Kitsap officials concerned about trust

By Christopher Dunagan
Bremerton Sun Staff

 ENVIRONMENT
4/10/02
 
Bremerton, WA - Kitsap County commissioners knew they had a problem with public trust when, at one of the recent "speak-outs," at least three-fourths of the audience said they believed the county was working on a "secret" land-use plan.
 
In a study session Tuesday, trust was identified as one of the issues county officials need to address as they prepare for another round of speak-outs near the end of May.
 
The speak-outs are designed to help formulate an approach to protecting the county's natural resources as the population expands over the next 20 to 30 years.
 
The three speak-outs in March showed that people really care about the environment, but they don't want any more regulations than necessary, said County Commissioner Tim Botkin.
 
One of the most important questions, Botkin said, is to decide when regulations are needed and when voluntary actions are enough.
 
At one point during the speak-out in Port Orchard, a large portion of the audience raised their hands when asked if they thought the county had a "secret plan" to be implemented whether people liked it or not.
 
The three commissioners agreed Tuesday that people's mistrust of government is not easily resolved, but it helps to stick to facts.
 
"I was about to go out of my skin (at the speak-outs)," Botkin said. "... How many times people said things that simply were not true."
 
He said he felt county government was under attack due to the amount of misinformation going around including a newsletter by the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners, which said the county had passed hundreds of new ordinances, when only a few are even under consideration.
 
"That is not a collaborative effort," Botkin said. "That is an attack."
 
The next set of speak-outs could offer people a range of alternatives for protecting the environment from financial incentives to voluntary efforts to land-use rules, the commissioners said.
 
Counties are required under the state's Growth Management Act to update their critical areas ordinances. That's why the public sessions were planned.
 
But the Legislature recently relaxed the deadline from September of this year to the end of 2004, taking the pressure off.
 
The county commissioners also were negotiating a salmon-protection plan with the National Marine Fisheries Service, but they put those ideas on the back burner last fall to begin a wider discussion about natural resources.
 
Stormwater remains a primary issue, because too much runoff causes flooding, damages salmon habitat and degrades water quality. State rules require the adoption of a new stormwater ordinance by early next year.
 
"A big part of this is education," said County Commissioner Chris Endresen.
 
She talked of an acquaintance who owns 5 acres and keeps 2 acres in lawn yet he hates to mow the grass.
 
Lawns can increase runoff, and people need to know that they don't need to maintain a huge lawn to be a good citizen, she said. People can be shown new ways of doing things that help the environment with little or no effort, she added.


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