Public Participation in the County Comprehensive Plan

Kitsap Alliance of Property owners Public Participation comments to the Kitsap County Comprehensive Plan Update.

Last night I attended a City Council study session in Port Orchard. They had auxiliary power even though the rest of Port Orchard was black.

Among the topics discussed was Port Orchard’s comments on the three alternative land use maps for Port Orchard’s Urban Growth Area. The maps staff reviewed (or is still reviewing) was different from the maps Councilwoman Bek Ashby had in her possession. The confusion seemed to arise from the fact that what Kitsap County staff sent to the Port Orchard Planning Department was different than what Bek said she had gotten from the County’s website. No doubt you will hear from Port Orchard to the effect they favor the “no action” alternative unless they are given more time to respond than early December.

Apparently the City is not aware as to what Kitsap County’s time line is for public hearing consideration of the plan update and how the DSEIS process affects that schedule. They are only aware of the deadline for comments on the Draft Supplemental EIS.

If Port Orchard is given more time to respond, will that be true for others?

Aside from that question, I am quite concerned that there was no prior vetting process for any of the alternative plan proposals Port Orchard was asked to consider. Unlike Draft/Final Supplemental EIS alternatives for prior plan updates, these alternatives seem to have potentially a greater impact on people who own property or have paid taxes on commercial property for years. For example in the South Bethel Corridor one of the alternatives would take away the commercial zoning that many people have relied on for at least 13 – 14 years and others even longer. The concept of making existing business such as West Sound Landscape Supply or the Highway market nonconforming uses is…………patently absurd!

And who was it that thought that development in North Kitsap County is more important than South Kitsap? And why on earth was it ever a consideration to pull back the UGA in South Kitsap when West Sound Utility District is already committed via their water and sewer planning area and plans to serve Port Orchard’s UGA along with the City? In short there are a lot of issues that are reflected in the two, three? alternatives that should have been vetted with the public (not just staff in the “back room”) prior to their presentation in the Draft SEIS. For the record the actual plan alternative maps seem to be not readily available on the County’s website separately. They do show up in the DSEIS…………at a reduced size!

Back in 2006, the County took time to create some Citizen Advisory Groups and even supported those groups with DCD staff and/or consultants. So far the only such group formed was in Central Kitsap and that group has not met for at least three to four months. My belief is that the group was disbanded before any kind of summary report was prepared to include a recommendation for what land use provisions should occur in the Silverdale area. John Taylor was the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners appointee to serve on that citizen committee and it is his comments I am referencing about what the Central Kitsap group did or did not accomplish. Assuming John’s participation and comments about what was accomplished are accurate, then there is a failure in the citizen participation process. And even if that group did accomplish something that escaped my notice, why was there no citizen group formed in South Kitsap County? There are just as many dedicated people who would have been willing to work on plan provisions in South Kitsap as there may be in Central or North Kitsap. Witness the hours of time spent by concerned citizens helping to craft the 2006 comprehensive plan update.

It is also a “slap in the face” to the citizens north to south to be presented with alternative plan proposals only in the Draft SEIS process. Even the three “open house” meetings held this month did not really provide much opportunity to comment on the DSEIS alternatives. Witness the fact that the Power Point presentation did not have even one slide / graphic to show that there were even three alternatives or provide an explanation for how they were derived or what the implications might be to people living in or owning property in these UGA areas.

A year has gone by since the first announcement of the Comprehensive Plan update process back in October of 2014. Since that first round of “open houses” there has been nothing but an echo of silence about what DCD staff has been doing to craft a plan. Yes, questions went out to solicit the opinion of interested people, but nothing to indicate public opinion would even be a consideration in the plan update process. We citizens received no, as in nada, zilch, feedback regarding the comments we did submit. And none of the questions posed to the public had anything to do with how or in what context there might be plan alternatives developed or considered in the comprehensive plan proposal. Then early in October of this year in the midst of final election activities notice goes out that a DSEIS is available for a 30 day review with alternatives in it that had as stated above, no prior vetting.

Direct comments were solicited from Port Orchard (and I assume Bremerton and Poulsbo) about the provisions for its/their UGAs, but citizens were not accorded such favor! Yet, property and business owners have as much or more at stake with what the comprehensive plan provides than does the City. But………..their only notice was the issuance of the Draft SEIS and some maps to look at during the October, 2015 open houses. Was there even a presentation of the plan alternatives to the Realtors, the Home Builders, the professional community or the DCD Advisory Committee? Certainly KAPO received no such presentation or even a notice that the plan alternatives were available for review. And while I had to miss the last DCD Advisory Committee meeting on October 27th, the agenda for that meeting did not include a presentation of plan alternatives.

Aside from what is contained in the Draft SEIS, the next time anybody may see these alternatives or versions thereof, will be at a Planning Commission work study on December 9th. By definition a “work study” of either the Planning Commission or the Board of County Commissioners does not include opportunity for public comment. Citizens are not even at the table to be involved any any kind of discussion. This process is a sham!!!

While the DCD staff may have limited manpower resources, that fact is not the creation of citizens, but it is property and business owners who will wind up paying a price for an underfunded and under staffed planning process. On behalf of the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners, I am objecting to the kind of planning process where there is no attempt (and I mean no!) attempt to involve citizens in the development of the proposed plan or the proposed alternatives.

If somehow the DCD staff thinks that “open houses” and comments submitted to the County’s website constitutes citizen participation, then there is a serious lack of understanding of what meaningful citizen involvement in a comprehensive plan process looks like. Also these kind of measures are just “tokenism” and fail to rise to even the level of credibility of the Shoreline Master Planning process. What elected official or staff member believes a Shoreline Master Plan has any greater impact on the citizens of Kitsap County than the comprehensive land use plan?

Where is the “work study” with the citizens wherein there can be open dialog and open critique of proposed plan measures with assurances that our comments and recommendations will make a difference in what the final plan proposal will be? Why was the citizen participation process designed to make it possible for citizen in put to be minimized and likely ignored? That is exactly what the public hearing process does. Without active dialog with citizens while crafting the plan, the message the County is communicating is………we do not really care what you think or what works for the property or business owner. No the real message is “citizens” you can take the highway! We, the staff and elected officials know best and could care less about what you think – you got your three minutes at the podium, so good bye!

When backed into a corner citizens will appeal a plan or specific provisions of it, thereby costing the County even more money and time. What is our choice after all?

William Palmer President Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners

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One response to “Public Participation in the County Comprehensive Plan

  1. Kudos, Mr. Palmer for your description of the many flaws in this plan and the whole proposal process. I hope the County will provide clarification and correction before they proceed. Additionally, they need to provide ‘before and after’ descriptions of the problems and how these revisions resolve the issues now and through the long term.
    Krysteen Seelen

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