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Published in the Kitsap Sun on Friday, September 6, 2019.
By, Mayor Greg Wheeler
As the mayor of Bremerton, the largest city in Kitsap County, I want to encourage you to provide public comments on the future of Bremerton and our region. You have an enormous opportunity to shape the direction of how public officials will respond to growth over the next 30 years by sharing your thoughts and views on the vision for Puget Sound. I will share more on this later but first want to give some background on why this is important for your city and other local communities.
As you know, the Puget Sound region’s strong economy has been national news for years, but there’s been less attention paid to the effects of that growth on areas like Bremerton and Kitsap County. For many people drawn here for jobs, they are finding Kitsap has comparably affordable homes and a scenic ferry commute. As a result, competition is up for housing, along with some added pressures on quality of life.
We all understand we live in one of the nation’s most beautiful places. The secret is out. Now what? How do we help our neighborhoods keep their character? How do we keep communities intact? How can we address these problems now and for future generations?
Almost 2 million people will move into the Puget Sound area in the next 30 years, for a total regional population of 5.8 million. That’s about 67,000 new people a year, or about all of Bremerton and Bainbridge Island put together. That's more than 40 percent growth annually. Jobs are increasing on a similar incline. All those people are going to need more infrastructure, services and a range of quality housing for all incomes. Looking ahead, we must be ready to respond with a “blueprint” for the growth in our region.
As Bremertonians, this is our opportunity to be out in front of what’s coming and share our perspectives as part of that blueprint before growth is here. We can, and must, take the lead. Taking these issues head-on will ensure we are positioned to benefit and that we steer our own future.
The Puget Sound Regional Council is responsible for developing a regional growth plan for Puget Sound counties, including Kitsap. Leaders from counties, cities, towns, port districts, transit agencies and tribes have been working with the public for two years to develop a growth plan. This plan has already received significant public comment, and puts clean air, health, life expectancy, affordability and equal opportunity at the center.
That plan, VISION 2050, is out now for your public review and comment. Once finalized, the plan will help make decisions about where transit corridors should go, where denser housing should be, where industry can expand, and what open areas should be protected across the Puget Sound, including Bremerton and Kitsap.
Bremerton has been recognized as a leader in the region and our residents are being asked to offer input on the path forward. Working with data and public input, the plan will help us prepare for growth by:
VISION 2050 sets the stage for future decisions about how to better connect our communities, protect long-time residents, and help our children and grandchildren thrive here too.
I want to protect what is valuable about our City: the beauty of our environment and the character of our community. I encourage you to share your perspectives so your voice is included as part of the final plan. Eventually, more growth will come to our shores and it’s important that we are included as part of the vision for the region.
This is our chance to get it right — for our generation and the next – and to have a say in ensuring our communities continue to prosper.
Please participate and share your comments. All are invited to weigh in at www.psrc.org/draft-vision-2050.