Monthly Archives: October 2008

McCormick Annexation Money Matters

For anyone who may have missed last night’s meeting between McCormick Woods residents and city of Port Orchard officials, I will tack on at the end of this post a “Property Tax and Franchise Comparison” prepared by the city treasurer that answers the question:

What’ll it cost me?: Basically it’s a wash. City calculations based on 2008 numbers, show that the owner of a $350,000 home who as a county resident currently pays a total of $3,805.46 in taxes and fees would pay a total of $3,798.55 as a resident of Port Orchard. This does not include a storm water utility fee to be introduced in 2009 (approximately $90 annually).

McWoods residents in Port Orchard would pay a city property tax, which goes into the general fund and the city road fund, in addition to their county property tax, but they would no longer have to pay into the county road fund. And McCormick Woods residents would no longer pay the 50 percent sewer surcharge they now do as part of unincorporated Kitsap County, saving each household an average of $300 per year. (“Who would pay for that loss of revenue?” city resident Genevieve Hall asked me this morning. My notes from the meeting show the difference would be distributed among all city residents as a 10 percent increase in sewer fees.)

Will my property taxes go up?: In a word, no, at least not as a result of the annexation, according to Kitsap County Assessor Jim Avery. “We look as the whole urban growth area as one for our valuation purposes,” Avery said. Besides that, Avery pointed out, assessed values are trending downward at this time.

Will the city pay for streetlights?: (McWoods residents currently pay for their own streetlights in their dues.) The city would pay for any streetlights on public roads within McCormick Woods and The Ridge. Residents who live on private roads will continue to pay for streetlights.

Will properties in McWoods be rezoned, and therefore subject to a possible tax increase, as a result of updates in the city’s comprehensive plan?: Because McWoods is a planned development, no rezoning of properties within the annexation boundaries is expected or planned, Mayor Lary Coppola said.

How is the city doing financially?: Port Orchard has a long history of fiscal conservatism. Only within the last few years have they started including return envelopes with their utility bills, and city hall visitors must pay a penny a sheet for toilet paper if they have to use the restroom. (I made up the toilet paper thing, but it would be very much in the old PO spirit.) While the city expects 8 percent less in sales tax revenue in 2009 as a result of the economic downturn, it is also expecting to annex a considerable amount of commercial property, including Fred Meyer, which could offset the loss. The city’s budget is tight, and they will balance it by making adjustments, but they are in better shape than most of their neighbors (except Poulsbo), reported John Clauson, who chairs the finance committee.

So what’s in it for Port Orchard?: City officials have said the annexation, while it would provide increased property tax revenue and a small amount of sales tax revenue, would financially be “a wash” for the city. Six additional staff members would be needed to provide services to the area. As a larger jurisdiction, however, the city would be better eligible for state and federal grants and other funding, Coppola said.

Aside from any financial incentives, city officials say, they want McCormick Woods as part of the city because they see them as an asset. Coppola, last night, noted that with its many retirees, McWoods represents a new pool of potential representatives on the city’s volunteer boards or as elected officials. Somebody out there could even replace him, Coppola joked. He added that unincorporated McWoods is a small fish in a big pond (he didn’t exactly put it that way). As part of the city, however, they would be a big fish in a smaller pond and have better representation in their local government.

If this annexation fails, would Port Orchard try again by initiating an annexation itself? This could happen in theory. One method of annexation allows a city to initiate an annexation; then residents in the area to be annexed must vote on it. Would Port Orchard actually do this? probably not, said John Clauson. “Why would we fund an election if you’ve just told us no?” he said. If you choose not to, we’ll shake your hands and we’ll still be your neighbors.”

Here’s the line item financial comparison.

PO Council Selects Prospect Location for Parking Garage

The Port Orchard City Council on Tuesday selected a preferred location for a future parking garage. It’s on Prospect Street above the current MoonDogs 2. But don’t start looking for a new place to park any time soon. The council has a lot of work to do before he garage could become a reality. One of the biggest hurdles will be figuring out how the structure will be paid for. The city envisions partnerships with businesses, investors or public agencies such as Kitsap Transit. Part of the council’s discussion of the garage has included a proposal to relocate the Port Orchard Library on top of the underground parking structure that will be built into the hillside.

Of the four people who spoke on the garage at the meeting, the only self-described “negative voice was PO resident Geri Harmon who said she would like to see the issue put to a vote of PO residents.

