Ten Principles for the Preferred Land Use Decision

Ten Principles for the Preferred Land Use Decision

On March 26, the Kitsap County Planning Commission released its recommendation for the preferred land use alternative for the County’s 2024 Comprehensive Plan. We of the Kitsap Environmental Coalition (KEC) Steering Committee support the direction of the recommendation and we look forward to continuing to work with the County toward the completion of this Plan that will define the future of Kitsap. That work should be guided, we believe, by the following principles:

1) Prioritize climate and environmental conditions in planning for the next 20 years.

It is important to recognize that human action should include caring for people and the planet. Maintaining the health of Earth, on which our existence depends, must take precedence, and we should treat nature as the foundation of life itself, not simply as an asset for humans to use. Give high priority to the protection and regeneration of our ecosystems for the well-being of current and future generations of all Kitsap inhabitants, including wildlife.

 Environmental conditions are changing more rapidly and unpredictably than in the past, and we need to give more explicit attention to climate change and its impact on the County’s development. This includes reducing our county’s contributions to climate change and prioritizing resiliency.

One way to signal this priority is by putting the climate and environment chapters of the Comp Plan first. Another is to lead by example, visibly implementing smart energy use in county facilities and vehicles. Likewise, building public awareness and engagement through educational programs and incentives is essential.

2) Emphasize Land Use Alternative 2, which centers on concentrating housing in the core of the UGAs and focuses on the missing middle housing.

In stating support for Alternative 2, we need to simultaneously reject Alternative 3, which invites sprawl into rural Kitsap, and Alternative 1, which has promoted land development with minimal restraints. Committing to prevent sprawl may require hard choices such as removing or changing current zoning options. We must reject the assumption that landowners have the right to change zoning simply because they desire to use their land beyond what has been allowed, or wish to increase its value. Landowners should not assume they have the right to a change in zoning that may bring them more wealth at a cost to the environment and the health and well-being of others. We believe this change balances the existing rights of landowners with the need to protect our shared environment and the health and well-being of everyone in the county.

For example, the Port Gamble S’Klallam tribe calls for removing the Rural Residential (RR) designation from future zoning changes. Landowners would still maintain all their current rights to use their land within the current boundaries of the existing zoning, but it would remove that zoning option for the future. However, a policy action such as removing the Rural Residential designation for the future represents the responsibility of policymakers to balance the existing rights of landowners with the need to protect our shared environment and the health and well-being of everyone in the county.

Rural Kitsap is not just “vacant undeveloped land.” It is the habitat of many species and provides essential ecological functions that support the whole of the county and its residents, and contributes to the quality of life and the defining character of Kitsap County. .

3) Support affordable and vibrant communities, not solely affordable housing.

Growth should not come at the expense of current residents or our shared natural resources. Focus on retaining current Kitsap residents and their future generations ahead of efforts to attract people from outside the County. Similarly prioritize retaining the rich and diverse naturally functioning ecology that we still have.

Work with residents and developers to concentrate housing in the core centers of UGAs and provide missing middle housing appropriate for the location. Do this so that the outcome is affordable living not solely affordable housing. Urban density incentivizes retail commerce, restaurants, and entertainment which creates a vibrant, energizing atmosphere.

Work closely with the four cities in Kitsap County on implementation of the UGA focus for affordable living, transportation, and services offered by separate taxing districts such as fire, water, health, police, library and metropolitan park districts. Track building permits to monitor the actual progress of the goal of meeting the housing mandate for multifamily/ missing middle housing. There needs to be a system developed to stay on track before a 5 year look back.

4) Focus on Transportation that supports affordable living, healthy communities, and the natural environment.

Focus on reliable public transportation as well as non-motorized transportation infrastructure such as shared-use paths and bike lanes. Such transportation connects where people live, work, and shop rather than ones that are primarily for tourism or recreation. Balance tourism and recreation so that it does not draw resources away from the transportation needs of the residents. Consider protected bike lanes (also called cycle tracks) that are located within a street right-of-way but physically protected from it, often by a row of parked cars or planted strip. Consider slow-flow and yield-flow streets; when low-volume streets are properly designed for low speed, they can be shared among cars, trucks, and bikes without markings.

Collaborate with cities and the state on transportation issues. This collaborative approach builds connections within the county, with neighboring counties, and with the rest of the state, fostering a sense of unity and shared responsibility. By addressing the inaccuracies of traffic planning (WSDOT letter dated 2-26-24 – 20240229_DEIS_Comment_Matrix _p563—about the phased review, local roadway level of service (LOS) standards, and project funding), we can ensure a more efficient and effective transportation system for all.

Frame transportation as one type of connectivity that supports affordable communities and living and protects the environment. Consider where other types of connectivity (for example, internet connections) can reduce the need for physically transporting people from one location to another.

