It’s “see something, say something” time for leaders of Kitsap County who are looking ahead to changes projected by city and county officials.
Kitsap and its cities are in the midst of developing changes to their comprehensive plans, which serve as blueprints for the future of the communities for 20 years. The plans take into account things such as land use, employment and population, among other things, to help influence future decisions.
Business leaders had a chance to hear early reports relating to the plans from Bremerton planning manager Garrett Jackson and county special projects manager Eric Baker at the Greater Kitsap Chamber luncheon Nov. 16.
Jackson said increasing population will be a major data point in the city’s plans moving forward. Population estimates indicate Bremerton will grow to 63,757 people, an increase of over 30%, by 2044. Bremerton’s current population is estimated at 44,122 as of July 2021.
“It might seem outlandish at this point that we would grow to that size,” Jackson said. “But we’re actually on track or have been in the past with these population allocations.”
That data would mean a boost of an estimated 25% increase in jobs within the same time period. Jackson said it will be important to demonstrate these topics in the city’s comprehensive plan.
“Primarily, we do that through zoning,” he said. “So if we have a lower density, and we show that it won’t absorb all of our projected population, then we need to look to where those densities can be increased.”
Baker’s presentation went more in-depth on housing density and living options for county residents. He said the county has struggled to get higher densities in urban areas and what jurisdictions have done to give Kitsap such a heavy presence of single-family residences.
“Historically, jurisdictions have focused on how much single-family residential we are going to have, how much multi-family residential we are going to have,” he said. “Now we have to focus on housing by income.”
The mission for county officials now becomes how to ensure an individual or a family making 80% of the annual median income can afford to rent or own a house when some single-family residences are not affordable at even 120%.
Baker said the county could begin looking at incorporating more duplexes, triplexes and other multi-family residences into the urban areas “as those are, on their face, oftentimes more affordable than detached single-family.”
Baker also touched on the growth of Silverdale and how it could play host to some of the multi-family growth. With Silverdale being largely driven by medical and commercial business, he said a low residential presence has been rough on local business at times.
The possible move to increase multi-family housing in Silverdale is not something that is meant to be anti-retail, but Baker said it’s about bringing retail next to residents to strengthen the community and the businesses already there.
“It really is valuable to have folks living where they’re working and where they’re shopping. COVID shows that many businesses struggled. When people stopped shopping in Silverdale, they stopped eating in Silverdale. They stopped doing a number of things in Silverdale,” he said.
Comprehensive plans for Bremerton and Kitsap County are due to be adopted by December 2024.