“This parking garage  may never pay for itself,” she said. “I sure would like to see this put to a vote of the people because we could be paying for it for many, many years.”

McCormick Woods Rumor Patrol

The Port Orchard City Council, Mayor Lary Coppola and city officials will host a Q&A session on the proposed McCormick Woods annexation at 7 p.m. Wednesday (tomorrow) at the Clubhouse at McCormick Woods.

One of the first questions they’ll address is whether Bremerton can annex McWoods via a vote of Bremerton’s citizens that would leave McCormick Woods residents entirely out of the loop. The short answer is, they can’t.

That according to city attorney Greg Jacoby, with whom I spoke tonight at the City Council meeting.

I’ve been trying to figure this out since I, as a McCormick Woods resident, received a mailing from the City of Port Orchard marked “annexation ballot enclosed,” which was sent out around the end of September.

City officials have made no secret of the fact that they would welcome a McCormick Woods annexation. The process was set in motion by a Q&A session hosted about a year ago by then-Mayor Kim Abel. The city has legitimate incentives to seek a McCormick Woods annexation, among them property tax revenue from McCormick Woods homeowners and increased access to state and federal grants as a larger jurisdiction, although there has also been talk of the contribution McWoods residents would potentially make on the city council.

On more than one occasion, PO officials have pledged their support of any organized effort on the part of McCormick Woods residents to annex. The city, as a gesture of support, picked up the tab for the mailing, which included:

* An invitation to the Q&A session.

* A list of “Advantages of Annexation,” drawn up by members of the McCormick Woods annexation committee (made up of McWoods residents who have organized the annexation petition drive and who have concluded, through their research, that annexation to Port Orchard holds significant advantages to residents).

* An individual copy of the annexation petition, ready for signatures.

* A letter from Mayor Coppola warning of the consequences, should McWoods residents decline to annex into PO. The alternative … dare we speak it? Bremerton.

Coppola noted that Bremerton in a recent update of its comprehensive plan included McCormick Woods in its expanded urban growth area. Bremerton City Council President Will Maupin has said that if McCormick Woods residents came to Bremerton with a petition to annex, that city would be open to accommodating them, but, Maupin added, historically, McWoods has been thought of as logically belonging within PO city limits and Bremerton did not have any plans to derail a McWoods annexation into PO.

Yet in the mailing to McWoods residents, Coppola writes, “considering Bremerton’s aggressive expansionism as illustrated by the Port of Bremerton and SKIA, you can only wonder what it must have in mind for the long term future of McCormick Woods.”

Oh, yeah, that SKIA thing. It’s no secret that Port Orchard has been stung by Bremerton’s reticence to guarantee that PO will provide sewer service to South Kitsap Industrial Area, according to a 2003 memorandum between PO and the Port of Bremerton. POB is the primary landowner within the 3,400-acre SKIA, slated for industrial development. Bremerton earlier this year accepted a petition by landowners in SKIA North, representing 150 acres of the SKIA puzzle, to annex. PO recently pressed the county’s Boundary Review Board, charged with vetting the proposed annexation of SKIA into Bremerton, to hold a public hearing on SKIA North. Bremerton has also approved a petition to annex SKIA South (the rest of the acreage, including land held by the POB) and it is likely PO will call for a formal challenge of that proposal as well.

So where were we? Oh, yes, Coppola’s letter to McWoods residents. Coppola said that since a portion of McCormick Woods (McCormick North, a.k.a The Ridge) is contiguous with land on Anderson Hill Road that is part of the City of Bremerton, Bremerton could annex that area “by a simple majority vote of its existing citizens.” I did a reality check with Coppola via e-mail last week, asking what citizens he was talking about, and he replied back “Bremerton’s.”

I also checked with James Weaver, Port Orchard’s Development Director, who was under the same impression. Both Coppola and Weaver referenced a no contest clause residents of The Ridge signed prohibiting them from opposing any proposed annexation.

Weaver said, “The Ridge is abutting the City of Bremerton existing City Limits (formerly known as Northwest Corporate Campus) and, from my understanding, may be annexed upon request by the City of Bremerton without vote or McCormick initiated petition.”

