Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Over the past few years we have fielded numerous questions regarding the Timbers Edge project and it appears they will continue until the issues are settled or the project is completed. It is time to assemble the questions into one document. These FAQs are intended to provide responses to the most commonly asked questions. If you have a question not included here, or simply would like to discuss particular concerns or questions further, please do not hesitate to contact us.
1. What is Timbers Edge? Timbers Edge is a 100 plus home project of a larger (phased) development being planned in Kitsap County off of Fir Drive in the Illahee Community.
2. How big is the project site? The project site is comprised of 5 pieces of property. Three are next to Illahee Creek in the riparian zone and total 25.47 acres. The other two parcels are inland and total 10.84 acres. The total area of the five pieces is 36.31 acres. The actual buildable area by county calculations is 11.07 acres for the riparian pieces and 8.33 acres for the inland pieces for a total of 19.4 buildable acres.
3. How big is the development? The development is being done in phases, with the current project being the first phase, and covers roughly 13 acres according to our estimates. According to the project plans the future development tract is to the west which is roughly 6.5 acres. So the next phase or phases are roughly half the size of the present proposed project.
Note: It is interesting when the developer’s representative or even the county gives density numbers they say it is 110 homes on 36 acres, never mentioning the much smaller buildable acreage number or the other phases of the development.
4. Why is the Illahee Community opposed to Timbers Edge? The short answer is one does not locate a high density, high impact development in a critical aquifer recharge area. If the area was being developed to the current zoning regulations and stormwater was being infiltrated back into the critical aquifers, the community would not be opposed.
5. So what density does the Community want? They want lots that conform to the surrounding community, not mostly 3400 sq ft ‘cracker box’ lots.
6. But, don’t zoning laws dictate the allowable density? Yes, but you need to understand how that happened and that the zoning was subsequently corrected.
7. What is the zoning history? The small lot zoning for this area came in 1998 when the area between Bremerton and Silverdale was blanket zoned. It was corrected in 2006 during the Comprehensive Plan Update and was rezoned to 1-5 houses per acre based on the community-paid studies that showed problems with high density housing going into this critical aquifer recharge area.
8. So how can Timbers Edge be allowed to have high density homes? Because Timbers Edge submitted their application before the correction, they are “grandfathered” at the former 5-9 houses per acre zoning density. However, because of the 2006 rezone, they could also develop at the 1-5 zoning density and that is what the community would like to see.
9. Why is the high density never reported on in the press? One of the frustrating things for the community is the way the housing density is usually reported by the press. The developer states they are putting 110 homes on 36 acres, when in fact they are putting 110 homes on roughly 13 acres (the other acreage is either for later phases or is comprised of steep slopes and critical areas that are unbuildable). Those reports in the papers make the community look like a bunch of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) complainers when, in fact, most would be happy to see this area developed, but at the current zoning of 1-4 houses per acre that conforms to the surrounding community and has less impact on roads, and doesn’t jeopardize the aquifers and Illahee Creek. (Note that zoning decreased again in 2008 from 1-5 houses per acre to 1-4 houses per acre as a result of the Illahee Community Plan.)
10. What does the Community want for the storm water? The plateau where Timbers Edge is located is a critical recharge area where stormwater infiltration feeds the underlying aquifers that provide groundwater for the local water district and the baseflow for Illahee Creek. Studies have shown the necessity of infiltration in this area in order to maintain aquifer levels and keep Illahee Creek as a fish supporting stream. High density housing increases impervious surfaces and makes infiltration more difficult and, thus, is another reason why the community supports a development at the current zoning of 1-4 houses per acre.
11. Why is the Illahee Community appealing the latest Timbers Edge decision by the Commissioners? This is the question we are most frequently asked and the quick answer is things are still not being planned right in Illahee and the Community expects the planning to be corrected until it is done right.
12. What are the issues? The primary problem has been with Kitsap County who is required to follow state and county statutes to ensure development planning is done right and that there are no significant impacts to the environment. This didn’t happen when the county approved the project, and so the Community appealed to the Hearing Examiner.
