Bauer, county let Kingston down

The Downtown Kingston Master Plan should have been a slam dunk.

By the time it came before the Board of County Commissioners for approval in December it had been vetted for more than a year by the Kingston Citizen Advisory Council, with the help of county staff. It had drawn a rave review from the county Planning Commission, whose members had tromped through Kingston to see how the plan’s visions for zoning and streetscapes could reshape the downtown.

So it’s no surprise that Advisory Council members felt betrayed when the County Commission sent back the bulk of the plan Dec. 14.

Their frustration poured out Wednesday evening as Commissioner Steve Bauer explained how a sure thing had been shot down. Bauer listed off the plan’s shortfalls in the eyes of the commissioners, including problems with parking and stormwater regulations, and its “ferry-centric” vision for the town.

In reality, it was the county process that was flawed.

No red flags were raised by county staff or the commissioner as a team of volunteers agonized over the plans the board would eventually deem inadequate. A final warning should have come from the Planning Commission. Instead it gave a commendation.

Bauer said confusion led the Planning Commission to review the plan as “conceptual” when the Board of Commissioners wanted it to be action-ready. That two county bodies reviewed the same plan using different criteria is an inexplicable miscue.

Facing a hail of criticism Wednesday, Bauer admitted the obvious. The county had “screwed up the execution.”

Wednesday’s two-hour venting session ended with a constructive result.

The Advisory Council will begin revising the downtown plan with renewed involvement from county staff and personal input from Bauer.

It’s a chance for the county to make good.

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