Manchester Residents Plan Demonstration Saturday

A group of citizens concerned about future development in Manchester is planning a demonstration for 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the downtown area.
The “Keep Manchester Rural” rally comes just days after Larry Keeton, the county’s director of community development, issued an official interpretation of the 2002 Manchester Community Plan. The document was published as a legal notice in local papers this week.

Some of the town’s residents involved in a revision of the 2002 plan asked that Keeton address the issues of building height, parking and traffic, and design standards, which have been sore spots with some, as projects for development in the downtown Manchester area have come up for approval.
The 2002 plan states that buildings, which can be up to 35 feet in height according to county code, should be limited to two stories. One project, The Anchors (previously known as Manchester Commons) has already been approved for three stories because the hearing examiner, reviewing a citizens’ appeal of the project permit, said county code superseded the citizens’ plan.
Some involved in revising the plan, including Carol Leininger, a co-organizer of the demonstration, have said they don’t want to see that happen again. While others, including Dave Kimble, who is also taking part in the revision, say they welcome development — and the economic advantages it brings — even if it includes larger structures.
Keeton’s interpretation upholds the 2002 Manchester plan’s mandate limiting new proposals to two stories. In making his decision, Keeton said, he drove through the town and noted most structures to be one- or two-story buildings.
“That’s the thing I was looking at was what’s the character of the area?” Keeton said.
At the same time, Keeton believes that the citizens and the county need to draft design standards that are reasonable to developers and allow them to come up with a financially viable project.
In his interpretation, Keeton said the 2002 plan is vague on design standards for projects that would be harmonious with what’s already there, but he noted the current effort to develop clear guidelines that would give the plan more “teeth,” as some have said.
“Until such guidelines are adopted, clearly the community character should be respected,” Keeton’s interpretation states.
That statement stops just short of the moratorium residents like Leininger were hoping the county would impose on new projects. Keeton’s interpretation does not apply to The Anchors, and another project, Colchester Commons, which has already been approved by the county. But it will come into play as new projects are proposed.
“It’s fabulous,” Leininger said of Keeton’s interpretation of the plan. “He finally read it the way it should have been read all along.”
Keeton also addressed the issues of parking and traffic. HIgh density projects would be allowed only if there is enough parking to handle the added cars.
“Throughout the Manchester plan, clearly parking and transportation are unresolved issues,” Keeton stated.
Leininger noted that she, co-organziner Carrilu Thompson and others who will demonstrate on Saturday do not necessarily speak for everyone on the plan revision committee.
Dave Kimble, a member of the natural resources subcommittee for that group, said he and other like-minded residents don’t see development as the threat that the demonstrators do.
“There’s a goodly number of people in town who want to see some progress,” Kimble said.
Kimble is frustrated with appeals that “ stall, avoid, delay and confound bringing Manchester into the 21st Century.
“These vocal minorities fail to realize how their businesses and other businesses will boon and benefit from the development process in Manchester’s downtown core.”
Leininger says she and the others aren’t knee jerk anti-progress.
“We don’t have an argument with people building,” she said. “But 35-foot, flat-roofed structures totally ruin the town. It’s a village.”

More on Manchester:
* A “Keep Manchester Rural” rally is planned for 5:30 p.m. in downtown Manchester. Organizers say they want to raise awareness of the impact of future development on the town’s character.
* The Manchester Community Plan Update citizens committee will meet from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Kitsap County Administration Building, 614 Division St., Port Orchard.

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