Monthly Archives: April 2009

Blackjack Creek Trail System Revisited

Within the City of Port Orchard, the Blackjack Creek ravine is a world away from civilization. The creek drops through the watershed, shouldered by hillsides thick with vegetation and alive with bird song.

The city on Friday will submit applications for more than $100,000 in state grants that would be used to develop a trail system throughout the Blackjack Creek Wilderness.

Port Orchard drafted a plan for the area in 1987 — the Blackjack Creek Comprehensive Management Plan. The city is hoping to land $53,782 from the Washington State Regional Trails Program and $50,000 from the Washington State Land and Water Conservation program to see that plan to fruition, with help from community groups, businesses and developers.

Read more about the city’s plans for the watershed in a story to run Friday. Meanwhile, here’s a map to play with.

View Blackjack Creek in a larger map

Citizen Complains of Neighborhood’s Growing Pains

On Monday, I covered a closed record public hearing before the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners on the Ridgline development near Lake Emelia in South Kitsap. The proposed project, calling for 102 single family lots on 18.28 acres, is owned by local development investor and Planning Commission member Fred Depee .

The appellants, led by Lake Emelia residents Bill Simmons and Peter Boorman, have been fighting the proposal for two years, charging that storm water from the property would damage Lake Emelia and that the density would disturb wildlife and spoil the ambiance of the neighborhood.

The property, which Depee bought in 1994, was originally zoned urban reserve under the Kitsap County Comprehensive Plan, earmarked by the county for possible future up-zoning. During the 2006 comp plan revision, the zoning was changed to urban low residential, which allows four to nine units per acre. Ridgeline’s proposed density is 5.6 units per acre.

Some of the neighbors are chaffing at their lack of awareness of the potential for future development that existed in the 1990s under the urban reserve designation. At least one of them knew of it. The Kitsap County hearing examiner’s records show a letter to the county from resident Peter Boorman dated in 1996. But others, including Chris Lemke, say they weren’t aware that a zoning change was proposed for the area, nor its potential to change the look and feel of the neighborhood.

Lemke , who wrote a letter to the Kitsap Sun editor, complained at Monday’s meeting that the county should be more direct in alerting residents of areas where the urban growth area boundary could be extended. The county publishes notice of public hearings, on comp plan changes, and according to reporter Chris Dunagan, there was considerable press coverage of the 2006 Kitsap County Comp Plan update, as well as a page on the county’s Web site. But Lemke said, “When they extended the UGAs , I never got any notice of it. … Everything is on the side of the contractor right now.”

Depee has said his business depends on his ability to anticipate growth and invest in properties years, even decades before he can expect to a see a return.

In an earlier story, he said, “I can understand their concerns. Everyone fights growth. They’re afraid their rural living is being affected. But it’s not me who put the zoning in.

“I am a third-generation Kitsap County resident. If I had my choice, all of Kitsap would look and be like it was in the ’60s and ’70s when I was growing up. The powers to be, and time, have dictated the change to what it is and I make a living on these changes.”

Under the state’s Growth Management Act, growth is to be concentrated rather than sprawling. But changes in urban growth areas don’t happen without the population increase to support the expansion of the urban growth area, according to Dunagan. The comp plan is updated every 10 years, using updated state population estimates. Where UGA boundaries go is up to local government entities working through the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council. Potential growth is allocated according to how much each city is willing/able to handle. UGA boundaries are determined according to a list of criteria, such as where urban services are or will become available.

Lemke, in his testimony before the commissioners, said the county should go the extra mile to inform residents of impending zoning changes by including notice in annual property tax statements. What do you think?

Police Boat Just “Paid for Itself” Chief Says

Reporter Josh Farley was all over the fire on a yacht in Port Orchard marina this morning. It was pretty dramatic. Smoke from the fire could be seen along the coastline all the way to East Bremerton.

According to the story, “Crews couldn’t get the water mains in the marina to function, so a Port Orchard police officer invited two firefighters aboard their 31-foot police SAFE Boat and they were able to tow the burning boat away from the marina, police chief Al Townsend said.”

I just got of the phone with chief Townsend, who said, “That boat just paid for itself.”

Pasha Phares Exits Stage Right

In September, I wrote about Pasha Phares, well-known in the South Kitsap acting community, who had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Phares, 40, his wife, Debbie, and daughters, Sierra and Maddie, faced the physical, emotional and financial ravages of critical illness. Friends of the family were trying to lighten the burden, at least financially, by holding a benefit performance of “Fools,” in which Phares had played a leading part couple of decades ago with the performing arts guild of South Kitsap.

