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Critical Area Ordinance talks continue Monday

The Kitsap County commissioners will hold a deliberative meeting on Nov. 28 to refine and ratify the final version of the county’s Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO).

The board will hold its regular meeting at 10 a.m. in its chambers at the County Courthouse in Port Orchard. After a short adjournment it will reconvene at 1 p.m. at the Givens Center to begin discussions about the CAO.

The meeting is open to the public but the board will accept no new testimony. For its decision, the board will draw from material submitted during a series of public hearings held by the Planning Commission, the county commissioners and combinations thereof.

Written comments are also under consideration.

Three separate recommendations are on the table. The Department of Community Development (DCD) submitted a staff recommendation that was also presented to the Planning Commission. When the Planning Commission could not come to a singular conclusion, the North Kitsap faction broke off and developed a “minority report.”

The county commissioners will consider all of these recommendations in their final document, which could become a hybrid of material presented by all sides.

The commissioners must ratify the final version by Dec. 1 or the county could lose some state funding or the ability to borrow money.

The CAO sets the county’s policy about wetlands and stream buffers. Those who favor a stronger ordinance say it is needed to protect the environment, while opponents characterize it as a land grab.

DCD has gathered all public testimony on its Web site, www.kitsapgov.com/dcd. Among this is an analysis of public opinion sating that of 156 people testifying, 76 favored the CAO while 80 opposed it. Of the opposition, half favored the strengthening of the CAO.

Whatever the decision, it will not lack for informed input.

Vivian Henderson, executive director of the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners (KAPO) said the commissioners have enough information to make a well-informed decision (and said her own organization helped to supply much of this data).

“I won’t make any predictions because I’m usually wrong,” Henderson said of the possible outcome. “But I’ve been involved with planning commissions since the 1980s, and this is the first one that really does their homework.”

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