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Council solidifies police move, ponders tax break

On the heels of a decision on where Bremerton municipal courts will move, the City Council solidified plans for the relocation of the other tenant of the former City Hall building on Fourth Street in an 8-0 vote Wednesday.

The decision approves the bid of Berschauer Phillips of Tumwater to do the work on the Kitsap Credit Union branch on Burwell Street near Warren Avenue to make that site suitable for the city’s police department.

Berscahuer Phillips submitted the low bid among just two applicants, at slightly less than $1.5 million.

“Berschauer Phillips has a long history of working with ... public projects such as this one,” said Gary Sexton, development projects administrator for the city, in endorsing the firm’s bid.

The Council agreed and approved the bid unanimously, with Councilwoman Wendy Priest absent from the meeting.

While that vote was quick and easy, that was not the case for the matter of a proposed ordinance giving a 10-year tax exemption to developers of new multi-family housing projects.

The law would assist developers in providing such properties where they otherwise might be hampered in doing so by financial concerns and help the city achieve desired density in urban growth areas.

However, public comment from J.J. McCament, a consultant to John Stephanus, president of Armco Group, Inc., the owner of Bremerton Gardens, and from Stephanus himself gave the council more to consider in regards to adding rental housing to the ordinance.

McCament presented data to the council showing a proposed 200-unit and structured parking addition, along with significant upgrades to the 181 units currently making up the complex, simply would not be financially viable without the tax incentive.

“If competitively priced, people are going to move out of (substandard) housing into the nicer housing,” McCament said. “When you eliminate for-rent residential, you are sheltering existing substandard housing from competition.”

County Commissioner and Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority Chairwoman Patty Lent agreed the inclusion of rental property into the ordinance would create a higher standard in the city.

“Bremerton has come a long way because of the action (the council) has taken in the past,” Lent said. “By including apartments which have on-site managers, it would set and raise the bar for rental properties.”

Stephanus told the Council while they may miss out on property taxes from an improved Bremerton Gardens, the city would benefit from sales tax on the purchases of 200 families new to town and utility taxes on their energy and water use.

Councilman Will Maupin expressed support for what Stephanus, McCament and Lent were proposing.

“We’ve made a few bold moves that have worked well. I don’t think this is the time to quit doing that,” he said. “We talk about affordable housing and it’s difficult to get affordable housing in today’s housing market. This allows people to get in the door ... not everybody has the cash in hand to buy a condo.”

However, Councilman Adam Brockus, who represents the Manette district where Bremerton Gardens is located, leaned the other way.

“I think home ownership is what we’re trying to accomplish here,” Brockus said, adding that the added apartments are “not conducive” to the changes going on in the district.

Councilwoman Carol Arends moved to indefinitely postpone discussion of the matter to give the Council more time to consider the new information presented to them. Council members Mike Shepherd, Brad Gehring and Cecil McConnell voiced their support for the motion. The four grouped with Dianne Robinson in a 5-3 vote in favor postponement with Maupin, Brockus and Nick Wofford voting against.

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