Pasha died peacefully on Friday, surrounded by those he loved. His obituary runs in tomorrow’s Kitsap Sun.

Friends who commented for the story remembered him as a “quiet man who says little and observes a lot.” On stage, he had a great comic presence. He was “very intellectual, very intelligent, a man with a quick wit,” said Linda Jensen, who organized the benefit.

Here’s the obituary:

Pasha Phares
of Port Orchard
July 2, 1968
to April 24, 2009
Pasha Phares peacefully passed away on Friday, April 24, 2009. He was surrounded in love by his wife, Debbie, and two beautiful daughters, Sierra and Maddie. Pasha is loved by many people: His brother, Pablo; father, David; nephews, Evan, K.C, and Chandler; his niece, Courtney; his second family, mom and dad, Pat and Chuck; brothers, Jeff and Jason; sisters, Denise, Bunny, and Renee. The list of people whom he loved and who will love and miss him are too numerous to mention, but you know who you are.
Pasha was a great husband, father, and best friend. He never lost his love of video games, fireworks, disc golf, soccer, playing in the ocean, and generally having fun. He would choose Disneyland with his family over working around the house. He would choose taking the day off to drive to the ocean with his “girls”, as he referred to Debbie, Sierra, and Maddie over doing chores. In other words, he chose to live and play and never lost that childlike glee that escapes so many of us once we become a certain age. He leaves us his love, joy, and never ending zeal for what the world offered. In his memory, please commit a random act of kindness. Cherish him by taking care of others.
Online memorial at

Smokey’s Survives the Winter

May 1
What: Smokey’s Bar-B-Que Grill will hold a Grand Opening Celebration with the addition of patio dining and expanded hours. The event will feature free snacks for diners. The restaurant has been open since November  for dinner only. New hours are 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tues. – Thurs.; 11:30a.m. to 9 p.m. Fri. and Sat.; noon to 8 p.m. Sun.
When: 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: 682 SW Bay St., Port Orchard
Cost: Varies
Info: (360) 443-6369

A Sonic in Port Orchard Someday?

7:25 p.m. Friday: See addendum* below.

Currently unemployed in South Kitsap? You may want to break out the roller skates and get your balance. A Sonic Drive-in could be coming to town, according to an article in today’s Tacoma News Tribune.

The wildly popular fast food chain, featuring car-hops on roller skates is opening in Puyallup Monday.

I’m not sure what the big deal about Sonic is, as I’ve never eaten there, but apparently in California, the Midwest and probably other places the collective wisdom of the newsroom doesn’t know about, it carries the cachet of Krispy Kreme donuts.

According to the article:

“Other mayors should start warming up their ceremonial scissors. Sonic franchise owner David Orem filed a building permit application this week for his second Sonic – in the Lowe’s parking lot on Highway 410 in Bonney Lake. And he expects to sign lease deals soon on two sites in Tacoma.

After that? Orem has started scouting Aberdeen, Shelton, Olympia, Bremerton, Port Orchard, Silverdale and Maple Valley.”

Sounds like there could be some competition in Kitsap County over this. So PO, let’s get rolling. I’m guessing, however, the folks at Buck’s A&W may not be so thrilled. Is South Kitsap’s appetite big enough to handle two old-school burger joints?

While we’re on the subject, who do you think makes the best burgers anywhere? For me, nothing could top The Hamburger Choo Choo in Huntington, Long Island, where I grew up. The food was delivered on a scale model train to diners, who sat at a large horseshoe-shaped counter. I have no recollection of whether the burgers were good, bad or indifferent; all I know is any meal delivered by toy train was my idea of haute cuisine.

P.S. Looks like A&W already has some competition.

Saturday Services Set for Sedgwick Student

Students at John Sedgwick Junior High School learned on Monday that one of their classmates, Heather Marie Stanford, 15, had died on Sunday.
“At this time we have no further information or details concerning this tragedy,” said Principal Jay Villars, in a letter to students’ families sent home Monday.
Stanford passed away Sunday of unknown causes at a home in the 8300 block of SE Southworth Drive, according to Kitsap County Sheriff’s spokesman Scott Wilson.
“At this point, the demise of Heather Marie Stanford is being investigated as an unexpected death,” Wilson said. “Her death is not being classified as suspicious.”
The Kitsap County Coroner is awaiting results of toxicology tests done as part of an autopsy.
Counselors have been on hand at John Sedgwick throughout the week to talk with students and staff members. Stanford, a ninth grader, was remembered at the school with cards and flowers set around the flagpole on Tuesday and a moment of silence on Wednesday.
According to an obituary that ran in the Kitsap Sun Thursday, Stanford was born Oct. 1, 1993, to Cristie and Edward Stanford, and she grew up in Port Orchard. She was an artist, loved to cook, enjoyed fashion and recently did some modeling. She loved old Chevys and being outdoors.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday and at 11 a.m. May 9 at Evergreen Baptist Church, 5775 SE Sedgwick Road in Port Orchard. An online guest book is available at

