The Port of Bremerton Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Thursday to take another month to consider its options before possibly petitioning the City of Bremerton to annex the South Kitsap Industrial Area.
“I’m not opposed to looking at annexation with Bremerton, but there isn’t any rush to to do this — we can take a ‘pause,’” said Commissioner Bill Mahan, explaining that he thought the port should seriously consider a suggestion by Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola that a “quasi-jurisdictional management structure” be created to allow all interested parties, including Kitsap County and the cities of both Port Orchard and Bremerton, to participate in developing the area.
“Mayor Coppola put a good idea on the table and we need to take a look at it — we would not be responsible if we didn’t,” Mahan continued, describing the exploration as due diligence. “We should open our minds, (because) if we don’t explore all the options, we can’t say if what we chose is the best idea or not.”
However, David Overton, whose family owns a significant section of SKIA property — 22 percent — said he was strongly in favor of both partnering with Bremerton and moving that process forward quickly.
“For me there is an urgency,” Overton said, explaining that the Bremerton City Council has taken steps toward waiving for SKIA tenants the business and obligation (B&O) taxes it normally opposes, and has the item on its agenda for March 19.
“I challenge the port to be as responsive,” he continued, explaining that he was worried about the message the port would send to Bremerton officials by delaying progress any further to consider an option that he said was “not legal (because Port Orchard is not contiguous), and may not exist anywhere in the state.”
Those issues aside, Overton also said that when it came to acquiring the necessary permitting required for moving forward with development, he would prefer to partner with a city with Bremerton’s experience and track record.
“We need to be in a jurisdiction that is the most effective agency as far as permitting, and clearly that is the city of Bremerton.”
Board President Cheryl Kincer agreed that the port should be moving the process forward.
“SKIA is a gold mine … (but) the clock keeps ticking, and we owe it to our people to start moving forward,” Kincer said. “I’ve been here for 10 years, and we’ve be talking about this for that long. I don’t feel like we’re rushing into it.”
Kincer suggested placing the petition to annex to Bremerton up for a vote in April.
“We could still pull it back at any time,” she said.
Commissioner Larry Stokes suggested taking the next four weeks to consider the options, then voting on the petition.
“The cold, hard facts are that time is money,” Stokes said. “If we start right now and looked into it, we’d get some awful good proposals. My real concern is the message you send to the City of Bremerton.”
The board then voted unanimously to consider the petition to annex with Bremerton at its second meeting in April.