13. What happened with the appeal to the Hearing Examiner? The Hearing Examiner went on to approve the project, but with conditions, one of which required further environmental studies. But rather than have the studies done prior to project approval, the Hearing Examiner moved them to a later stage in the process, which then violated the state law that requires them to be done early in the process. It doesn’t make sense to the Community that the Hearing Examiner could authorize a project to proceed before environmental studies have been completed. In addition, the Illahee Community was hindered in its appeal because three of its expert witnesses could not make the set hearing date and the hearing examiner was unwilling to extend the hearing to hear testimony from these experts.
14. Why couldn’t your expert witnesses attend the hearing? The hearing was scheduled with very little lead time and we were only able to find a traffic expert who could be there on the hearing date. The community retained the best hydrology, geology and stormwater engineers available to review the project, with two being former University of Washington professors, who also work internationally, and they had other commitments. They did provide written responses to the Hearing Examiner, but those seemed to be either ignored or discounted.
15. So what happened next? The Community then appealed the decision to the County Commissioners who are supposed to rule on such appeals in a judicial capacity. In their decision the Commissioners added a non-binding condition to the project, but in that judicial capacity at least one of the Commissioners met separately with staff (had ex parte contact), which violates the Appearance of Fairness Doctrine outlined in RCW 42.36. So, in addition to the county violating state environmental laws and the Hearing Examiner postponing environmental studies, the Commissioners violated the “Appearance of Fairness Doctrine,” which further complicates the proceedings and upsets the Community.
16. So how is the Community going to respond? The Community has appealed the County Commissioners’ decision to Superior Court and to the Shorelines Hearings Board.
17. So this affects Illahee Creek? Yes, Timbers Edge borders the South Fork and the main stem of Illahee Creek. Illahee Creek and its small watershed comprise just one of many small streams in the area that flow directly into Puget Sound. Because these streams are small and aren’t big salmon producers, they seem to have been marginalized by state and county officials as rather insignificant and not worth protecting. Resources and regulations appear to have been put into protecting the bigger and more significant streams. And so, little streams like Illahee Creek end up with little support and protection.
18. What are the issues with Illahee Creek? The issues and concerns with Illahee Creek have been increasing over the years, and became critical in the 1970s when developments went in north of Rolling Hill’s golf course. Storm water was sent directly to a conveyance system (there were no regulations for stormwater detention then) that discharged to the deeply incised canyons of Illahee Creek where it scoured the channel depositing tons of sediment out onto the small flood plain near the mouth and into Puget Sound, where brown silt laden water was evident for miles. This resulted in the need to replace the two 36 inch culverts that were installed in the 1930s, with a new larger arch culvert that was installed in 1999.
19. What is the issue with the new culvert? The new culvert helped for 8 short years, but because the underlying storm surge problems were not resolved, the culvert came close to washing out during the rain storm of December 3, 2007, when sediment came down in such large quantities that it filled the culvert beyond its design capacity and raised the surrounding flood plain by 18 inches. (Note that the culvert was supposed to last indefinitely including the eventual build-out of the watershed.)
20. Has the new culvert failed? Many in the community feel that once the flood plain rose so drastically, the culvert did indeed fail and the Community and the County were left with only three choices. Lower the flood plain by removing the sediment, which is not realistic. Raise Illahee road to accommodate a new higher culvert. Or, work quickly to control the storm surges that are bringing down the excessive sediment. The county came up with a fourth response which is to periodically dredge the sediment from the culvert in hopes the downstream channel will deepen enough to handle future major storms.
21. What is the impact of Timbers Edge on the culvert? The recent history of Illahee Creek is that it is a troubled stream in great jeopardy, and when the Timbers Edge first application was submitted the plans called for installing large concrete detention structures on the steep and unstable hillsides of the creek.
