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CAO takes hits from both sides

PORT ORCHARD — In what is described as an equitable distribution of discontent, the Kitsap County Critical Areas Ordinance faced new appeals last week from both ends of the political spectrum.

But the Critical Areas Ordinance’s (CAO) enforcing agency feels the ordinance will sustain any challenges.

“It is a controversial issue and we expected attacks from both sides,” said Jim Bolger, assistant director of the Department of Community Development. “But the previous CAO was appealed and we withstood those appeals.”

As of March 2, Bolger had not read the most recent actions in any detail, but had received summaries. He declined to comment about those summaries.

“This did not take us by surprise,” he said. “We will be prepared to make our initial response before the hearing examiner.”

The CAO is being challenged both by the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners (KAPO) and the Kitsap Citizens for Responsible Planning (KCRP).

For its part, KAPO maintains the county relied on global environmental studies that were not directly associated with or linked to specific conditions present in Kitsap County.

“We’re challenging the authority of our county government to simply make thousands of acres of private property off limits to the individual property owners,” said KAPO Executive Director Vivian Henderson. “We’re talking about removing control of millions of dollars worth of property from its owners without demonstrating either need or real benefit or providing compensation to the property owner. I cannot envision how anyone in America could find that kind of government action acceptable.”

KCRP spokesman Tom Donnelly, meanwhile, praised the CAO for its overall protections, but is filing his appeal based perceived shortcomings in the protection of shoreline areas and certain wetlands.

“I don’t think the best available science was used here,” he said. “The shoreline buffers and setbacks need to be higher than 35 feet and the exceptions for wetlands are too large. We need to protect these valuable assets for our community.”

Bolger expects hearings on both appeals to be heard in April.

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