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It’s not easy being green

Bald eagles, although no longer an endangered species list, are still protected by state and federal law. - File Photo
Bald eagles, although no longer an endangered species list, are still protected by state and federal law.
— image credit: File Photo

t Bald eagle beats builder

to the punch.

KINGSTON — Regulations ensure developers walk a fine line balancing nature and projected county growth.

With the state’s Office of Financial Management Web site projecting a moderate county growth of 314,000 people in 2030 — up from the 2005 census of 240,000 people — more homes are needed to house newcomers.

However, there still needs to be room for nature.

John W. Johnson of the JWJ Group LLC is currently waiting to hear from Kitsap County Hearing Examiner Stephen K. Causseaux Jr. on whether he can develop 26 single family homes in Kingston. The problem is, a bald eagle has stalled progress by setting up residence where the new houses are proposed.

Although no longer protected by the Endangered Species Act, the bald eagle is still protected by two federal laws, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, as well as one Washington state law, The Bald Eagle Protection Act adopted in 1984.

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the state law focuses on protection of eagles’ nesting and roosting habitat.

The development, “Kingston Cedars,” covers close to five acres and is located at the intersection of Ohio Avenue and Sunny View Lane.

Rick McNicholas, planner with Kitsap County Department for Community Development, said the eagle nested in a grand fir after Johnson bought the property.

“This is a very popular place for eagles,” McNicholas said. “The Kingston shoreline is prime eagle habitat. There is another nest not too far away.”

Due to protection orders, the project had to follow a comprised eagle management plan, which ensures minimal impact on the eagle and reasonable land use to the property owner.

The plan, which states development can’t occur within 400 feet of the nest, was already accepted by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“It pretty much has to be accepted before we go to the Hearing Examiner,” said Mark Kuhlman, Team4 Engineering and project representative for the site. “It can be nullified if the nest is empty for at least five years.”

Because of the 400-foot buffer, Johnson is leaving about one acre in open space.

Johnson, who has lived and worked as a developer in the area for 24 years, developed three other projects: Kingston Meadows, Montclair Park and Elizabeth Landing, all with nature’s interests in mind, he said.

“The GMA (Growth Management Act) requires a minimum of four and a maximum of nine home-sites per acre,” Johnson said. “If you only do the minimum, you aren’t doing your part to create homes for the growth; but if you do the maximum, you start taking away more trees and natural land.”

Debra Purcell, project manager for the JWJ Group LLC, said not a lot of people realize the guidelines set for developers are written by the GMA.

“The GMA requires development to occur in urban, not rural areas,” Purcell said. “It helps prevent urban sprawl and development from happening haphazardly. It helps to plan streets and utilities efficiently.”

Purcell said residents often think that undeveloped land is a private park or open space when in reality they are the remaining “islands of land” in an urban area left for development.

“By developing in urban areas, as far as planning goes, it looks like a good, efficient system on paper but when it happens in your own backyard, all the sudden it doesn’t look so good,” Johnson said. “I understand that.”

The individual lots he expects to create are 40 feet by 80 feet. The houses are estimated to be built two stories tall, averaging 2,200 square feet.

Local Kingston residents trekked out to Port Orchard on March 27 to attend the Kitsap County Commissioner’s public hearing to speak on both sides of the issue.

Main concerns other than the eagle’s nest were voiced about groundwater runoff and landslides.

The development is located 400-500 feet from the bluff, which has endured numerous landslides, eroding away the hillside.

“The concern for shallow perched ground water has been a concern for decades and is well known and well documented,” Kuhlman said. “The town grew more to the south historically than north because of that.”

Because ground water saturation causes problems with stability, the development plans for a sewer and direct discharge of storm water through storm drainage pipes.

“Water is really the grease of a slideplane (landslide),” Kuhlman said.

Most of the sewer systems in the area are currently underground septic systems.

“The concern is septic systems add more water to the ground that doesn’t get there by natural processes,” Kuhlman said. “When their drain systems fail, they will have the ability to hook up to ours.”

Dave De Bruyn, 62, who lives on the bluff below the development, attended the public hearing in support of the sewer and storm water drainage plans.

“I guess we are really in favor of Cedars because not only do we get sewer on the land but we get the (unnatural) water out of it,” De Bruyn said. “They are doing what no one else has ever done. They are talking to us and this is a dream come true.”

Johnson said he has gone through development plans six times to make it the most ideal for the community.

“I am a part of this community and I’m putting my name on these projects,” Johnson said. “It’s a challenge to deal with these issues in a positive way that is good for the community. A big corporation isn’t going to care about this community. They aren’t going to live here, but I am not going anywhere.”

When construction is under way, some new additions are planned for Ohio Street. “It is not safe to walk on Ohio Street now,” Kuhlman said.

The street, which now has a bordering ditch and little room to walk, will get a wider gravel shoulder to be used as a pedestrian path.

The path isn’t a big cost and it is something that will benefit the community, Kuhlman said. “Although it’s not our responsibility to fix existing deficiencies, we were able to do improvements as part of our utility work.”

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