Thirty minutes from Edmonds by car ferry, the waterfront town of Kingston has at times been nicknamed "Little City by the Sea" and "Gateway...

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Thirty minutes from Edmonds by car ferry, the waterfront town of Kingston has at times been nicknamed “Little City by the Sea” and “Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula.”

For locals, words like “casual” and “close-knit” offer a better description, and residents clearly take pride in Kingston’s small-town identity.

Community events draw strong support from residents and businesses alike, and the festive Kingston Farmers Market, held April through October, attracts crowds from throughout northern Kitsap County.

Kingston’s hugely popular Fourth of July parade, one of the state’s oldest, draws as many as 40,000 spectators and includes such down-home entries as the chicken-costumed musicians of Sacks Feed Store’s Hometown Chicken Band.

But not all is quaintness and quiet in Kingston. The housing market is beginning to boom, and the push toward increased growth is unmistakable.

Townhomes in the Kingston Meadows Phase I development sold quickly, with prices ranging from $170,000 to more than $200,000.

Construction on the next phase of 50-plus units starts later this year, with prices estimated to be upward of $240,000.

This close-knit North Kitsap County town is in the midst of a growth spurt, helped by new passenger-ferry service to downtown Seattle.

Population: 8,887 in ZIP code 98346

Schools: North Kitsap School District’s David Wolfle Elementary, JHOP Program, Kingston Junior High, Richard Gordon Elementary,

Spectrum Community School, high school under construction

Housing: Owner-occupied, 71.9 percent; renter-occupied, 18.4 percent; vacant, 9.7 percent

Medical facilities: Stevens Hospital, Edmonds; Harrison Memorial Hospital, Bremerton

Shopping: Kingston Public Market, May-Oct. at Kingston Marina Park

Public facilities: Port of Kingston, Marina Park

Transportation: Washington State Ferries (www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/),

Aqua Express — passenger-only ferry (www.aqua-express.com/)

Miyoko Wolf, staff researcher

The recent addition of a high-speed foot ferry, the Aqua Express, has prompted mixed emotions among locals.

With downtown Seattle now 40 minutes away, some residents see positive change, while others resist the explosive growth it potentially could spark.

Others — like Ruth Westergaard, a Kingston homeowner since 1989 — say they don’t expect the foot ferry to create much dramatic change.

“A lot of people think they want the commuter life, but you have to be a certain kind of individual,” Westergaard said. “You’re totally dependent on the ferry. The last boat out of Seattle is at 6:20 p.m. Miss it, and you’re out of luck.”

No matter what residents prefer, it’s often difficult for small towns to stay small. In Kingston, plans for the proposed Arborwood development, west of South Kingston Road, would bring 750 new homes to the area.

And construction of the 450-acre White Horse development in nearby Indianola includes plans for more than 200 luxury homes ($600,000-$800,000), along with an 18-hole golf course.

Although a certain amount of change is inevitable, Kingston seems unlikely to lose its small-town appeal any time soon.

Those in doubt need only to come by the July 4 festival and take in the sight of a group of grown-ups dressed like chickens and playing the drums.

Cindy Jones: cjones@writingjones.com

Longtime Kingston homeowner