Killing economic development in Kitsap

While our attention has been diverted to the national debate (is it really a debate when only one side gets to talk?) and the unintended consequences of a “Cash for Clunkers” program, your county planners and commissioners remain hard at work fixing “problems” for you and me. Unfortunately, working under the radar of most citizens, the commissioners are beginning to implement the policies they agreed to under Puget Sound Regional Council’s Vision 2040. The most immediate stealth effort is to significantly reduce or eliminate the opportunity for industrial development in rural areas of the county. There is no indication what the problem is, just an assumption that such development is bad. If the Commissioners are successful in implementing the proposed zoning changes, a significant amount of property will be devalued and opportunities for reasonable economic development in the county will be eliminated.

Under current zoning regulations, land designated as “rural industrial” is available for a large number of economic uses. Those uses are generally common to uses also permitted in areas zoned as urban industrial. The proposed zoning revision would effectively eliminate nearly all industrial development of rural lands. One property owner observed that about the only industrial use permitted under the proposed regulations would be a cemetery. In addition to prohibiting future industrial development of the designated rural lands, the proposal would make all current development of those lands “non-conforming,” a bureaucratic euphemism for eventual elimination. The outcomes under the proposal will be to force any future industrial development into urban areas, to slowly eliminate existing rural industrial use (and the jobs that go with it) and further reduce the attractiveness of Kitsap as a “business friendly” community. The proposal, when implemented, also will result in an immediate and significant reduction in the value of property currently zoned rural industrial. If the property cannot be used for the purpose for which it was legally and properly purchased, the owners will suffer a direct financial loss that is not the result of free market forces, but of a political agenda in action.

You may ask why this rezone is required and expect there is a clear and logical answer. Don’t hold your breath. The reality is the proposal is just one more step in the ongoing effort to concentrate population density in urban areas. Current land use planning policies are based on the concept that by concentrating population and employment in urban areas the demands for infrastructure and transportation will be simplified. That might be the case in a perfect world with utopian minded drones as the populace. Unfortunately, that planning model avoids reality and the concept of individual choice. Once again the planners and the commissioners have a solution in search of a problem.

In Kitsap, a large portion of our current economic base and industrial potential is in rural areas. Eliminating that industrial base by rezoning is illogical. Assimilating current rural industrial development into existing designated urban areas for the sake of artificial compliance with planning policies makes even less sense. Hanging the hammer of “non-conforming” over existing industry replaces the opportunity for growth and expansion with a high potential for financial failure. Reclassifying “rural industrial” to “urban industrial” does nothing to modify either infrastructure or transportation impacts, but does subject existing and potential businesses to increased regulation and tax burdens. While it is evident the intended outcomes of the proposal are directly contrary to the stated objectives, the unintended consequences of the proposal are much more severe. How many more businesses have to close down or leave the county and the state to make it clear that the political agenda of the “Smart Growth” followers is not consistent with sound economic principles or the successful business model?

It is time for the commissioners to take their heads out of their PSRC planning “bibles” and face the reality of life. Just because you were exposed to something in college or a planning seminar does not make a concept viable in the real world. We live in a real world. We can’t stand any more of your utopian agenda. Enough is enough.

Jack Hamilton can be reached at gradiver@wavecable.com.

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