Kingston's Village Green project moving forward

KINGSTON — Kingston is going green.

Kingston’s Village Green and Community Center project with green parks and open space, that is.

Nearly two decades ago in 1991 the Kingston community and Kitsap County representatives began to notice the old sewage treatment plant located off West Kingston Road, adjacent to the tennis courts, was becoming obsolete.

Since this realization, community members and business owners had the idea to leave the approximate 14-acre parcel of land as open green space and parks.

Over the years the idea grew to much larger proportions.

“It was rather modest in comparison with what we’re talking about doing now,” said Bobbie Moore, executive director of the Kingston Community Center Foundation (KCCF). KCCF is a nonprofit organization spearheading the Village Green project and was founded in 1999.

Nowadays the scope of the Village Green and Community Center project includes totally replacing the existing dilapidated 75-year-old, 7,900 square-foot community center and 1,300 square-foot library.

The current community center sits on a traffic island in the middle of State Route 104 and ferry hubbub. The library is comparable in size to the living room of a one-bedroom house; not nearly an adequately sized library for a growing community.

The replacement building, to be located at the Village Green site off West Kingston Road, is 23,000 square feet and includes an 8,000 square-foot library.

The planned construction will house space for youth activities, before-and-after- school programs, a commercial kitchen, a senior center, and areas for public meetings and events.

The new facility is expected to serve 15,000 individuals, and 40 low-income senior housing units are slated to be built adjacent to the community center. The parks space will incorporate walking trails connecting to Kola Kole Park and the downtown business core.

“We like to think of it in terms of social capital,” Moore said, surveying the site Tuesday. “It’s an investment in the community’s future.”

The project is under way, however, community building ideas only become more than a beautiful vision when there’s supporting capital.

Thus far $275,000 has been raised through local efforts. Kitsap County’s committing all reimbursement funds from the $1.75 million Navy housing purchase to Village Green. Navy housing was purchased in 2006 and torn down to make a green space/park in the front portion of the 14-acre plot.

Moore, County Commissioner Steve Bauer and three other Village Greeners were in Olympia last week lobbying legislators for additional funding. The nonprofit is hoping to secure $1-1.4 million from the state or $1 million in federal dollars, as a large infusion of money is needed for a site survey, engineering and architecture.

Moore is hopeful and confident about the trip to Olympia.

“We talked with both senators and representatives and it was great. They were all very responsive,” Moore said. “There’s no question in my mind we’ll get money for it. The question is, who will give us a big amount?”

A source of operating money also is needed.

Moore said the aim is to form a Metropolitan Park District (MPD), the boundaries of which would be slightly larger than the Port of Kingston taxing district. If an MPD is approved by the voters it would be limited to $35 to $50 per year equaling about 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

“It seems as though the local community is really in favor. The only opposition is from those who don’t want any taxes,” Moore said, adding an MPD won’t be on the ballot until they’re absolutely sure it will pass. A petition campaign will take place in the summer to nail down certainty.

Similar to the funding piece, lead responsibility for the project and land is up in the air between the county and KCCF.

The open space/park area where the Navy housing once stood will be useable by this summer, Moore said, but whether it will be left with the gravel road running through it and parking spaces or grated and planted is undecided.

Kingston citizens want the road to be left, as that requires minimal grating and therefore less money, leaving more funds for a larger building project. The county, on the other hand, Bauer said, contends it could be years before a larger building project comes to fruition. He is concerned if the road and parking are left the county will be responsible for enforcement.

“The county doesn’t want to be taking on a responsibility where we say, ‘This wasn’t our idea, but we’ll take responsibility,’ “ Bauer said. “At the same time we want to make an investment now so people can use it and that is doesn’t create a nuisance that all of a sudden the county gets calls to enforce.”

Bauer said the parties involved will be meeting to reach a decision on the road and he’s proposed turning entire responsibility of the project over to KCCF.

Regardless, Moore is positive either construction will have begun or the project will be near completion in 2011.

And Bauer praised KCCF for its work and the partnership between Kitsap County and KCCF.

“It’s tremendous, it’s the best example of a public public partnership. The county doesn’t have the resources to do what the area needs,” Bauer said. “We need to do everything we can to try and help them be successful.”

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