White Horse plodding on despite repeated appeals

KINGSTON — Two groups that appealed this summer’s decision on the proposed White Horse development had a small victory this week.

At the same time, the Kitsap County Commissioners helped move along the 12-year-old proposed planned unit development (PUD) Oct. 6.

The 450-acre property in question is owned by Bainbridge Island residents Bob and Janet Screen and is located north of Indianola Road and west of South Kingston Road. The couple wants to subdivide the property into 224-single family residential lots with common open space.

However, obtaining project approval from the county has been tough and outside groups have been appealing project decisions since its application was submitted in 1991. This hurdle was no different, but there were winners’ circles across the board this time.

Both the Suquamish Tribe and North Kitsap Coordinating Council spoke before the commissioners Sept. 22 regarding Kitsap County Hearing Examiner Stephen Causseaux’s July 25 pre-application approval of the PUD.

The groups appealed the decision to the commissioners on two separate issues.

During the Oct. 6 decision-only meeting, commissioners announced their findings of fact after examining the decision and the applicants’ and appellants’ cases. The county sided with Suquamish in its appeal of the decision.

The tribe claimed its official comments submitted to the Hearing Examiner were neither considered for the decision nor officially entered into the record.

Tribal officials said the letter was faxed to the county by the Hearing Examiner’s deadline but it was rerouted to the wrong office, creating confusion as to where it was officially supposed to go. The board recognized this confusion but felt the county erred, commissioners stated in their decision.

The board decided to remand “the appeal to the Hearing Examiner for the limited purpose of considering the tribe’s letter and revising his opinion, if necessary, in accordance with that review.”

A final response from the Hearing Examiner is expected on Oct. 27.

The tribe’s comments stated its concerns about the amount of public water available to serve the new development.

The NKCC appealed the Hearing Examiner’s decision on eight issues, including major changes that were made to the 1996 approved plan without going through the county approval process for planned unit developments.

The organization also claims the forest clearing that took place last winter was done without proper permits and that a buffer around the PUD needs to be redesigned.

Commissioners denied NKCC’s first seven appeals, but asked the Hearing Examiner to revise its decision on the eighth issue. The final issue regards the buffer redesign on a public pathway through the development.

NKCC claimed the proposed site plan shows portions of the path to be located within buffers rather than in general open spaces.

The group asserted that the path violates certain requirements for the trails, buffers and adjacent roads and asked for a redesign of the plan to comply with all conditions of approval.

Commissioners also asked that Causseaux revise his decision “to clarify that in those areas where the pathway is shown to be built in the buffer, it will be built at the edge of the buffer furthest away from adjoining property owners.”

A formal decision to revise and clarify that issue will be made Oct. 27 by the commissioners.

Prior to the announcement of the decisions, Commissioner Chris Endresen said she felt decisions made on White Horse were rushed, which is why the project is still going through the approval process today.

“In the case of White Horse — the Screens have been granted the right to go forward,” she said during the meeting. “While I may have decided some things differently, I respect their rights, the court’s decisions and the Hearing Examiner’s decisions in the case.

“Granting an appeal at this point does not stop the project — it would only continue the delays,” Endresen added.

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