Belfair planning group chooses MAKERS to assist with efforts - Seattle company will use consensus process to 'shape future for the next 100 years'

By Kevan Moore, Belfair Herald
forwarded from Mary Swoboda, editor, Common Sense Mason

November 14, 2002

Belfair, WA - The Belfair Subarea Planning Committee has selected MAKERS of Seattle to help them shape the future of Belfair.

The group chose the consulting firm at a meeting last week and county officials are in the process of finalizing a contract with the company which has offered to come up with a comprehensive plan for Belfair at a cost of $109,210.

The decision to go with MAKERS came after the planning committee whittled their choices down from 10 consulting firms and interviewed representatives from four firms two weeks ago.

RON HENRICKSON, the county's new administrator, calls MAKERS "the state's premiere firm" and says they are a good choice for the subarea planning committee which he says "will shape the future of Belfair for the next 100 years."

"Given the experience and expertise they bring to the table, the county is confidant the committee will accomplish the goal of formulating a sound and workable long-term plan for the Belfair community," he wrote in a letter to the group.

The Belfair Subarea Planning Committee was appointed by the county commissioners a little over a year ago, in which time they've raised over $100,000 through private donations and matching grants. The committee's role is to work with the Mason County planning and public works departments and outside consultants to come up with a "master plan" that addresses land use, zoning regulations, streamlined permitting solutions, economic development, transportation, capital facilities, parking, housing, environmental protection and urban design issues.

THE MAKERS proposal identifies seven keys to success, including the building of community consensus, energizing the local economy, improving pedestrian and traffic circulation, shaping growth carefully, conserving and connecting resources, protecting Belfair's unique characteristics and strategic implementation of regulatory and redevelopment actions.

Marni Heffron, who has her own transportation consulting company called Heffron Transportation and regularly works with MAKERS on various projects, told the committee she's excited by the prospect of working in Belfair.

"You're early enough in your growth as a place that you can keep things from happening to you like in Pierce County where they didn't have a vision and there's roadways willy-nilly and driveways everywhere," she said. "When I drive through those communities I think about how fast I can get out of there."

JOHN OWEN, WHO is the point person for MAKERS, told the committee that the biggest challenge his group faces while working in any community is building a consensus.

"It's getting everybody on the same page, at least in principle, as to how the community is going to grow," he said.

Henrickson agrees and is optimistic.

"WE REALLY hope through the planning process that the community can agree to what the future will look like because you could do remarkable things in this community," Henrickson said at a separate meeting last week. "It will take incredible coordination and effort to pull it all together, but it's possible. The technical stuff is really very easy. It's just getting community consensus building that will be the hard part."

Henrickson went on to say that MAKERS is up to that task. "That's one of the advantages to MAKERS that I see. They are experts in economics. They are experts in park development. They are experts in transportation. That's one of their charges to find out what's possible."

OWEN HAS ALSO told the group that any future sewer system in Belfair makes planning efforts all the more important.

"The sewer line is coming and that's the thing that's going to put the pressure on your area," he said. "So, it's important to have a plan in place.

But that sewer system gave at least one member of the planning committee enough reason to pause. Ken VanBuskirk, who spent his working years with the Department of Natural Resources, abstained from voting for any consultant until the county gets voter approval on siting decisions for a sewer and treatment facility. In a prepared statement, he also opted to wait on hiring a consultant until there is a resolution and progress on the Belfair Bypass.

"FOR THE COUNTY administrator to tell us to disregard the bypass is both arrogant and presumptuous," he said of Henrickson's earlier instructions to not choose a consultant based on any bypass considerations.

"It's not inappropriate to consider that in the long term that some bypass might be constructed," Henrickson had told the committee. "The focus today, though, should not be on the bypass. You are charged by the county to do something and you've been given a task and the bypass is not a part of it."

Peter Merill Jr., another member of the committee called that statement "absolutely ridiculous." He called the bypass an obvious sore spot between north-end residents and the county and said the committee should be granted more leeway by the commissioners to act independently.

"WE'RE NOT A rubber stamp group and we want to have some power and authority," he said.

"Everyone in this room can recommend a plan and the county commissioners may not adopt it," Henrickson responded. "They will adopt what they feel is the consensus for the community."

Merrill said he and the other committee members had been working for too long to have Henrickson telling them what to do.

"We clearly don't need the lecture," he said.

BY THE TIME last week's meeting rolled around, though, MAKERS was the clear winner among committee members. Other sub-consultants working with MAKERS will include MacLeod Reckord which will be dealing with landscape and open space issues and ECONorthwest which will provide an economic feasibility study.

MAKERS will hold a kick-off meeting during the committee's next meeting between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 26, in the North Mason School District board room at the base of the hill below Hawkins Middle School.

© Belfair Herald


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