County Commissioners Hear Impassioned Testimony on Manchester Plan

Written testimony on the draft Manchester Community Plan will be taken until 4:30 p.m. Dec. 13 via e-mail to Katrina Knutson, The Board of Commissioners will deliberate on the proposed plan at its meeting Dec. 17.

By Chris Henry
Kitsap County Board of Commissioners on Monday heard more than an hour of public testimony on a proposed revision of the Manchester Community Plan.
Building heights and noncomforming lots were hot topics, as they have been throughout the vetting process for the plan, which began in January. Many who testified recalled past history, when in 2002 community members drafted a plan that “encouraged” a maximum building height of 28 feet and no more than two stories within Manchester’s commercial core.
Language in the 2002 plan proved sufficiently vague, however, to allow four projects at 35 feet and three stories to enter the permit approval process. Of those projects, one has been approved and is under construction, one is under appeal and two are in the preliminary stages of application.
The update of the Manchester Plan and its related design standards, also under review by the board, more clearly specify the 28-foot, two-story limits. Approval of the plan would set those limits into Kitsap County’s code and impose them on the more than 30 other buildable lots in the Manchester Village Commercial Zone.
These lots — and what they might look like in the future — were the subject of much impassioned testimony at Monday’s meeting.
Stu Lombard was one of several Manchester residents who supported revised plan. Lombard said he worries about what the town would look like if all eligible lots were developed on the scale of The Anchors at Manchester, the three-story project now taking shape near the Manchester waterfront.
“It looks like a giant index finger in the face of Manchester,” Lombard said.
Lyle Burbidge also spoke in favor of the new plan’s language, saying that it would promote “reasonable and responsible development.”
But William Palmer, a land use consultant who represents several developers with property in Manchester, said the proposed plan is prohibitive. Palmer has submitted a lengthy critique of the proposed design standards, which limit height and density, and call for numerous amenities to be provided by developers.
“You probably won’t have to worry about other development happening on other lots, because provisions of the design guidelines absolutely preclude it,” said Palmer.
Katrina Knutson, associate planner with the Department of Community Development, spoke on the issue of non-conforming lots, which are properties purchased legally in the past but which, because of their size, do not meet current standards for development and so are subject to different rules.
Some citizens have complained that the language in the draft plan does not treat owners of all such lots equally. Under the proposed plan, owners of contiguous lots would be required to combine their lots before developing, while others owning separate lots would be allowed to develop on less space.
Knutson said the county’s planning commission had recommended replacing language in the proposed plan with language from the 2002 plan, which was deemed less confusing. County planning staff, however, recommended language from the county’s 2006 Comprehensive Plan update instead.
The planning commission also recommended a change in language regarding how building height is established under the proposed plan. But because the issue affects property owners throughout the county, the commission will likely amend its recommendation to table discussion of the issue to 2008, during the county’s overall look at updating its development codes.

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