Bail Bonds by the Bay

The Port Orchard City Council on Tuesday took up discussion of Port Orchard’s reputation for attracting bail bond businesses. The topic came up during a presentation by Development Director James Weaver of the city’s critical areas ordinance update which drifted into a discussion of the city’s code for the downtown area (and the oft controversial issue of building height) then to the issue of bail bonds.

In a previous story I wrote about an effort by the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce to “brand” the city in a favorable light, someone commented that the town ought to be called Bail Bonds by the Bay. It was a joke … kind of … one that doesn’t sit well with the council, whose members are trying to reinvent the town as a trendy upscale place. Bail bonds don’t exactly fit the image, they say.

Of the bail bond companies listed in the Kitsap Peninsula Yellow Pages, five show physical addresses on Bay Street. No surprise since the Kitsap County jail is just up the hill. But that’s too many according to Mayor Lary Coppola, who said at the meeting, “I just think that’s the wrong message for our city.”

Coppola is disgruntled with the town’s bail bond companies not only for the less than savory image he says they convey, but also for the fact they don’t generate sales tax for the city. All they pay is $30 a year for a business license. “This is a business that gives our downtown a black eye, and we don’t make any money off it,” he said.

Some council members asked why bail bonds are allowed in the downtown business district at all.

When the city revised its code for the downtown area, they specified retail businesses could go on the street level of Bay Street, but business services, which the council envisioned as “medical-professional” businesses such as dentists or lawyers, must go on the second story. Turns out bail bonds, under state laws, fall under the category of “business services” and so are technically allowed in Port Orchard, said City Attorney Greg Jacoby.

Those bail bond businesses (and other business services) already on street level before the code revision are vested, but any coming in after would be required to whisk themselves out of sight of tourists and shoppers.

The council discussed its desire to attract retail shops to downtown and, not so subtly, invite the bail bond businesses to move elsewhere.

Coppola asked Jacoby if the city could pass a surcharge on such business. Jacoby said it would amount to a form of B&O tax (he will look into it, he said). When Coppola asked if the tax could be made to apply only to bail bonds, Jacoby said “probably not,” that would be discriminatory. He added that the city has limited taxing authority.

Councilman John Clauson asked if strip joints are allowed. Turns out the city already researched that last year, when Espresso Gone Wild of Gorst, featuring baristas in pasties, wanted to set up shop in Belfair. Mason County’s code nixes such attire in its business district. Port Orchard has similar laws protecting its citizens from the perils of pasties.

Clauson complained that the bail bondsmen are seldom in their offices. He wondered if the city could enact some ordinance requiring that shops and business be actively open certain hours of the day. Jacoby said he’d look into it.

“We can regulate their signage pretty heavily,” offered Weaver helpfully.

The council seemed united in its opinion of bail bonds in Port Orchard. When Coppola asked, “Am I the only one who feels they’re a detriment?” there was a chorus of agreement from council members.

Jacoby suggested one way to get them to move is to find an alternate place for them to go. The council discussed having them locate closer to the courthouse, but there was discussion about the courthouse neighbors sensitivity to such business.

“Bottom line is, our code says they have a right to be there, so you have to persuade them to move,” Jacoby said.

“I want to get in their pocket in a serious way,” Coppola said, referencing the above-mentioned tax or other regulatory measure. “We either make some money off them, or we make it so unattractive to them that they want to move.”

More on Port Orchard’s Open Records Regs

The City of Port Orchard took careful note of two open records lawsuits recently settled against Mason County.

At Tuesday’s work study meeting, City Clerk Patti Kirkpatrick told the council staff are looking into ways to avoid the pitfall Mason encountered when a records request was tagged as “spam” by the county’s e-mail system.

City Attorney Greg Jacoby pointed out that there were other lapses in Mason County’s case resulting in $320,000 in penalties and court costs against the county, including a delayed response to the request once they knew it had been filed and even after they knew the suit had been filed. “The Mason County case is kind of extreme,” he said.

At the meeting, Councilman Fred Chang questioned the wording of the city’s open records ordinance in reference to e-mailed requests.

