County purchases 622 acres in CK

PORT ORCHARD — The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners on Monday approved the purchase of a 622-acre tract as open space. This followed the submission of a winning bid last week.

The tract, the Port Blakely Tree Farm in Central Kitsap, will cost approximately $2.15 million. This translates to a sales tax increase of approximately 1 cent per taxpayer, according to Joseph Coppo of the county’s Parks and Recreation Deptartment

“It’s been a pleasure working with county staff on this purchase,” said forester Chris Lunde, who works at the facility. “We’re excited to see that the careful land stewardship we’ve maintained for 100 years will continue.”

Coppo said this was “an unusual land transaction for the county” due to its short completion.

The idea was greeted with enthusiasm by environmentalists countywide, and was unanimously and enthusiastically passed by the commissioners. It met with some criticism from citizens addressing the commission, who said the transaction was presented as a “done deal” to the public.

“The taxpayers don’t know what’s going on,” said Tim Mathes of the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners. “You should have a plan before you submit this to the public.”

Commissioner Patty Lent said the secret bid was the only way the county could procure the land. Publicizing the county’s interest in the property could inflate the price while indicating disinterest would have the opposite effect.

And purchasing this land fits in with the county’s goal to create a better environment for future citizens.

“We have 396 square miles of land in Kitsap County, and we have just purchased 8.7 square miles,” Lent said. “This is a small part of the big picture. The opportunity came up and the funds were there. We are excited about the possibility of protecting this property.”

Lent said the land could conceivably produce some timber-based income for the county.

While most public feedback about the acquisition was positive — with $650,000 donated for the purpose — there was some dissent from Marianne Nelson Stewart of Olalla.

Stewart said the county had already promised to buy her family’s land, a waterside stretch on Olalla Bay, but later reneged on the deal. “The county has insulted us, and damaged our reputation and ability to live in harmony in our own neighborhood.”

Commissioner Jan Angel, a former realtor, said all transactions need a willing buyer and seller for completion. At this point Stewart called Angel a “liar” and left the room.

Angel later said the county has attempted to come to an agreement with the Nelson family several times, but the transactions are never completed. She said the county is not interested in the land at this point.

Following the meeting, Lent and commissioner Chris Endresen viewed the newly purchased property from a small plane, taking along Kitsap County’s April employee of the month Terese Ungren for the ride.

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