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Bremerton’s all about annexing SKIA

t City, county elected officials still sparring over SKIA.

PORT ORCHARD — The process of annexing the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA) into Bremerton is one step closer after a Monday meeting between commissioners from Kitsap County and the Port of Bremerton, landowners and municipalities.

“This has been very frustrating,” said South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel, about the effort to attract industry and jobs to the 3,400-acre site. “We don’t want to stand still anymore. We need to make some progress.”

Three landowners, who were in favor of annexing the site to Bremerton, addressed the meeting. Throughout, they invoked the specter of the NASCAR track Kitsap County might have attracted, only to see the project abandoned when organizers decided last year it wasn’t worth the trouble.

“We lost the opportunity for NASCAR,” said David Overton, who owns the land where the track was to be built. “I don’t want us to lose that kind of opportunity again.

“I am frustrated. And 90 percent of this frustration has to do with the fact that the only process we have is to discuss the process. This becomes a loop. At some point, we need to move forward and not just sit at a table talking.”

Port of Bremerton Commissioner Cheryl Kincer said she has met with several companies interested in SKIA, but they require adequate roads and sewers in order to commit to the area.

“There is a lot of general interest,” Kincer said. “But no one will go any further until we have the infrastructure.”

The county commissioners were involved because they have to agree to relinquish control over the unincorporated land for an annexation to take place.

The other requirement is the support of landowners representing 75 percent of assessed land value. Overton and the other landowners favor Bremerton’s proposal, saying, “It’s the only choice that makes sense.”

All three county commissioners are open to the annexation idea, although Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown said it was important to make sure the process does not adversely affect future zoning changes.

North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer said it was clear the county could not provide the necessary infrastructure and the best choice is the one that provides the most jobs.

He added that cities should be willing to annex less-desirable properties and eventually claim all of the land in urban growth areas.

Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola, who last week released a proposal that suggested a four-way partnership for the management of SKIA, was given a place at the table to present his idea.

“This comes down to money and who will share in the sales tax and the revenue. I am the only one who has presented a plan as to how this can work. It is up to those at the table to take a look at this and say why it won’t work. If time is of the essence, then let’s get it moving,” Coppola said.

Coppola believes annexation of SKIA by Bremerton violates a memo of understanding made to the city of Port Orchard. After Coppola spoke, Overton said he felt “sad” and that he “heard a threat” in Coppola’s presentation.

“There is only one alternative,” Overton said. “This isn’t just in my mind; it has to do with the law. We can only annex to Bremerton, because it is the only area we are contiguous to.”

Asked directly whether he would oppose SKIA’s annexation by Bremerton, Coppola said,” I have said everything that I’ve got to say.”

Bauer and Brown both said they were worried about the annexation being put on a “fast track,” because they had not heard much about the proposal until recently.

Overton differed with this characterization, saying that he had been working on the idea for some time.

“We started all this 10 years ago,” he said. “This was an initiative by private landowners, not a move by the city of Bremerton. If there was a fast track, we would have submitted an application and not notified anybody.”

While the Port Orchard delegation included city council members and planning staff, Bremerton City Council Chairman Will Maupin was that city’s sole representative.

Maupin didn’t offer any particulars about developing infrastructure, but said the city’s Public Works staff could accommodate any infrastructure installation.

Because Coppola made his presentation on Monday, a meeting previously scheduled for Friday to discuss his proposal was canceled. The next step is the Port of Bremerton meeting at 10 a.m. on April 22, at which time the annexation proposal will be discussed.

“If we make SKIA happen, it will take some leadership,” said Port of Bremerton Commissioner Bill Mahan. “We need to stand up and make a commitment.”

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