Urban-rural split divides officials - Growth management debate ongoing


By Christopher Dunagan,
Bremerton Sun Staff

7/8/04


Kitsap County, WA - One of the oldest arguments in the growth-management debate still kindles a fiery discussion, as city and county representatives found out Tuesday while struggling to settle on population targets for the year 2025.

It's all about pushing future growth into the urban areas of Kitsap County. Ultimately, it will affect planning policies to make that happen.

On Tuesday, the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council nearly deadlocked, as members debated whether the urban growth areas including cities should keep trying to absorb five-sixths of the county's total growth.

That split, which amounts to 83 percent, has been on the books for years, yet the urban growth areas are barely absorbing half the county's growth.

County Commissioner Chris Endresen stressed that the 83-percent split was just a goal and should remain so.

"If you don't meet your goal, you shouldn't lower it," she said. "You should work harder to meet it. The cities have to have certainty to invest (in roads and utilities)."

Endresen's fellow commissioners, Jan Angel and Patty Lent, said it was time to be more realistic. Lent said the county has too many undeveloped lots in rural areas to hold the growth to just 17 percent of the county's total.

Figures developed by city and county planning officials anticipate nearly 87,000 people moving into the county by 2025, with 72,000 of that going to urban growth areas. That's based on an annual growth rate of 1.28 percent.

Chris Hugo, community development director for Bremerton, said the cities have all indicated how much growth they can take, based on acceptable plans to build new roads, sewer lines and water lines. If the county takes a larger percentage of that new growth, then the urban growth areas might not need to be as big as they are.

Poulsbo City Councilman Dale Rudolph said, "If we don't build the infrastructure or plan for the infrastructure, then the growth (in the city) won't happen."

But if the city spends millions of dollars for new sewers and expected growth doesn't come, he said, "we will be left holding the bag."

The state Growth Management Act is designed to encourage growth in urban areas, where it's easier and cheaper to extend streets and sewer lines. At the same time, the law calls for protecting rural areas and saving natural systems.

Rudolph said people talk about the "quality of life" they find by moving to rural areas, but if they keep spreading out through the countryside, "What about the quality of life for the people already here?"

Endresen said county officials need to talk to city officials about policies that encourage urban growth. "We need to help the cities reach that goal," she added.

Then the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council made up of county, city and tribal representatives tried to reach consensus on an urban-rural split for a public hearing July 27.

Angel called for a 70/30 split between urban and rural growth, meaning a lot more growth for rural areas. Lent agreed. Bill Knobloch, Bainbridge Island councilman, went along with that, but they were out-voted by the majority. Lent then offered a proposal for a 76/24 percent split for five years or another period, but that idea failed, too.

Those voting to maintain 83 percent of the growth in urban areas Endresen and most city representatives did not have enough votes, either, because the KRCC's procedural rules require approval by two county commissioners for any action.

The deadlock was broken when Christine Rolfes of Bainbridge Island proposed that 65 percent of the county's population be living in urban areas by the year 2025. What she didn't say was that to meet that goal, 83 percent of the population would need to move to urban areas over the next 20 years the exact number proposed by the planners.

Lent and Angel voted in favor of that motion. Angel later said she was confused about Rolfes' proposal, but Lent maintained that she voted for it just to get something ready for the public hearing.

Reach Christopher Dunagan at (360) 792-9207 or e-mail cdunagan@thesunlink.com.

Range of growth

This is the range of possible population growth for Kitsap County by 2025, according to the state Office of Financial Management.

Low 268,573

Intermediate 331,571

High 412,391

Population history

County

Year population

1960 84,176

1970 101,732

1980 147,152

1990 189,731

2000 231,969

2003 237,000*

2025 318,832*

* State Office of Finaincial Management estimates

Source: Kitsap County

 

 

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