Conference Center/Hotel enters fast lane planning

So just how doable is the proposed conference center/ hotel/parking complex near the waterfront?

The Kitsap Coounty Public Facilities District has promised $6.9 million in a one-time sales-tax rebate to Bremerton’s project — provided the city breaks ground on or before Dec. 31, 2002.

When it comes to government bureaucracy, a year is not a lot of time. The deadline is state law. If the city doesn’t make the deadline, it doesn’t get the cash. Without the cash, the project’s dead.

Bremerton’s dream project is one of several designed to redevelop downtown and reignite the city’s economy. Building and Planning chief Chris Hugo is convinced it’s a lock.

“We’re going to pull this off. There’s plenty of time,” said Hugo, who felt ground could be broken as soon as this summer.

He admitted there are a lot of bureaucratic steps to be completed:

l The mayor must organize a project team. (This has already been done. The team is headed by local attorney Gary Sexton.)

l The city team must identify a private partner for the estimated $15.2 million project. (Hugo said there’s a long list of developers wanting to participate. The B&P chief has already assigned one of the city’s new planners the full-time job of working on the project.)

l Once a developer-partner is in place, planners will have to develop a working site plan. (A preliminary site plan was already developed to secure the PFD funds.)

l Because the project is close to the water, a shoreline conditional use permit must be acquired from the state.

l The plan must pass the requirements of SEPA — the State Environmental Policy Act.

l A commercial site plan review and basic building permit review must be OK’d by the city. This involves examination by Planning Commissions and an OK by the Council.

l Kitsap Transit owns part of the site, and although it has already gone through a successful National Environmental Policy Act review, that review may have to be examined again.

As for what officially constitutes “breaking ground,” Hugo said that has yet to be determined. It may mean just what it sounds like: Moving earth and starting construction. Or it may mean something as simple as relocating current tenants from buildings to be razed.

New Mayor Cary Bozeman also believes it can be done, though he expressed more nervousness about the timeline.

“I just know it’s a lot more complicated a project than people (realize),” said Bozeman. “We’re already six months behind as it is. I’m not ready to celebrate yet — but we all agree we can pull it off.”

Bozeman said he had doubts about the project while on the PFD board prior to becoming mayor, but “I like it more now with the idea of a developer bringing in his own capital. And I was worried about the general operating debt, but I’m now convinced we can do this with no impact on the (city’s) general fund.”

Former Mayor Louis Mentor oversaw a smaller project — the city’s Boardwalk — that surprised him, and other city officials, with its complexity and the difficulty in getting it built.

“The Boardwalk was over the water, and that made it more difficult,” he said. “We worked with even more entities” than listed by Hugo, he said.

Mentor said the Boardwalk had to adhere to conditions set forth in the Shoreline Act and had to pass muster with both state and national fisheries regulators.

“The Army Corps of Engineers was involved, the Department of Transportation ... the current (city administration) won’t have as much to deal with, but whoever you have to deal with, it just seems

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