Idea factory churns at Speak Out

KINGSTON — Tax breaks for property owners who follow the rules and consistent penalties for those who don’t topped the list of items that rolled off the assembly line Wednesday night at North Kitsap’s idea factory, also known as Speak Out.

The Kingston Junior High Commons transformed into a maelstrom of notions on how to educate, regulate and offer incentives to balance development and natural resources.

The second round of the Kitsap County sponsored Speak Out trilogy focused on shaping ideas rather than voicing opinions. About 40 people attended the forum. Small groups were formed and, over the course of about an hour, ideas were jotted down. Each group then presented its thoughts.

Department of Community Development director Bruce Freeland watched the groups as they identified at least three new incentives to make it easier for property owners to respect the community’s interest in natural systems; listed three ways to more effectively educate the public about natural resources; and named three things the county must do to protect the resources.

Freeland explained the phenomena of the small group dynamic, which was also used to come to a consensus in Silverdale.

“People started off in different camps and came out in some agreement,” he said.

That held true when the groups presented their ideas for further shaping. Most of the groups mentioned tax breaks for land considered unbuildable or a critical area.

“Maybe the land should tell us where to live instead of just looking at the map,” Walter Elliot said as he explained how growth should be directed to non-critical areas.

People also suggested the county look at developing a website devoted to natural resources regulations and information. One group said school credit should be offered to students who make efforts to protect the environment.

Annie Humiston’s group suggested a watershed of the week should be featured in the newspaper.

“A lot of people don’t have any idea of what watershed they live in,” she said.

To educate the public, her group also suggested including information in utility bills.

The Speak Out forums seek to bring balance, but when asked how the teeter totter looked at this point Freeland said that most people could agree that they are concerned with the protection of natural resources.

In the first Speak Out session, 20 percent of the respondents said the county does too much to protect them and 45 percent said it does not do enough.

County staff and interested citizens will take these ideas this summer and develop them into proposals. This fall the proposals will be unveiled in the last Speak Out meetings.

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