22. What happened to those structures? The Illahee community became concerned and funded studies highlighting the problems, which were independently verified, and the design was changed. If the community was not active and involved, the county would have approved the project years ago, and the community would have had to live with the further destruction of Illahee Creek.
23. How is the storm water being handled now? We currently don’t know what is going to happen with the storm water as the County appears to have given the developer several options. One option presented was to run all the stormwater to an outfall at the estuary. Another option was to infiltrate house downspouts where feasible, and a third new option presented at the Commissioner hearing was to have a “goal” to infiltrate all the stormwater “to the extent feasible.” It is hard for the Community to understand how the environmental impact of the project can be assessed when there is no specificity as to what is being planned.
24. What about the sewer issue? Sewers are another major issue for the Illahee Community. Timbers Edge needs sewers for its higher density homes and so a sewer line is to be run down the lower section of Illahee hill, under Illahee Creek, and through the historic section of Illahee to the Illahee North development. If septic systems were used the density would be what the community wants and with stormwater infiltration there would be no opposition. Also the infrastructure costs to the developer would be considerably less.
26. You don’t seem to be happy with how Kitsap County is handling things? You are correct as Kitsap County has a poor reputation for protecting Illahee citizens or our local environment. We already mentioned that developments along the North Fork of Illahee Creek in the 1970s have caused the sediment problems that still plague the Creek and Puget Sound.
Years later fish pens were approved for Illahee by the county, the hearing examiner, and through the County Commissioners. The community hired experts from the University of Washington and a well known lawyer and were able to defeat the project by appealing it to the Shorelines Hearings Board.
Just recently the Illahee Outfall project was approved by the county, the Hearing Examiner, and an appeal to the Commissioners, that was going to dump only pre-treated stormwater at the base of the public Illahee community dock. That project was appealed to the Shorelines Hearings Board and was eventually mediated to the benefit of most parties.
From what the Illahee residents have experienced, Kitsap County is more interested in supporting developments or agendas, than protecting the environment or supporting the concerns of Illahee residents.
27. What about their handling of the Timbers Edge project? In this case, we feel the environmental laws are clear that projects are to be evaluated for their environmental impacts at the earliest point in the permitting process, rather than being postponed to a later stage in the process after the project has already been authorized. Those laws, and others, were not followed by the Kitsap County Environmental Officer, or the Hearing Examiner, or the County Commissioners. When clear and important laws are not followed by our county government officials, they need to be appealed to higher authority.
28. Appeals are costly. Who is paying for the legal costs? Illahee residents are paying the legal fees and you are correct about the costly part.
Years ago when Timbers Edge was first presented as a possible high density threat to the area residents came forward voluntarily contributing to scientific studies and legal counsel. That initial meeting seemed to ‘prime the pump’ so to speak, as there have been other legal challenges since that have been supported. Community residents want to ensure things are done right in Illahee and are willing to part with some of their financial resources in order to do so.
As for the cost of the appeals, the Illahee Community has now spent 10’s of thousands of dollars on legal costs, such as filing fees, expert witnesses, attorney fees, etc, on just the most active cases. Many are surprised because Illahee is not a wealthy community and most of the support comes in small amounts or in small monthly contributions.
29. What are the other legal challenges you mentioned? The most recently resolved legal challenge was the Illahee Outfall Project where the county approved a new stormwater outfall at the base of the Illahee Community dock. It took an appeal to the Shorelines Hearings Board to mediate and settle the issues. Another one, that has not been resolved, is the AllSecure Storage Project planned next to the Illahee Preserve and was in the process of being approved by the county with no stream or wetland buffers. The project was challenged by the Illahee Forest Preserve, a 501.c.3 organization supporting the Illahee Preserve. That project is currently on hold.
30. How can I help? You can help by contributing to the legal fund of the Illahee Community Club (ICC). The ICC is a 501.c.3 non-profit corporation dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the Illahee area of Puget Sound and contributions are deductable as allowed by law. The address of the Illahee Community Club is Post Office Box 2563, Bremerton, WA 98310.