Weaver, in his e-mail to me referenced the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington publication on annexation as a source of information on the methods by which an annexation may be achieved. Among them is an election process initiated by a city council that wishes to annex a given area, but, as I read in the fine print, the people who ultimately get to vote are not the residents of the municipality seeking to annex the area, but the residents of the area to be annexed.

Weaver also deferred to the city attorney on the issue, saying he is not the authority on annexation law. Jacoby said McCormick Woods residents would definitely be the ones to vote on an annexation with Bremerton. But what if … I asked … Bremerton only wanted to annex the Ridge, which can’t object because of the no contest clause. Jacoby said he’d get back to me on that scenario, which, I admit, is highly speculative. I mean, why annex The Ridge and not the rest of McCormick Woods? But surely it’s a question residents of The Ridge will want answered.

To add to the confusion, the McCormick Woods annexation committee also bought into the Bremerton-take-over idea. In its “advantages” list, the committee said that inaction on a McWoods-PO marriage would mean “we could do nothing and still be annexed into the City of Bremerton with or without our consent.”

According to Jacoby, that’s not true.

It does not appear the mayor or the annexation committee were being duplicitous, just misinformed. Jacoby said he first learned of Coppola’s assertions about a possible McTake-over by Bremerton this morning.

During a discussion with the City Council on Wednesday’s upcoming Q&A on McWoods, Coppola sought a different tone regarding other jursidictions and their relationship to McWoods. The reference was actually to Kitsap County’s budget burden, especially if Silverdale incorporates. But, to me, Coppola seemed to be backpedaling when he said of city officials conduct at the annexation meeting, “I don’t think we want to denigrate anybody. I don’t think that makes us look good. … We’re going to take the high road.”

Etta Projects Connect South Kitsap to Bolivia

Tomorrow, a group from South Kitsap will take off for Montero, Bolivia, on a humanitarian aid trip that keeps alive the memory of Etta Turner, a South Kitsap teen who died while she was an exchange student in Bolivia. The trip will, among other assistance, provide dental care to children and adults who have never sat in a dental chair in their lives. The story will run tomorrow in the Kitsap Sun.

Etta Projects is a nonprofit organization established in memory of Etta Turner, who died in 2005 at age 16 while traveling with friends on a bus. The driver fell asleep, and the bus went off a cliff. Etta and six Bolivians were killed.

Etta Turner

In 2003, Etta’s mother, Pennye Nixon-West, helped establish a feeding center for impoverished children in La Floresta, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Montero. Comedor de Ninos Etta Turner operates with help from Etta’s family and friends, Rotary clubs in North and South America, and the Salesian Catholic Church in Montero whose priest was also Etta’s principal. Etta II opened in 2005 in Pampa de la Madre, a rural section of Montero. Together the two centers feed 240 children daily and train their mothers in skills that lead to gainful employment.

Among the aid provided by Kitsap residents traveling to Bolivia, some group members – including features editor Barb Willock – will teach mothers of the children arts and crafts. Barb, who is a weaver when she’s not putting together the features section, will teach knitting.

Handicrafts are more than just a hobby for the women of Montero; they’re a source of livelihood. In an economy where a few dollars a day can mean the difference between chronic hunger and adequate nutrition, learning to knit can help a mother feed a family.

The group is undeterred by a travel advisory issued for Bolvia in September by the U.S. State Department. Protests against the central government have led to clashes between authorities and protesters. Nixon-West, who has a house in Bolivia, has updated the group on developments, recently deeming it safe for travel.

Safe trip to you all. Feel free to send e-mail updates to me at

For more information visit Etta Projects Web site.

Coming Up This Week in Port Orchard

Tuesday: 7 p.m. at City Hall, The Port Orchard City Council will vote on establishing a storm water utility. This is one of many steps the city must take to comply with state Department of Ecology regulations regarding storm water treatment. Fees will not be established until early 2009. Port Orchard is not alone; all cities and counties in the state must comply with regulations now coming into effect. The article linked above addresses discussion on fees so far.

The council on Tuesday will also designate a preferred location for a future parking garage. The city has many hurdles to cover  – mainly how to pay for the facility – before any construction on a garage could begin.

Wednesday: 7 p.m. at McCormick Woods clubhouse, city officials will answer questions about a proposed annexation of McCormick into PO. More on this later.

Coming up next week: 7 p.m., Oct. 20 – The City of Port Orchard’s Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on its draft comprehensive plan update. The plan is available at the city’s Web site, For more information or to obtain a CD or hard copy of the plan, for a cost, call (360) 876-4407.

