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Council approves updated CAO

The Bremerton City Council approved Wednesday its updated Critical Areas Ordinance 8-1 with Councilman Brad Gehring opposing. The vote ends a year of adjusting ordinance that seeks to create a balance between development and the environment.

Gehring asked for a continuance of the public hearing to further study the changes, including those made to buffer and setback sizes.

“The purpose of government is to protect the freedoms of individuals,” he said quoting Thomas Jefferson. He called the changes “no different than taking money out of (property owners’) pockets.”

Jeff Hecker, a local architect and waterfront property owner, questioned the buffers relating to waterfront homes along Shore Drive. Up until now the buffers were 25 feet, but the new CAO states they should be 35 feet and that a 15-foot building setback be added. This essentially doubles the buffer and leaves little land on these lots to build on he said.

“I ask you to consider the impacts of this,” Hecker said.

Andrea Spencer of the city’s planning department explained that the buffers and setbacks of an individual property could be changed if the owner provides scientific data to support it.

The Council opted not to delay a vote because of a looming April 1 deadline. If the deadline is missed, the city would lose its eligibility to access $8.5 million in possible grants and low-interest loans from the state’s public works board fund.

The full text of the CAO is available at www.ci.bremerton.wa.us.

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