PORT ORCHARD — Responding to the pleas of many, the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners has removed specific references to the Port Gamble Master Plan from the county's Shoreline Management Program update.
Commissioners and staff heard from about 30 residents at an Oct. 29 public hearing in Poulsbo, and received written testimony, expressing concern that Olympic Property Group was being given lower shoreline buffers for its proposed Port Gamble Master Plan.
Following commissioners’ deliberation two weeks ago, county staff was directed to remove the Port Gamble Master Plan language from the Urban Conservancy designation, county planner Dave Greetham said.
County Commissioner Rob Gelder said, “Listening to the testimony, there was a level of specificity that was included that doesn't really need to be there.” Instead, for projects within shoreline areas, the draft SMP will allow for lot and building size flexibility that will be applicable to all those submitting a master plan to the county.
The SMP will also retain the current buffers for the Urban Conservancy zone. The previous draft seemed to propose lowering the shoreline buffer in Port Gamble to 35 feet — where in other areas of the county the buffer was upward of 100 feet — if the developer proved the lower buffer was needed to develop the whole site.
The changes will keep the buffer — the distance between development and shoreline — at 50 feet for all properties in Urban Conservancy, and if a developer requests that number be lowered, it must show a net ecological improvement to the area.
"The only reason there was specific language about Port Gamble was the fact there was one owner [OPG], and they're planning to come in with a master plan for the redevelopment of that area," Gelder said. The board decided "not to treat one LAMIRD different than another.” LAMIRD is the abbreviation for Limited Area of More Intense Rural Development.
The communities of Suquamish and Manchester are also zoned Urban Conservancy.
OPG president Jon Rose said his company is satisfied with the proposed changes because OPG agrees with the 50-foot buffer. He said OPG did not propose that Port Gamble Master Plan language be included in the draft SMP; that language, comprising a list of uses at Port Gamble, was requested by the Department of Ecology.
Greetham said Ecology asked for the range of uses OPG is proposing for Port Gamble so Ecology staff would know what shoreline permits may be needed.
Greetham and Gelder said approval of the SMP would not have resulted in approval of the Port Gamble Master Plan; OPG must still submit its plan to several agencies for permits.
Rose said OPG is planning to submit the master plan by the end of the year. OPG proposes building a 100-room hotel, restaurant, shops and homes on the former mill site. Rose has said the plan will include beach restoration, dredging for wood waste, and removal of the former dock and creosoted pilings.
Many of the concerned residents are members of the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe, which is particularly troubled by planned development at Port Gamble. Chairman Jeromy Sullivan previously testified that development on Port Gamble's shores would negatively affect the bay and its wildlife, which are important to the Tribe culturally and financially.
Sullivan said the SMP is not the right place for Port Gamble’s development plans.
"It just didn't seem right. I'm glad [the board] is following their own process," he said, adding that he is still concerned the 50-foot buffer is not enough to protect the bay.
Gelder said the board will meet again in January to discuss the public's testimony, and another draft SMP will be released in mid-January. He said he thinks the final product will be "responsive yet flexible."
"It's important to have flexibility for any shoreline property owners, so they can be able to maximize their enjoyment of the coastline that we have," he said — balancing flexibility with the county's responsibility to retain current ecological function.