Commissioners endorse smart growth concepts

The Kitsap County Commissioners took a step toward finding common ground on growth planning on Monday, Feb. 25.

But the journey won’t be without a few pitfalls.

Commissioners Tim Botkin and Chris Endresen voted to endorse goals and concepts outlined by a Kitsap Smart Growth Coalition resolution, but Commissioner Jan Angel abstained from the vote.

The smart growth vision statement was written by an informal working group including environmentalists, real estate interests and developers.

Angel cited affordable housing concerns as her reason for not voting to support smart growth.

“The manner in which these smart growth concepts and goals are written in this resolution today paint a wonderful vision,” Angel said. “But I am worried about the negative aspects of smart growth that would affect our families and our citizens. The lack of affordable housing will not draw employers, as employees will not look at the driving distance to work as much as they will the amount of their mortgage payment.”

“To come up with a list of goals that the coalition agrees to is a big step forward for the county,” Endresen said. “It’s not a magic pill or potion or a panacea, but it’s a good start for the county.”

Supporters said the smart growth goals could prevent the in-fighting that cropped up during mid-1990s comprehensive planning efforts.

Botkin said smart growth backers want to prepare for future land-use demands and population increases. He said affordable housing was “constant on the minds” of those who wrote the smart growth document.

“The Northwest is considered a wonderful place to live, and other people in the country decided it was a great place to live as well and moved here,” Botkin said. “If you have quality, others want it and you have to work on affordability.”

Botkin said the smart growth vision statement establishes a foundation from which developers, county officials and others can work to accomodate growth.

“These goals are about what’s smart for Kitsap County, and it’s a collective vision,” Botkin said. “Some have a pre-conceived notion of what smart growth is. We need to start thinking about growth now. Our population in Kitsap may triple in the next 50 years. ... There will be issues.”

But skeptics piped up before Botkin and Endresen approved the Smart Growth Coalition’s goals.

North Kitsap businessman Scott Henden, who ran unsuccessfully against Endresen in 2000, said that although the goals sound agreeable, they could really amount to “rural cleansing” and “class warfare.”

Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners executive director Vivian Henderson said smart growth concepts haven’t worked elsewhere in the country. She said it drove up the cost of housing in Portland.

“One of the first casualties of smart growth policies is affordable housing, even in the urban areas,” Henderson said. “There are no winners with smart growth.”

Environmentalists and developers who worked on the smart growth document encouraged the commissioners to endorse the document, which was developed over the last two years.

“The coalition that brings me and (Homebuilders Association of Kitsap County Executive Director) Art Castle together is the coalition to endorse,” joked Bill Matchett, president of the Hood Canal Environmental Council.

Castle said smart growth could serve as a basis for rational solutions for Kitsap, rather than emotional responses.

“This is a positive process,” Castle said. “It allows a group of participants that historically haven’t always played well together to collaborate.”

The goals endorsed Monday include:

• Supporting and enhancing existing communities in Kitsap, including re-development where services and infrastructure are already in place.

• Protecting natural systems, preserving critical areas and prudently managing natural resources.

• Respecting rural areas and communities and insuring a high ratio of open space to built-up areas.

• Developing livable communities, guided by mixed-land uses, innovative designs and community-oriented schools.

• Maximizing infrastructure efficiency, reducing tax burdens and implementing state-of-the-art telecommunications.

• Achieving economic and social equity.

• Focusing on the future, using incentives and developing a market-sensitive and innovative consensus about quality of life issues.

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