By CHARLES MELTON
The Bremerton City Council took major steps to shape the city’s future as it approved the city’s parks and open space plan, the city’s non-motorized transportation plan and downtown subarea plan Wednesday night.
The three plans provide the framework for implementing the city’s vision presented in the 2004 comprehensive plan.
The parks plan was the first on the council’s agenda as city parks director Wynn Birkenthal presented the basics of the plan, which includes not only improvements to existing facilities, but adding new parks and open spaces in the city’s unannexed Urban Growth Areas as they become parts of the city.
Some aspects of the plan will be delayed by the failure of the city’s parks levy in November, Birkenthal told the council.
“Instead of taking five years to implement, some of this could take 15 years,” he said.
In light of the levy’s failure, the parks department is seeking to increase resident ownership of neighborhood parks and the department has also taken aim at community groups to assist in the effort, he said.
“The Kiwanis Club has money set aside for improvements to Kiwanis Park and those are the types of things we’re looking for,” Birkenthal said.
City Parks Commission member Bill North told the council that the entire parks commission supports the plan and urged the council to approve it.
However, before the council could vote on the plan, Councilwoman Wendy Priest raised a question about the feasibility study for a community center in West Bremerton.
“If it’s not on the capital projects list it won’t get funded,” Priest said.
When the issue was put to a vote, the council unanimously moved the Westside community center project to the capital projects list on the parks and open space plan.
Before the council voted on the actual adoption of the plan, Councilman Cecil McConnell said the plan has value beyond outlining the future development of the city’s parks system.
“Without this plan, we haven’t been able to get funding from grants,” McConnell said. “It looks good and it should help us get grants.”
City engineer Mike Meacham was the next city staffer to take the podium as he presented the nuts and bolts of the city’s non-motorized transportation plan.
“I believe this is the first one for the city,” Meacham said.
The plan focuses improving pedestrian and bicycle safety throughout the city with a special emphasis on the Safe Routes to School program, he said.
“We feel this is very important and those projects are at the top of our list,” he said.
The plan provides tools for the city and developers to use to make the city a safer place for both cars and pedestrians, Meacham said.
Councilman Mike Shepherd said the plan couldn’t come at more opportune time for the city as there has been a significant increase in the number of close calls between pedestrians and vehicles.
Fellow Councilman Adam Brockus agreed that the plan is vital for the city as continues its rapid growth.
“I fully support the plan and it’s very well thought-out,” Brockus said. “It’s pretty good work.”
While the majority of the council appeared poised to support the plan, Councilman Brad Gehring expressed some serious concerns about the implementation of the plan.
“A lot of it falls back on the taxpayer and the taxpayer been carrying the majority of the load,” Gehring said. “The devil is in the details in a lot of things.”
When the plan came to a vote Gehring was joined by McConnell in his opposition to it, as the council adopted the plan by a 7-2 vote.
Much was made of the Highland Avenue overlay in the downtown subarea plan in the week leading up to Wednesday night’s meeting, but when the public hearing was opened, few concerns were expressed by the public.
Kitsap County Historical Society Museum curator Jane Roth Williams encouraged the council to preserve the remaining historic homes on Highland Avenue.
The city needs to do another inventory of those properties as part of the preservation aspect of the downtown subarea plan, Wllliams said.
Priest agreed that historic preservation is important especially along Highland Avenue.
When the subarea plan came to vote, Gehring and McConnell were once again in the opposition, as the majority of the council adopted.