Waterfront homes may become victim to Port Orchard walking path

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. -- A handful of Port Orchard homeowners are fighting city hall to protect their way of life. They fear the city wants to take their waterfront homes to build a pedestrian path.

Randy Jones is one of those homeowners; he bought his home, which rests on pilings over the Port Orchard beach, 35 years ago. He's made friends with the seagulls, hand-raised orphan geese, and still waits anxiously for high tide and salmon season. "The tide comes can see salmon coming underneath your house."

Now Jones' home, and his lifestyle, may be the victim of Port Orchard development. The city wants to extend its waterfront pathway to the full 3 1/2 miles of its waterfront, right in front of Jones' and half a dozen other homes. And at least one of the proposals includes demolishing Jones' and four other homes.

"It's like a death in the family," he said.

The Port Orchard City Council voted last week to hire a firm to determine the cost of buying easements and as many as five waterfront homes. But Jones and his spouse Frank Rusk don't want to sell. They say they rely on the property for their charter boat business and income from an on-site vacation rental.

"I don't want to move," adds Rusk, "that's what I'm worried about the most."

But they fear the city will take the properties by eminent domain, which means the city has the power to buy the property at fair market value even if a property owner doesn't want to sell.

Mayor Tim Matthes says it's way too early in the process for that.

"Honestly, there's no decision that those houses are going to go," says Matthes. "That's a possibility along with other possibilities."

While the city's right of way agents have a year to complete their assessment of buying property, homeowners like Jones and Rusk want to make it clear now: Their home has no price.

In the meantime, the section of waterfront path that has been completed is a huge hit with the Port Orchard community. The entire pathway project is expected to cost $3.6 million.

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