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Commissioners delay decision on KMHS housing project

"The Kitsap County Commissioners Monday postponed a decision on an appeal of the county hearing examiner's decision to approve multi-family, low-income housing for mental health clients in the Central Kitsap area.The fate of the proposed site at 4010 Petersville Road won't be determined until July 17.The two wood-frame buildings proposed for the .86-acre lot would include seven one-bedroom units, one two-bed unit and community space. The project is co-sponsored by Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority and Kitsap Mental Health Services.The residents would be mental health clients capable of independent living, officials said. Unlike a halfway house, there wouldn't be staff on the grounds full-time.A conditional-use permit for the project was approved May 3 by the hearing examiner. The commissioners now have delayed a decision on an appeal by private citizens in the neighborhood of the proposed housing.Dave Mitchell, who lives in the area, spoke for the residents. He asked for clarification of the examiner's decision.The hearing examiner drew a line on structures (saying) tenancy was beyond his jurisdiction, Mitchell said.And yet, as Mitchell pointed out, a bus stop is planned in front of the group housing because the residents' main mode of transportation would be public transit.Mitchell pointed out that there are no sidewalks in the area and some of the carless tenants are going to want to walk.Mitchell said he and his neighbors were also worried about who would eventually live in the project, which would be operating on a 50-year permit.Who in the county will protect the rights of the community after the facility is built? This will change the character of the neighborhood.Daryl Piercy, from the county's Department of Community Development, confirmed that the residents would more than likely be bus riders. Buses will be their primary transportation link with the rest of the county, he said.Before deciding to postpone the meeting, Commissioner Tim Botkin seemed to agree with the neighborhood on at least one point.I think the (county's) flat presentation that tenancy does not matter at all (in connection with the Hearing Examiner's decision) is erroneous. The application does take into account at some levels the needs of these (proposed) tenants, said Botkin, himself a former hearing examiner.I want to listen to the hearing examiner tape first before making a decision, Commissioner Chris Endresen said.At that point, some of the more than 40 Petersville Road residents who showed up to oppose the project and support Mitchell wanted to talk. But Botkin said, We can only address the hearing examiner's decision and issues.Residents moved en masse into a hallway, where they continued to object to the project.Larry Walsh, 83, and his wife, Alice Walsh, 87, held hands while he said, We've lived there since 1968. I built the house there. They (county) didn't inform us too well. We got very limited information, we had no record of (the project), and now they say we can't talk about it.Gene Ollenburger, another neighborhood resident and one of the appellants against the project, said if the commissioners decide in favor of the housing, the neighbors would appeal the decision to the Growth Management Hearings Board in Seattle.Our basic problem, Mitchell summed up, is they keep saying they don't have jurisdiction of the tenancy."

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