Brinnon speaks out on comprehensive plan

Viviann Kuehl viviann.kuehl@gmail.com
Posted 11/15/16

Sewer hookup, Internet service, community center space, resort planning, and the county’s permit service were the major topics at a Jefferson County Comprehensive Plan review in Brinnon on Nov. 2, …

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Brinnon speaks out on comprehensive plan

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Sewer hookup, Internet service, community center space, resort planning, and the county’s permit service were the major topics at a Jefferson County Comprehensive Plan review in Brinnon on Nov. 2, attended by about 40 people.

“We’re glad to see you all here,” said Cynthia Koan of Port Townsend, who chairs the county planning commission. “We’re here to hear you.”

Commission members Kevin Coker, Richard Hull, Mark Jochems and Michael Nilssen introduced themselves. Not attending were Lorna Smith, Tom Giske, Gary Felder and Matt Sircely.

The county is required to do periodic updates of the plan, explained Koan, and the unpaid planning commission is in an advisory role to the three elected county commissioners.

“The board usually listens to us, but they don’t have to,” said Koan.

Joel Peterson, associate planner with the Jefferson County Department of Community Development (DCD) reviewed the comprehensive plan process and some of the planning challenges. DCD drafts land-use policy and regulations, shepherds proposals through the public process, and implements policies and regulations adopted by the Board of County Commissioners. The DCD reviews building and land-use permit applications and coordinates regulatory responsibility with other county departments and state and federal agencies.

SEWER SYSTEM

Several people spoke about the need for viable sewer system options, and the need for clean water. Presently, Brinnon businesses and residents are on septic systems.

“First, of vital importance to this Brinnon’s future is expanding services of the sewage treatment facility that is currently supporting only the Dosewallips State Park,” commented resident Christina Maloney. “Without sewage treatment service for at least the downtown Brinnon area, our town is suppressed.”

She claimed that the county's Environmental Health Department “has single-handedly stopped any business in the downtown area from making improvements to their properties, retrofitting, expanding, remodeling and even hiring additional employees.”

Brinnon residents and business owners understand the value of clean water and healthy shellfish beds, and many want to connect to a sewer treatment facility, Maloney said.

“In order to protect our water, wildlife and tourist industry, we must hook up downtown homes and businesses to this treatment facility, but we need the county’s help. First, this needs to be a top priority for the future of Brinnon and Jefferson County. We will need the time and will of our county commissioners and will need help obtaining grants and developing partnerships to make this possible. After getting hooked up to this facility we can help Brinnon’s small-business owners revitalize our downtown hub, create jobs, and improve water quality of the Dosewallips River and Hood Canal.”

Residents and recreational-business owners Don and Diane Coleman support tapping into the state park's sewer system, which is south of the Dosewallips River from the town's business district.

“It’s reasonable to ask the state parks, since they are paid by taxes,” said Diane Coleman.

Koan said the planning commission visited the treatment plant in January and noted its extra capacity.

Joe Baisch, a Brinnon business owner, said Jefferson Public Utility District officials had promised to work on it after the election. The PUD manages a variety of sewer systems.

Resident Fred Stern spoke on the sewer system and the decline he’s observed in water quality over the years.

“In Carnation [Washington], the goal was to cram more people in smaller and smaller spaces,” he said. “I’m hoping this town will have smarter planning.”

“The septic process has gone totally astray,” said resident George Sickel about septic system rules, which the county intends to more strictly enforce to prevent pollution. “People attend the free classes, then they do their inspections, and when they go to file, they find they have a $65 filing fee. It’s like another tax has been added to rural residents.”

INTERNET NEEDS

Cindy and Terry Germaine said Internet service in Brinnon is so slow as to be nonexistent. Many in the audience agreed.

Coker said that if a new law classifying Internet as a utility is passed, then the PUD could address the issue.

Baisch said he’s seen the impact of poverty in his work as a substitute teacher. “We have to consider youth,” he said.

COMMUNITY CENTER

The community center has space not being used, said resident Nicole Reagan. The upper floor of the county-owned building, a former motel, is in good shape but has asbestos problems, and a space for medical service is not being used, she reported.

“Kids are our future; we need to have activities,” said Reagan.

Resident Steve Walker said, “We don’t lack commercial land here. The county doesn’t owe us commercial land. The county owes us health care. We don’t need a lot, but we need that.”

Jefferson Healthcare is the public hospital district serving East Jefferson County.

RESORT ZONING

Several people expressed opinions on the Statesman Group's proposed 265-acre master planned resort at Black Point 2 miles south of Brinnon, both for and against.

“I oppose the resort because I support economic development,” said resident Mark Rose, who referred to mistakes made 15 years ago. “How do we get out of the cycle of irresponsible planning?

“To understand my concerns regarding this project, one can simply read the letter written by the Jefferson County Planning Commission to the Board of County Commissioners dated July 6, 2016. This letter iterates all of my concerns and opinions about the proposed resort very eloquently and completely. One key point being that the project as planned is not appropriately scaled for this community, nor does it reflect the character and values of the surrounding area and Olympic Peninsula as a whole,” Rose said.

Project supporters contend that South County could use the economic development opportunities.

The county commissioners are to decide the project's future.

COUNTY PERMITS

Ron Polacek complained about the cost of the county permit process in trying to replace his 29-year-old stairs down to the beach.

“They’re in dire need of repair, and we want to rebuild. We can’t get a repair permit,” he said. “It’s not fair that we can’t put in new stairs. It cost $100 for 15 minutes of county time, then $300-$400 for two or three hours, and that’s just the start of it. It’s thousands of dollars, and we haven’t even started.”

“A lot of people have had restrictive experiences with the county,” noted resident Victoria Marshall.

Lack of affordable housing in South County can in part be tracked to an intimidating permitting process, said Muriel Murdoch. “They can be not so strict with the fees, and be a little more friendly with people.”

“We’ve heard that repeatedly,” said Coker. “For the most part, we’re stuck, but keep saying it, because that’s what we want to hear, and we’ll keep writing it down.”

“Customer service is one of my top goals,” said Patty Charnas, who began work in July as the county DCD director, “but I’m still getting my feet under me.”

“We can have a great plan, but you guys put handcuffs on us," said Jim Watson of Brinnon. "We love this land, we don’t want to pollute, but it’s hassle, hassle, hassle. I’m so glad you’re here. Thank you for your work."

The planning commission encouraged further comments, which can be posted online at speakupjeffco.com.

“Meeting in a Binder” is also available to citizens to aid independent meetings.

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