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County commission delays decision on North Kitsap Legacy Partnership agreement

PORT ORCHARD — The Board of County Commissioners put off a decision on a guiding agreement for the North Kitsap Legacy Partnership on Monday as it sorts through opposition from the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe and other North Kitsap residents.

The board postponed indefinitely a decision on a memorandum of understanding between the county and Olympic Property Group, which outlines basic principles of the partnership and the process that will be used to move the plan forward. The goal of the partnership is to transfer 7,000 acres of North Kitsap timberland into public open space, while allowing denser development in the town of Port Gamble.

The Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe opposed many parts of the partnership, including the concentration of new construction above Port Gamble Bay. Commissioner Steve Bauer said the county and Olympic Property Group plan to meet with the tribe before moving ahead with the partnership agreement.

Members of the group Friends of Port Gamble Bay also voiced concern over expanding the town of Port Gamble at the public hearing Monday. Olympic hopes to add several hundred new homes to the uplands above the town, along with new homes and businesses in the townsite and waterfront.

Friends of Port Gamble Bay member Gwen Thomas said the wooded upland area proposed for development should instead be preserved.

"That's where all the animals are," Thomas said. "It's the most pristine part of Kitsap County."

Poulsbo resident John Willett urged the county to adhere to sustainable forestry in the future parkland. The county is considering harvesting trees from the 7,000 acres to help pay for upkeep of the parks.

Willett said a well-managed forest should provide money for the parks and new jobs, while protecting wildlife habitat.

The Board of County Commissioners did not set a hearing date for the memorandum. It will continue to take comments and meet with community groups.

Olympic Property Group President Jon Rose said the partnership has a challenging road ahead but its goals are worth working for.

"That land is going to be used forever if it's put into public," Rose said. "It will be used by very few if it's sold into private estates."

Updated information on the North Kitsap Legacy Partnership can be found at www.nklp.org.

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