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Commissioners give Pt. Blakely go-ahead

"Admitting they were taking a brave new step in economic development, the Kitsap County Commissioners Monday approved the proposed Port Blakely sub-area plan near Kitsap Lake.The plan allows the Port Blakely Communities corporation to move forward with steps to annex a 440-acre parcel into Bremerton.That, in turn, could lead to an innovative, mixed-use, business and residential development that could bring 500 jobs, 1,000 homes and 2,000 residents.The Bremerton City Council approved the sub-area plan Aug. 29.It does provide new opportunities for the people of Bremerton, said Commissioner Chris Endresen. It gives us the opportunity to build a community where people can live where they work.The development, currently a tree farm, previously was zoned for industrial use. But over the last 18 months, Port Blakely officials have introduced the need for homes to attract businesses and their employees. The commissioners focused on jobs when talking about Port Blakely.I still hold on to the fact that this is a mixed use (property) and the original intent was for jobs, said Commissioner Charlotte Garrido. I feel that was a commitment we made. I want to make sure that we promote that intent through everything that we do. Endresen said housing in the Port Blakely development is a concept she had to adjust to.When I first heard about the housing element I was not enthusiastic, she said. It complicated the situation. I will be scrutinizing this to make sure they (Port Blakely) meet the intent of the agreement. It will be jobs for Kitsap County. It will help downtown Bremerton redevelopment, also. There are some risks. However, if we don't strive for development that is innovative we are doomed repeat the past, over and over again.Central Kitsap County Commissioner Tim Botkin made the most eloquent defense of the massive project.There is no question about it, it's the biggest project in Kitsap County, Botkin said. It's big. But with those risks come the potential for big benefits. I truly believe this makes us competitive in a market that is pretty tight.Botkin doesn't think of Port Blakely purely as a matter jobs or new businesses.I think about trying to broaden our tax base so that we have revenues for operation of public items, he said, referring to roads, open space purchases and schools. That's what economic development is all about. It's having the revenues to have a quality community.Botkin said among his chief concerns are environmental ones.Indeed, the Suquamish Tribe has been heavily involved in discussions. Tribal officials want to protect Chico Creek, into which aspects of the Port Blakely project would drain. Chico Creek is one of the most fertile salmon streams in Kitsap County - if not Puget Sound.Botkin said the Chico Basin will be protected at all costs.If it gets bad ... we can step in and say, we're not going to do this, he said.Botkin said he hoped environmentalists would not see Port Blakely as just another green field development.That's where we look at new pieces of property, cut down the trees and build something, Botkin said. That's been our history and we are getting to the point where we are beginning to understand that's not a perpetuating type of system.But Botkin said Port Blakely has been given an intense environmental treatment.The environmental issues are huge, he said. But if you look at this plan, you will understand that it is, by far, the most scrutinized environmental issue that has ever gone through Kitsap County. And it is only at the sub-area plan level.Botkin said combining the residential portion with the commercial portion might be critical to getting to the 500 new jobs with a minimum $30,000 yearly wage.Still, the project might be years away from fruition. Botkin said the environmental impact analysis is yet to be done.Botkin said if or when Bremerton annexes the project, he will have mixed feelings.We have great concerns because our staff has put so much effort into this and now it is being turned over to the city of Bremerton, he said. And that's tough, because we have what we feel is a sense of ownership.Botkin said one of the main sticking points has been possible traffic generated by a project with 1,200 homes and 500 new jobs.The mayor (Lynn Horton) knows how often we have glared across the table at each other trying to figure out resolution, Botkin said. The county is absolutely committed towards keeping traffic off Kitsap Lake Road and coming to the south end and putting in a new access and making it better.Botkin said he had traveled to recent growth seminars in Chicago and San Diego and none of the projects he saw had the potential and promise that this one does.This provides another tool for us in our toolbox and it's a tool that most jurisdictions don't have, he said. This is a smart growth project. It is as smart as we can get. "

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