Zoning mix-up put ice arena in limbo

More than a week after Tim Botkin announced that the Kitsap County Commissioners would not immediately consider a lease agreement with Silverdale Ice Arena Inc., project leader Greg Meakin hasn’t heard a word.

“I don’t know what is going to happen. I haven’t been contacted by the county,” Meakin said Wednesday, March 20.

The lease was scheduled to be considered March 18, but Board of Commissioners Chairman Botkin announced at a March 13 meeting with Fairgrounds neighbors that the hearing was “indefinitely postponed.”

Meakin appeared to be on the verge of winning approval for the building, which would be built on county land by private developers, until Botkin’s announcement.

Problems surfaced when county planners reviewed the lease and realized that because the arena was a private development, different zoning codes applied than previously believed.

“The code makes a distinction between public-owned recreational facilities and private recreational facilities. That is where the misunderstanding occurred,” said Kelly Robinson, manager of land use for the county Department of Community Development.

Planners met with county attorneys and determined Meakin would either have to apply for a conditional-use permit or “change the terms of the lease to have more control in public hands, which would give the benefit of a quicker process,” Botkin said.

A conditional-use permit requires that a Fairgrounds master plan be completed, Robinson said. After that, Meakin must apply under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), and the application must be adopted by the commissioners.

Then a conditional-use permit could be issued, followed by a hearing before the county hearing examiner, and final approval by the commissioners.

“The fundamental difference is they will have to have a public hearing before the hearing examiner, so it will take longer,” Robinson said.

He estimated the process will take several months.

The lease would give the county 186 hours of ice time per year in exchange for use of the land.

Meakin said he has invested about $500,000 dollars in the ice arena already, and the change propels the project into uncertainly.

“My team is comprised of local folks who have gone out on a limb here. Although the funding is in place, Real Estate 101 says funding can’t be completed until a site is secured. So it is me and my fine team who are on the hook here,” Meakin said.

Meakin expressed frustration he was not told about the decision before the March 13 meeting, when he and ice arena designers presented the project to Fairgrounds neighbors. Botkin said he thought Meakin had been warned.

“Let me be clear that had we been instructed to do the conditional-use process, we would have proceeded,” Meakin said.

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