PO in September enacted an update to its public records ordinance, stating the city will no longer accept e-mail requests. The city clerk, who is the designated public records officer for the city, will still process requests by e-mail; the change in the ordinance was meant to cover the city in the event that one slipped through the cracks.

Chang said he was concerned about the wording of the ordinance that he said could be construed as confusing. He suggested a rewording indicating that while the city makes every effort to respond to e-mailed requests, sending them in other forms is recommended.

Chang acknowledged riding herd on the hundreds of e-mails the city receives each day and responding to public records requests is an “onerous” task, but he questioned why Port Orchard is the only city in Kitsap County with such a policy.

“Every other city in the county has more staff than we do,” said Mayor Lary Coppola.

Coppola said the city is not “worried about getting around the law,” it is dedicated to meeting the requirements of the law despite the quirks of e-mail and spam.

Kirkpatrick said the city has had problems with e-mails going to the spam server and they are “looking into that.” There is also talk of having a designated e-mail address for public records requests.

“It was never my intention to tell anybody that we would not accept e-mail (requests),” Kirkpatrick said.

Jacoby said having a designated e-mail account for public records requests would put the city in a good legal position in the event of a suit.

Mason County’s Public Records Woes a Cautionary Tale

A recent story in the Kitsap Sun covers two public records lawsuits filed against Mason County that resulted in $320,000 in penalties and court costs. In one of the suits, e-mails from the person requesting information were blocked as “spam,” sent to the county’s junk mailbox and eventually purged from the system.

Mason County’s public records woes suggest that Port Orchard’s inclination to err on the side of caution in its policy on e-mailed public records requests is justified. PO in September enacted an update to its public records ordinance, stating the city will no longer accept e-mail requests. The city clerk, who is the designated public records officer for the city, will still process requests by e-mail; the change in the ordinance was meant to cover the city in the event that one slipped through the cracks.

Since we’re back on the subject of Port Orchard’s public records ordinance, let me divert a minute to say Mayor Lary Coppola panned my story because he felt it unfairly portrayed the city as being uncooperative, furtive and resistant to public records requests. (You can see his comments at the bottom of the story.)

Port Orchard accepts requests by phone, mail, fax and in person, and many of their documents are available on the city’s Web site (as well as videos of city council meetings). So the issue to me is not one of transparency or good faith, both of which City Clerk Patti Kirkpatrick and her assistant, Brandy Rinearson, display in abundance.

That having been said, the point of the story still stands. By technically refusing to accept e-mail requests (even while processing them to the best of city staff’s ability) the city is placing itself in a position of legal liability, said Tim Ford, open government ombudsman for the state Attorney General’s office.

The AG’s office does not police jurisdictions’ compliance with public records laws. But individuals, companies or organizations could potentially sue Port Orchard creating a financial liability, even if the city were to prevail. (In Mason County’s case, the Washington Counties Risk Pool defended both lawsuits and will pay all but a $10,000 deductible per case.)

I called Tim Ford after my story ran to do a reality check. He sympathized with public records officials, especially in small jurisdictions, who often wear many hats.

“These are tough budget times,” said Ford. “It’s not easy for cities to hire a separate person for public records requests. So often they have the city clerk doing 100 different things.”

That scenario played against Mason County. The commissioner’s clerk whose e-mail system saw the plaintiff’s request as junk later said “she’d had no training” even though she was the designated public records officer. The attorney representing the county described the clerk as “someone very overly burdened in a county without enough resources.”

Ford applauded Port Orchard for its intention to address all forms of public records requests. That’s as it should be, he said. In his opinion, however, the no-email ordinance will not provide the city protection in the event an e-mail request falls through the cracks and if the person who made that request decides to file suit (see the case cited in my story). “If they have policy that restricts or prohibits e-mail requests, they have a lot of liability there, because you can’t treat requesters differently,” said Ford.

That conclusion was seconded in the Mason County story by Monty Cobb, Mason’s deputy prosecutor for civil matters, who said that “while written requests are preferred, nothing restricts the use of e-mail, the telephone, even ‘notes on the back of a napkin,’ he said.”

For the record, there were other factors in the Mason County suits besides the lost e-mail.

And a final point. Coppola, in his criticism of my story, brought up an e-mail exchange he and I had in connection with the story in which I had put the wrong address on an e-mail to him. I eventually got the right address and Coppola responded promptly, but his point was, what if that had been a public records request and I had wanted to make a stink about it. The answer, according to Ford, is that I wouldn’t have had a legal leg to stand on. While the law puts the heavy burden on public officials to provide public records, the burden is on the public to use proper addresses (e-mail and other wise).