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Bremerton City Council approves SKIA North annexation

One piece of the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA) puzzle appears set, as the Bremerton City Council voted 9-0 Wednesday in favor of the annexation of “SKIA North” into the city of Bremerton.

If the state’s Boundary Review Board for Kitsap County approves the annexation, the property would become part of Bremerton on Oct. 1.

The 150-acre parcel of land, owned by McCormick Land Co. and Alpine Evergreen Co., is the northernmost section of the 3,400-acre SKIA. The remaining acreage is owned by various private land owners and the Port of Bremerton.

Council members chiming in on Wednesday’s unanimous approval were optimistic about the land’s economic future.

“I think this will provide an opportunity for innovative industrial development in the area,” Councilman Mike Shepherd said, emphasizing the importance of sustainable building.

Council President Will Maupin said if the city and property owners work as a “team,” development should move swiftly.

Initial work on SKIA North annexation began April 22 when a “10 percent petition” was submitted to the city. Meetings followed before the county assessor completed a sufficiency review June 25.

“We’ve anticipated for a long time this area would annex into the city,” Maupin said.

While annexing SKIA North into Bremerton seemed a formality, the fate of the remaining 3,250 acres hangs in the balance.

Land owners and port commissioners launched the entire annexation process in April, but hiccups along the way have slowed the progress.

Bremerton and Port Orchard city officials believe the much-vacant land, which includes the Bremerton National Airport, will become an economic hotbed if and when development begins.

While much of the current debate surrounding SKIA annexation has focused squarely on sewer service provisions, Maupin said on Monday that it is too soon to make any commitments on the subject.

Currently the area is under the development regulations set forth in the 2003 SKIA subarea plan, which was amended in 2006, but if the two petitions are accepted by the Bremerton City Council, then that plan will become null and void, Maupin said.

“We will probably have to pass some temporary zoning until we can develop a subarea plan of our own,” he said, adding that the new plan will most likely be centers-based in keeping with the city’s current comprehensive plan philosophy.

As part of the subarea planning process, city officials will have to ensure that all 14 urban services required under the state’s Growth Management Act are provided, even if the city itself doesn’t actually provide the services and uses other agencies such as South Kitsap Fire & Rescue to provide fire protection services, he said.

“When it comes to fire service for the south area, it would be provide by South Kitsap Fire & Rescue,” Maupin said.

Although Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola and Port Orchard Planning Director James Weaver have made a case for Port Orchard providing sewer services to the area, Maupin said he is hesitant to make such a commitment until the subarea plan is complete at the earliest.

“Currently there is enough capacity to serve the area, but at some time in the future we are going to have make the decision that is in the best interest of the property owners without other residents of Bremerton being affected and us having to increase their sewer rates,” he said.

One idea on the table is for a stand-alone wastewater treatment facility to be constructed to serve the area and the use of treated effluent for the Gold Mountain Golf Complex and other allowed uses, he said.

“We don’t want to make any commitments on services until we have completed an in-depth analysis to determine the best way to provide them,” he said.

As for the conjecture that Bremerton is fast-tracking the annexation process, Maupin stated that the city is merely fulfilling its obligation to respond to the current annexation petitions as it would for any other annexation petition in the city’s UGAs regardless of their physical location.

One thing that has come from the current discussion is a reaffirmed commitment to clearly communicate with all parties involved throughout the entire annexation and land-use planning process, he said.

“We will be working to make sure no one feels they are being blindsided,” Maupin said, adding that a meeting with Coppola and Port of Bremerton Commissioner Bill Mahan Monday morning resulted in increased understanding about each entities’ point of view.

“It went well,” he said.

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