‘City of Suquamish’ hits a legal roadblock

SUQUAMISH — The Suquamish Incorporation Project hit a bit of a snag this week in its efforts to create a local government for the community.

While it is an issue that Matthew Cleverley, SIP chairman, said he knew he would have to deal with during the group’s attempt to incorporate the area, he didn’t expect it to come up so soon.

At a Feb. 18 Kitsap County work study session, county officials discussed the proposal and discovered Suquamish could not incorporate because it is designated as a limited area of more intensive rural development (LAMIRD). This land-use designation limits the amount of growth in a set area.

According to the Growth Management Act and other state laws, property must be designated as an Urban Growth Area before it can be incorporated as a city, according to an e-mail from Chief Civil Deputy Prosecutor Shelley Kneip to Department of Community Development Director Kamuron Gurol.

The Kitsap County Comprehensive Plan notes that an Urban Growth Area is an “area designated for urban development and to be served with urban services.” It also states that the state Growth Management Act requires UGA designations which are considered lands with intensive uses.

When the proposal became public knowledge earlier this month, the Board of Commissioners asked Gurol if the area could be incorporated if it wasn’t a UGA, North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen said.

Gurol called Kneipe and asked if the area could be legally incorporated with the LAMIRD designation on it. Kneipe then e-mailed Gurol a detailed message about the legality of the situation, concluding “it is legally impossible for an incorporation to occur in the Suquamish area because it is not located within a UGA,” confirming his initial thoughts, Gurol said.

This information was discussed at the Feb. 18 work study session.

Endresen called Cleverley after the meeting to tell him the latest.

Cleverley said he wasn’t surprised about the information, but he was surprised to see what he felt was a legal opinion come from the county.

“I’m not surprised because we knew it was going to be an issue,” he said.

While the idea of incorporating has been in the works for a year, the group recently made its thoughts public because Suquamish’s Sub-Area Plan is up for review this June.

By gathering public support now, Cleverley said he believes SIP will be able to support a revision to the comprehensive plan to change Suquamish’s current LAMIRD status into an Urban Growth Area.

“With the new developments with the tribal housing projects and casino and hotel, and some of those things that are out there, it probably makes more sense for the county to go ahead and change it to a UGA when they review the area instead of keeping it as a LAMIRD,” Cleverley said.

Endresen said she feels the SIP may feel the county is trying to hinder the group’s efforts.

“We’re not trying to block them,” she said. “I told Matt (Cleverley) that the county would give them all the information that they can.”

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