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Proposed development hits a roadblock

When Stanley Smith looks at his property behind Arby’s Restaurant on Wheaton Way, he sees an ideal location for duplexes; however, Bremerton city planning officials see things differently.

That difference of opinion has Smith considering ending his relationship with the city and moving on to Seattle instead of continuing investing in Bremerton.

“To me it doesn’t make sense to have single-family homes sandwiched between Arby’s and duplexes,” Smith said. “But that’s the only thing the planning department is telling me I can build on my property.”

When he purchased the property last year, Smith said he was told that it was zoned as a commercial property but that he could possibly have the zoning changed with the implementation of the city’s new comprehensive plan.

“They told me at the time that as long as I met the rules, I could change it, so at that time I was meeting the rules,” he said. “I bought the whole thing with the understanding that I could put it to duplexes.”

Smith said he was told by Chris Hugo, the city’s director of community development that once the new comprehensive plan is implemented, changes possibly could be made within about a two-year period.

“I’ve got a significant amount of money invested, and I’m paying taxes on something that I can’t use,” he said. “I can’t wait that long.”

However, Hugo said that when Smith purchased the site it was and still is zoned for office buildings, not duplexes. When the new zoning regulations are implemented, the property will be zoned for single-family residential.

“We are going to see anomalies in zoning as we transition from where we are to where we are going to go,” Hugo said.

While the department of community development is concerned about and is empathetic to Smith’s situation, its staff believes single family residences are viable options for the site, he said.

“If I thought the zoning needed to be changed, I would be the first one suggesting we correct the situation,” he said.

The city’s new comprehensive plan is designed to help lower the percentage of transient housing in Bremerton, which is almost double the national average, he said.

“The comprehensive plan does not include the expansion of the rental market, and duplexes tend to be places that do not add to a stable environment,” Hugo said.

Smith, who currently owns 40 apartment units in the city, said he had bids on two other apartment complexes, but his current situation has forced him to reconsider his options.

“I’ve got $11.5 million that I’m willing to invest in this city, but if this doesn’t work out, I’ll invest elsewhere,” he said.

In addition to his desire to build duplexes on the Hanford Avenue site, Smith said he is willing to build to whatever the city’s housing needs dictate.

“I’m willing to do whatever the city wants, if I can just get some help with this project,” Smith said.

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