scale commercial centers will require 60,000 – 100,000 people within a five mile radius of their store. Multiple stores will be accommodated in such centers taking advantage of the same population base. The next step up is the “Regional” serving commercial area and it requires a population base in excess of 100,000 people and serves a radius of between 10 and 20 miles depending on the type of business located therein.

Large neighborhood centers, community serving commercial developments and regional facilities are not found typically in rural areas. Rather they are common to cities and suburban developments with concentrated residential development.

Based on the premise that Kitsap County wishes to encourage business and industrial development it is incumbent on the legislators to enact policy and regulatory measures with the least impediments to growth and expansion of the economy.

Such measures need to recognize Kitsap County’s particular jurisdictional needs. A first step in that process will call for a revision to policy or policies that might work to force commercial and industrial growth and development in the County’s urban areas. Second regulatory measures that would implement such restrictive policies need to be amended to take away those impediments.

Note: Bill’s recommendations for policies and ordinances are in the document below. You can use the Scribd reader to view, print or download the document.

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