Hearings loom for 110-home Illahee project

Illahee resident Jim Aho does not find the Timbers Edge development plan convincing.

The development, first proposed in 2005, would be located off Fir Drive near Nobles Lane.

The proposal calls for the construction of 110 single-family homes on 3,400 square lots on about a third of this 36-acre area.

The rest of the site, which consists of steep slopes and other features incompatible with development, would remain wilderness.

The Illahee Community has appealed the project multiple times, with hearings set at Kitsap County Superior Court on Jan. 8 and at the Shoreline Hearing Board on April 12 and 13.

“It comes back to the principle that you don’t put a high-density development in a critical area,” Aho said.

Because Jim James, owner of Beach Drive Development LLC, applied for the building permit prior to 2006, the county’s zoning law allowed a maximum of five to nine homes per acre in the area.

The county has since returned to its pre-1998 zoning law of allowing one to four homes per acre.

The development calls for about seven homes per acre.

Aho said the development will inevitably reduce the amount of stormwater in the area, hence reducing its ability to recharge the Illahee Creek aquifer.

The Illahee Community also estimates about 15 percent of the flow would be lost into nearby Illahee Creek, according to research done by two University of Washington geologists hired by the group to assist with the appeal.

“The goal is to have the best science we can so we are not a bunch of NIMBYs (not in my back yard),” Aho said. “We admit it’s a small creek, but we do have salmon and steelhead there.”

The Illahee Community contends that a proper environmental impact statement was never conducted on the site, a point of contention that led to the Kitsap County Commissioners attaching 90 conditions to the development relating to various environmental concerns when they denied the Illahee Community’s appeal in October.

But Mark Kuhlman, engineer for the development with Beach Drive Development LLC, said an environmental impact study was included with the original permit, but the county decided it was unnecessary for the project, providing a “mitigated determination of nonsignificance.”

“So far, the record has shown that we have complied with the law all the way through,” he said. “It was an extensive and intensive review process.”

The development includes a proposed mile-long sewer system to ensure stormwater continues to flow into the creek, he said.

Aho said increased drainage ponds and other bio-infiltration system is far more efficient and in line with the state’s push for low-impact development, a key aspect of its Puget Sound Partnership program to improve the health of the Puget Sound.

“We don’t know how they can infiltrate 100 percent of that water with that density,” Illahee Community member Linda Hinde.

As Kuhlman sees it, the project already passes any measure for low-impact development.

“An aggravation of the Illahee Committee is that they do not want to hear it, they don’t want to accept the conditions of the approval will protect the environment and the community,” he said. “You need sewer systems in urban areas.”

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