A Word on the Kitsap Sun’s Video Campaign Coverage

A story on the South Kitsap Commissioner’s Race will be posted shortly on the Kitsap Sun’s Web site. Our coverage of the race includes a video of Charlotte Garrido. Candidate Tim Matthes chose not to be videotaped.

As our Web coverage of local news has evolved, it has allowed us new ways to inform readers about the issues, including videos. That has made for some interesting times in the newsroom, as reporters pick up cameras and learn the ropes of video production. But, be assured, we do apply the same rules of journalism to videos as we do to stories.

In the case of the campaign videos, we applied the same rules to all candidates. Each was allowed up to three minutes to make a statement. The reporter followed up with questions, and the candidate was given an unlimited time to respond. Aside from editing out the sound of silence between questions, we made no alterations to the tapes. No splicing, no dicing, no sound bites. What we saw and heard is what you get.

Besides Tim Matthes, Jan Angel, running for 26th District Representative, position 1, and incumbent Sen. Phil Rockefeller, running to retain his seat in the 23rd District, also declined the video interview.

Just thought you ought to know in case anyone wonders why these candidates are missing in the video lineup of our 2008 election coverage.

SKSD to Host Legislative Roundtable

For those of you who haven’t been following the dialog about school funding in an earlier post, South Kitsap School District will host a legislative round-table at 6 p.m. Wednesday at which school board members will ask local candidates for the state legislature what they will do to provide for adequate funding of basic education. South Kitsap is part of a lawsuit involving numerous districts to, as SKSD board member Kathryn Simpson says, “compel the state to meet its obligations.”

RSVPs so far:

26th Legislative District

Position 1: Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard; Kim Abel, D-Port Orchard

Position 2: Marlyn Jensen, R-Gig Harbor; Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor

35th Legislative District

Position 1: Marco Brown, R-Belfair

Position 2: Fred Finn, D-Belfair

South Kitsap’s Levy History

I needed to make a correction on the story I wrote about South Kitsap School District’s upcoming levy.

Prior to passing its first four-year levy in 2001, the district failed to pass a two-year levy in February, 2000 (I had the wrong year). The levy failed again in April. In previous history, the district also failed to pass levies in 1994 (two strikes) and February, 1995. The levy passed in April, 1995, but the district encountered failure again in 1997 (two strikes) and in February, 1998, before the levy passed in April that year.

Looking at South Kitsap’s levy history since 1973 (below), it’s apparent why board members and levy supporters don’t assume passage of the proposed four-year levy on Feb. 3 as a slam dunk. Granted, as of 2007, passage of levies no longer requires a 60 percent “super-majority.” A simple 50+ percent majority is now the bar. But given the poor economy, South Kitsap voters’ memory of the Port of Bremerton’s tax for the new Bremerton marina, taxpayers’ concerns about the potential cost of the Bethel Corridor and other worries, the South Kitsap School Supporters heading up the levy campaign is taking nothing for granted.

The group is organizing now for the 2009 levy. Anyone interested in joining them, can contact Shawn Cucciardi, who’s heading up the effort, at (360) 895-0142 or e-mail

LEVY    May     1973    2580    1454    64.20%     Passed
LEVY    April    1974    2719    1996    57.60%     Failed
BOND    April    1974    2275    2430    48.30%     Failed
BOND    November    1975    4071    2766    59.54%     Failed
BOND    January     1976    4214    1810    69.95%     Passed
LEVY    April    1976    1601    2555    38.52%     Failed
LEVY    April    1978    1808    1192    60.20%     Passed
LEVY    May    1980    1312    1993    39.70%     Failed
LEVY    September    1982    4130    3998    50.81%     Failed
LEVY    November     1982    6684    5999    52.70%     Failed
LEVY    February    1983    2965    1621    *64.65%     Failed
LEVY    April    1983    3708    1617    69.60%     Passed
LEVY    February    1985    2908    1380    *67.82%     Failed
LEVY    May    1985    3738    1578    *70.31%     Failed
LEVY    February    1986    4162    2663    60.98%     Passed
BOND    February    1987    2722    1959    58.15%     Failed
BOND    May    1987    2621    2185    54.54%     Failed
BOND    February    1988    3993    1939    67.31%     Passed
LEVY    February    1988    4023    1930    67.58%     Passed
LEVY    February    1990    3458    1650    67.70%     Passed
LEVY    February    1992    4476    2124    67.82%     Passed
BOND    February    1993    3053    2910    51.20%     Failed
LEVY    February    1994    4265    3573    54.41%     Failed
LEVY    May    1994    5263    4122    56.08%     Failed
LEVY    Feb.    1995    6790    5442    55.51%     Failed
LEVY    April    1995    8325    4754    63.65%     Passed
BOND    May    1996    3834    6508    37.07%     Failed

