Written public comment on the proposed Pleasant Harbor Master Planned Resort in Brinnon has been extended to 4:30 p.m. April 13, after Jefferson County commissioners presided over a three-and-a-half-hour public hearing April 9 to solicit written and oral comments from the community.
While opposition to the proposed resort development was represented by members of environmental groups, the Jefferson County Planning Commission and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, almost all of the self-identified residents of the Brinnon area who spoke that night did so in favor of the MPR.
Garth Mann, president and CEO of the Alberta-based Statesman Group real estate developer, described the deliberative process to date as “democracy at its finest,” even as several Brinnon residents asked why it has taken so long to implement the MPR, citing the work Statesman has already done to improve the Pleasant Harbor Marina.
After Brinnon resident Jim Watson praised Mann for his “amazing flexibility” in accommodating the county’s conditions, fellow Brinnon resident Charlotte Clark cited the “amazing lack of revenue” in the south end of the county, which she identified as leading to a localized economic depression and crime problem.
Rob Mitchell, another Brinnon resident, was one of the few to speak out against the proposed development, arguing that the majority of jobs that the resort would bring to the area would be seasonal or offer “poverty-level wages.”
However, he was countered by Port Ludlow resident Scott Hogensen, who deemed the development “a good expansion of the tax base” to help support social welfare programs, affordable housing, schools and emergency services while providing “a little relief to homeowners.”
Brinnon resident Victoria Marshall recalled her career in the hospitality industry to defend the environmental stewardship of the tourism industry in general, while saying how impressed she was with the environmental standards outlined by the Statesman Group in particular.
Lorna Smith was the first member of the Planning Commission to reiterate the concerns the Planning Commission already expressed to the county commissioners about what they saw as the lack of key details in the proposal, which led the Planning Commission to recommend the county commissioners deny the proposal until more information is supplied.
Port Townsend resident Julia Cochrane threw her support behind the Planning Commission, and recommended two of the “geologically and culturally significant” kettle pools proposed for demolishment instead be retained, and that the number of proposed units at the resort be reduced from 890.
Tim Cullinan, representing the Point No Point Treaty Council, which serves the natural resource management needs of the Port Gamble and Jamestown S’Klallam tribes, joined in criticizing what he referred to as the lack of “clarity, specificity or enforceable language” in the Statesman Group’s wildlife management proposals.
Judy D’Amore, speaking for the Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee, questioned why the Statesman Group’s stormwater management plan was not available for review, while fellow MRC member Dale Moses wondered who would be receiving the groundwater monitoring data that would be required by the proposal.
Marie Hebert was the first member of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe to speak, and worried what the runoff from the resort could do to vulnerable shellfish. She was joined by fellow tribal members Stephanie Sullivan and Laura Price, who described themselves as speaking not just for their own future generations, but also those of everyone else in attendance.
“If you kill a piece of Hood Canal, it’s so, so fragile that it’s not coming back,” said Sullivan, who was joined by her daughter Rowan. “I want the same opportunities for my children and grandchildren that I had.”
Tribal chair Jeromy Sullivan responded to those who pointed out the area Native American tribes’ real estate developments by noting that the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe observes far greater setbacks than those mandated by the law.
Tribal members were not the only attendees who voiced a desire to do right by younger generations.
“I’d like to retire,” Brinnon resident Mike Lagenbach said. “My wife manages the Brinnon Food Bank. We serve about 90 families a week, or about 250 people, in a community of 800 or 900 people. With the opening of this resort, and the jobs it would bring, we could finally retire from our jobs.”
Port Ludlow resident Bert Loomis cited statistics showing the increasing average age of the Jefferson County population, as well as the decreasing enrollment numbers of its school districts, two trends he argued must be reversed for the area to have a viable future.
Brinnon resident George Sickel was one of the members of the sub-area planning group in 2000 that met every two weeks for two years to eventually adopt the regulations for a future MPR. As a member of the Boeing Bluebills, he has distributed meals for the Brinnon Food Bank, and agreed there is “an employment problem” in the community.
“As a substitute teacher in this area for 20 years, I have experienced what poverty has done to these kids,” said Joe Baisch, another Brinnon resident who supports the MPR, and one of several to cite the free and reduced-price lunch program for area schools.
On a lighter note, Gordon Lacey was one of a number of Pleasant Harbor Marina users to report that oysters have begun growing in his bed in the wake of the Statesman Group’s improvements.
“I’ve got fish under my dock,” Lacey said. “I’ve even got sea lions back, because they’re after the fish.”
Port Ludlow resident Tim Radliff recalled the economic boom and bust of his native Midwest in the 1980s and ’90s, when cities were “so desperate, they were fighting over the rights to prisons,” and warned the county could share that same fate by rejecting this development.
Roma Call of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe responded by wondering at the wisdom of a deal made when so many Brinnon residents likewise described themselves as “desperate.”
She followed the remarks of Peter Bahls, executive director of the Northwest Watershed Institute, who urged the county commissioners to adopt only “a contract that protects the public interest,” adding, “The devil is in the details, and the details are not there.”
The hearing included testimony from two candidates for elected office: Jodi Wilke, running to represent the 24th Legislative District, and Dan Toepper, running for the Jefferson County Public Utility District Board of Commissioners.
“This gives our young people the chance to stay in this community, without living in poverty,” Wilke said.
“The amount of land that’s available in this county is limited and steadily shrinking,” Toepper said. “It’s thanks to the foresight of previous generations that we’re not all just tourists, but are instead residents of this county.”
By the hearing’s end, county Commissioner Kate Dean estimated that 46 attendees had spoken in favor of the MPR, and 19 had spoken against it.