Family claims county incompetence blocking project

A family of entrepreneurs behind a long-planned “recreation center” off SR 303 in East Bremerton is furious with county planners after more than two years of delays.

Brian and Becky Ferguson are still waiting to break ground after 27 months.

Mr. Ferguson told the county’s hearing examiner, Stephen Causseaux Jr., that they were angry at “repeated” and seemingly “deliberate” mistakes by the county in paperwork that may eventually kill the entire project. His comments came during a public hearing Thursday.

“My center is not an ‘amusement park’ as you’ve defined,” said Mr. Ferguson to the examiner. “It’s a rec center.”

After the meeting, he said amusement parks have large attractions such as ferris wheels and may require stiffer conditions. The county described the center as an amusement park and a “major” project.

Ferguson’s project, “Tropical Paradise Family Fun Center,” calls for a two-building recreation center with an additional utility building totaling 32,814 square feet on a 5.3-acre parcel, west of Almira Drive, about 250 yards north of the corner of Almira and Riddell Road.

The center would include miniature golf, go-carts, bumper boats, and batting cages outdoors, with a video arcade, laser tag, and miniature golf for children indoors.

The Fergusons have emphasized their center would cater to the disabled — since the couple has a disabled child of their own.

Brian Ferguson alleges county mistakes and delays have cost him time needed to build the center and earn a living.

Ferguson spoke at the examiner’s meeting Thursday morning just after planner Rick McNicholas informed Causseaux that errors in county paperwork would require a continuance to May 9.

The planner admitted zoning in the area was misidentified as highway tourist commercial, when it is actually neighborhood commercial. This was the error requiring postponement, since two types of zoning require different approaches by the county.

The county describes the land as wooded, on a gentle slope, and with “no streams, wetlands or other critical areas.” Although the county wanted several agencies to examine the application and stipulated 34 conditions to be met by applicants, their overall assessment was positive.

The Fergusons, as well as Mr. Ferguson’s parents, contend delays have gone beyond bureaucratic incompetence.

McNicholas said Friday that his error dates back to October and caused delays. He said he was relatively new to the project and couldn’t speak to alleged earlier delays. He said the project was potentially “noisy” and this prompted closer examination.

Also, “The county is in the midst of a process to streamline and speed-up the permitting process by allowing simultaneous permit requests,” said McNicholas.

Manager of the county’s long-range planning, Laura Ditmer, said the Fergusons are on two tracks with the project, which may explain why it’s taken so long.

“They had to go through the county Comprehensive Plan process first, since they were asking for a change in zoning,” she said. Now, the applicants are going through the second phase of getting permits. “It takes time.”

County officials have said the regular permitting process can take up to 13 months.

The Fergusons are Bremerton residents. The land owner is Three Hundred Five Associates, also of Bremerton. Castle Golf Inc. is designing the center, which would also include 125 parking spaces and five handicapped spaces.

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