LEVY    February    1997    6017    5737    51.19%     Failed
LEVY    April    1997    9053    6602    57.83%     Failed
LEVY    February    1998    11,855    9,580    55.31%     Failed
LEVY    April    1998    12,415    7,602    62.02%    Passed
LEVY    February    2000    10,275    8,811    53.84%    Failed
LEVY    April    2000    9,502    7,254    56.71%    Failed
4-YR. LEVY    February    2001    14,447    7,601    65.63%    PASSED
4-YR, LEVY    February     2005    12,526    7,133    63.72%    PASSED
BOND    March    2007    10,598    9,508    52.71%    FAILED

South Kitsap School District No. 402

Friday Afternoon Club: Food Co-op’s Fall Fair

“You don’t have to be a hippie, a vegetarian or part of the counter culture” to appreciate organically grown farmed food grown in a sustainable manner, accord to the Kitsap Food Co-op’s Web site.

The group includes “normal people of all ages who are tired of the industrial way our food is being grown,” the Web site states.

Members hope to start a cooperative grocery whose shelves are stocked with locally grown and produced foods. Until they can see that dream to a conclusion, you can find them from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays at the Bremerton Farmer’s Market. Also check out the Kitsap Sun’s Guide to Eating Local.

The co-op is planning a Fall Fair as a fundraiser from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Rodstol Lane Farm.

There will be cider press demonstrations, a pumpkin patch, music and vendors. Wear your tie-dye.

What is “Real” Barbecue?

People have been after me to do an update on the story of Fat Rascal’s Barbecue, which closed in March due to overdue taxes. The community stepped up to help owners Ben and Phyllis Howlett, but the restaurant remained closed. Donors are jaded.

Later today we’ll post a story at with the sequel. The news hook, as we say, is that a new family – also planning to serve barbecue — is getting ready to take chance on the waterfront location on Highway 166 that has seen number of restaurants come and go over the past couple of decades.

Gary Hobbs, the primary owner of Smokey’s BBQ & Steakhouse, said he’s not too concerned, even with the economy reaching new lows. Hobbs has been selling his hickory smoked meats from a mobile barbecue at festivals around the region, and his loyal following has been after him to open in a place they can find him throughout the year.

Hobbs says, when it comes to barbecue – make that “real” barbecue – the Northwest is the new South.  According to Hobbs, barbecue joints are the fastest growing segment of the Northwest restaurant scene.

“I think the public is becoming more educated about what real barbecue is,” Hobbs said.

“Real” barbecue is a whole ‘nother animal from the turn-and-burn school of cooking, said Hobbs. The meat is slow-cooked in savory sauces for the better part of a day, to the point it pulls apart in moist shreds that seem to melt in your mouth.

We may be getting educated, but I don’t think it takes a PhD to be a barbecue connoisseur. I had no trouble translating the sensory intent of the barbecue chicken sandwich I had at Grillside Mobile Barbecue at the Port Orchard Farmer’s Market several weeks ago. But I’m a newbie to the world of real barbecue. Maybe there are rules about methods and seasoning, subtleties of flavors, rituals of cooks of which I’m unaware.

Incidentally, Hobbs, who has met Phyllis Howlett, said he sympathizes with the couple. “Making barbecue”  – the term Ben Howlett used to describe his craft, much the way people talk about making love –  requires hours of slow cooking each day. It is indeed a grueling labor of love, Hobbs said. “People in the business know how hard it is.”
Hobbs, a Gig Harbor resident, said the fact that Fat Rascal’s parking lot was usually full whenever he drove by bodes well for his business prospects. From what he’s heard, Hobbs said, the Howletts were good folks who fell on hard times.
“They were wonderful people,” he said. “They had a great little business. They were running that thing seven days a week, and it’s hard to do.”