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SKIA petitions submitted to city

Promises that South Kitsap Industrial Area annexation petitions were bound for the city of Bremerton became reality on Tuesday afternoon as several property owners including the Port of Bremerton officially delivered proposals to the Bremerton City Council offices.

The city received the petitions, which encompass more than 4,300 combined acres, after the Port of Bremerton commissioners met at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning to decide whether or not to join to a petition prepared by other property owners in the area. (See related story on page A3.) The port property is labeled the South SKIA annexation petition, while the McCormick Land Company’s petition is the North SKIA petition.

“This will have the potential to be a great opportunity for the city and the SKIA property owners and the Port,” Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman said Wednesday morning.

The next step is having city staff complete an in-depth analysis of the area including the infrastructure needs and how those projects are going to be funded, Bozeman said.

Although the city conducted a preliminary assessment of the area in 2007, which included the potential for a NASCAR partnership, there are no guarantees, he said.

“The bottom line is that it’s got to be in the city’s best interest,” Bozeman said. “It’s exciting and it’s challenging.”

The challenge has already begun for the city’s Department of Community Development staff, which expects to have the preliminary assessment of the proposed annexation area completed by the June 16 city council meeting, DCD director Andrea Spencer said Thursday afternoon.

“At that meeting the council will have the option to accept, reject or modify the proposed annexation areas,” Spencer said.

The city’s 2007 SKIA assessment is a good starting point for the new analysis and provides a framework for the upcoming report, she said.

“At that time we didn’t know what parcels would be included,” Spencer said. “We didn’t anticipate the North SKIA. It’s a different geography and a different configuration.”

Council President Will Maupin echoed Bozeman’s excitement about the petitions and said that now the city can begin the actual work on determining the feasibility of the land acquisition.

“Until we received the petitions we couldn’t expend the resources to provide that analysis ahead of time,” Maupin said. “Now hopefully, we can end a lot of speculation.”

The petitions are signs that both the SKIA property owners and the port of Bremerton have recognized that the city of Bremerton has the capacity to provide the infrastructure to develop the area, he said.

“As far as the council goes, it has been one of our goals for several years to annex our Urban Growth Areas,” he said. “We have always believed it (SKIA) would become part of the city, but we don’t have control of the property. It’s up to the property owners.”

Maupin pointed to a recent city council decision regarding the city’s business and operating tax, which exempted port-owned industrially zoned property, as one of the keys for the petitions finally coming forward.

“We have always talked with the port about that area for years becoming part of the city, and the one barrier was always the B&O tax,” he said. “They said their businesses wouldn’t be happy about having to pay that tax if they were annexed into the city.”

Last month’s B&O tax exemption was a step toward the council’s long-standing goal of eventually totally eliminating the B&O tax throughout the city and not directly aimed at facilitating SKIA annexation, Maupin said.

David Overton, who owns 22 percent of the acreage in SKIA, agreed that the city council’s decision to exempt port-owned property from the B&O tax cleared the last remaining hurdle in the potential annexation of SKIA.

“If we’re annexed, we’ll have a three-year tax exemption and hopefully by that time, the B&O tax will be totally eliminated,” Overton said.

The submissions of the two petitions, both which included Overton-owned property, are the first step in moving the development of SKIA out of the theoretical realm and into the actual implementation of the original plans for the area, he said.

“This is something that’s been in the works since the beginning of SKIA,” he said. “The founding documents of SKIA talk about annexation and it took 10 years to get to this point.”

As the annexation process moves forward, Overton said private property owners will be working with city of Bremerton and the Port of Bremerton on developing a workable plan for the area.

“We have confidence that the city of Bremerton will be able to come up with a solid, real workable plan,” he said, adding that public/private partnerships will likely be key elements of any infrastructure plans.

The property owners in the area have already developed strong relationships with the city staff and the hope is that relationship will continue, he said.

“They know how to express their opinion and back it up and work through any issues,” he said. “They have great leadership in the executive branch, city council and staff.”

The annexation petitions come on the heels of a four-party quasi-jurisdictional plan led by the Port of Bremerton for development of the area proposed by Port Orchard Mayor Larry Coppola.

“We’ve read his plan and had it reviewed by our attorneys,” Overton said. “There are some aspects we don’t believe are legal. Annexation into the ciyt of Bremerton is the only legal option for us.”

That doesn’t preclude the city of Port Orchard from playing a role in providing services to the area, but it does prohibit Port Orchard from being the permitting jurisdiction for the area, Overton said.

Another SKIA property owner, McCormick Land Company president Doug Skrobut emphasized that the petitions are not project-driven.

“We’re not there yet,” Skrobut said.

The first step is clarify the land use agency, which in this case should be the city of Bremerton in keeping with state Growth Management Act’s mandate that urban areas be in municipalities, he said.

“This starts the ball rolling, so that when we are successful (in landing a major employer to SKIA) we will be ready,” Skrobut said.

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