5) Prioritize diverse local economies that provide a living wage and quality of life for all residents and support earth’s regenerative systems.

Promote local economies that provide the opportunity to live and work in one’s community.

Support and strengthen local agriculture to ensure the economic viability of our farms, increase access to local food, and foster healthy, thriving rural communities.

Prioritize local businesses that foster community without compromising the environment. Create economic opportunities that revitalize and replenish our natural resources. Develop policies that encourage the establishment of businesses that benefit individuals and enhance biodiversity and resilience of native plant, animal, and fungi species, water quality and quantity, air quality, and food security for all species. Strive for overall ecological gains that offset any short-term losses.

6) Foster localized planning congruent with its land use zones and ecological conditions.

Honor the qualities of specific locations, environments, and all inhabitants, including wildlife. Add programs within DCD that monitor, measure, and quantify the impacts of development on critical areas and natural resources to make “no net loss” meaningful.

Incentivize all LAMIRDS, rural villages, and rural communities to understand the applicability of the Preferred Alternative to their situation and develop their own framework and strategy for their setting. Similarly, encourage neighborhoods within UGAs to rethink and plan for their situation with broad community/neighborhood engagement.

7) Assess the range of physical and ecological attributes in our entire Park system, defining both natural preserves and active recreation areas.

Large parks, especially the six Heritage Parks, are located close to most Kitsap residents and represent the essence of what it means for many to live here. The ecology of these important parks serves as habitat for critical wildlife, improves air and water quality, enhances resilience to climate change, and provides a variety of recreational opportunities.

The Heritage Parks specifically need plans that start by clearly identifying and describing each park’s suite of natural, physical, and public use attributes, and then work up from that base to determine appropriate needs and uses. (That process follows the existing PROS Plan policy which we support.) Only select those activities that can protect and restore the full range of diversity essential for life. Use the goal of “net ecological gain” in this work and involve the public, park users, and volunteers in that task.

As a start, engage an appropriate and broad range of people and perspectives to evaluate whether the Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park’s existing unapproved master plan/framework supports Alternative 2, versus 1 or 3. Redesign the plan, including resource assessments per the PROS Plan, with community perspectives represented and a transparent and fair planning process. Do not approve the current framework until this redesign work is done in light of the Preferred Alternative.

In the process of this work, ensure that guidelines and definitions for the multiple types of parks in Kitsap are developed with input from a broad range of people.

8) Revamp budgetary plans, capital facilities, and utilities to be consistent with the focus of affordable living and community within UGAs.

Our past priorities, such as heavy use of natural resources (Alternative 3) or single-family housing developments (Alternative 1), are outdated. Let’s shift our focus to community-building, a powerful tool to engage residents in service to our community, fostering a sense of connection and shared responsibility.

One example of where that can be done is with Parks. The parks need to be supported and protected, and volunteers are an important component of that support. They donate many hours of their time each year to that effort. That dedication should be acknowledged, and their participation and consultation should be encouraged by Parks. Essential though the stewards and other volunteers are, Parks also needs adequate funding to manage this important asset, and it needs to clearly identify both its current as well as future capital and operational needs, in a comprehensive master plan.  Some of this was laid out in the 2018 PROS plan, but that plan needs to be revised. Major projects should not be initiated in the parks until this work is done first.

Another example would be the apparent lack of agreement among various departments, administrators,  decision-makers, and the public about the Sound to Olympic (STO) shared use path.

9) Focus on public engagement of the full range of residents (ethnicity, economic, skills, interests) to build community, reduce financial expenditures, create new businesses that protect and restore the environment, and create greater civic engagement.
Ensure fair and just public engagement of the full range of stakeholders and residents of the county in decision-making that affects them. Conduct a review of advisory groups of all types to see if their representation and perspectives are in line with the focus of Alternative 2. Include monitoring processes, and greater education of the general public about what constitutes a healthy ecosystem and our individual and collective roles in supporting it. Ensure greater attention to the full range of types of people and perspectives needed.
10) Ensure the final draft Comp Plan is framed in terms of fulfilling the Preferred Alternative.
Reduce or remove the goals, policies, and strategies in the current draft Comp Plan that are incongruent with the Preferred Alternative, or support Alternatives 1 or 3. Consider structural changes in the county administration, with partners, and with local groups. Plan public education and engagement for late 2024 and in 2025 on how to jointly implement the plan. The plan is not the end goal. It is the beginning of new ways of functioning for everyone. Prepare implementation plans that engage us all.

You have a voice in the Comprehensive Plan Update:

Pointing handSpeak your 2-minute comment at the Board of County Commissioners Hearing on April 8, 5:30p, in-person or by Zoom.

Use the online forms at Kitsap County Comprehensive Plan Update to submit written comments on your chosen topic.