1,500 new housing units proposed in Poulsbo | Poulsbo Beat

Editor’s note: This version is updated to correctly identify the YWCA in the 16th paragraph and the Housing Trust Fund in the 19th paragraph.

POULSBO — Mayor Becky Erickson’s 2017 State of the City presentation was the centerpiece of the Jan. 11 Poulsbo City Council meeting. Carefully crafted and largely self-explanatory, the slides are most easily viewed at KitsapDailyNews.com (www.kitsapdailynews.com/news/poulsbo-mayor-presents-2017-state-of-the-city-in-pictures).

However, there were a number of takeaways from comments by Erickson and other council members that merit further discussion, particularly comments about challenges to the future of the city that came after the presentation.

1,500 new housing units

Councilman Ed Stern said he counted, and the presentation showed developers have plans for, 1,500 new homes and apartments on the books. Conservatively estimating that only 1,000 get built in the next two years, that represents a 25 percent increase in the city’s population.

What will Poulsbo look like or be like in 10, 20 or 50 years?

“Poulsbo is a city in its adolescence,” Erickson said. “The challenge is deciding what we want to become when we grow up.” The challenge comes, in part, from what she called “organic growth.” Unlike “artificial growth,” when a municipality grows by annexing more land, people are moving to Poulsbo because they like the community and want to live here — which accounts for the housing starts Stern referred to.

To achieve this, the mayor said, it is necessary to build the kind of single-family homes with lawns that will attract families with young children. If the city were to continue building apartments and homes on smaller lots, its future population would be dominated by single people and older residents, she said.

Consequently, “we need to be planning out 50 years and beyond,” Erickson said, when it comes to population growth and infrastructure projects like sewers. Central to all of this is the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which limits the city’s growth areas to “about four square miles,” Stern said.

If the city does not find some way to come up with affordable housing — what he called “a melting pot community” — Poulsbo risks gentrification, he said.

Look for discussions on expansion in the third or fourth quarter of 2017, Erickson said.

Council committee on social services proposed

The City Council makes policy, the mayor’s office administers it, Erickson noted. She then proposed the City Council consider creating what she called a committee on social services whose purpose would be “to ensure our more vulnerable populations have easy access to core needs: food, shelter, addiction treatment/mental health care.” She then proposed a vision of the goals this committee might have:

No person in Poulsbo who wants shelter goes without.

No person in Poulsbo lacks access to food.

All Poulsbo residents have availability to quality mental health services.

Opioid use is eliminated through street outreach and safe, confidential treatment options are available for all.

All services provided are not charity, but rather encouragement to end the cycle of poverty, homelessness and the co-occurrence of mental health/substance abuse — a hand up, not a hand out.

The role of the committee would be to provide strategic oversight and policy development to steer the City of Poulsbo to achieve this vision. The first step would be to create measurable goals for 2017.

After discussion, the City Council decided to hold a workshop, possibly at its third meeting in February, to discuss the shape such a committee might take. It was suggested the committee consist of three council members, outside experts, and community leaders. Erickson suggested memoranda of agreement with organizations like YWCA, North Kitsap Fishline and others who have expertise the city lacks.

How to fund such an effort was another matter. In the past, most public funding for such programs has come from Community Development Block Grants. Erickson provided statistical evidence that, at least during the years 2000 to 2011, the lion’s share of those millions of dollars in funding went to programs and services elsewhere in the county, such as Bremerton and Port Orchard.

Gaining a more equitable share of those funds for North Kitsap in the future should be a goal, she said. However, she cautioned that the state Legislature has proposed using Housing Trust Fund money to fund education, which would have a serious impact on funding for programs like affordable housing that have employed these funds in the past.

Shellfish harvesting and other news items

In addition to the State of the City presentation, several other items of interest were discussed.

Now that Liberty Bay has been pronounced clean enough that shellfish from there can be safely eaten, the Suquamish Tribe is interested in resuming shellfish harvesting. Look for public outreach on this matter.

At 3:30 p.m. Jan. 24, there will be a renewal ceremony at the Poulsbo Cemetery to showcase the new entrance and other improvements. The work was done mostly by volunteers.

Cutting trees and clearing the area for construction of Morrow Manor has begun.

Demolition of the two condemned houses on 7th and 8th avenues has to wait until the city gets the money from the sale of the Old City Hall property.

The city is still working to complete the transfer of ownership of the SEA Discovery Center to Western Washington University.

Parks and Recreation has had one meeting on the possibility of building a skate park. The Highway 305 area is being considered as a location.

Construction work on the Little Anderson Parkway parking lot that serves SEA Discovery Center and adjacent businesses begins Jan. 23. The work is to be completed by March 7. This time period was chosen because local merchants said it would do the least harm to their businesses, and to take advantage of the extremely low tides in February that will permit repairs to the seawall.

This is a joint City of Poulsbo/Port of Poulsbo project and the costs are being shared. The city’s share is expected to be $254,890; the port’s portion is $170,133. The city will supervise the whole project under an interlocal agreement approved at the Jan. 11 meeting.

Progress on building a YMCA near Olympic College has been delayed due to “some pretty steep costs,” Erickson said. The city hopes Olympic College and Western Washington University will buy into the project.

The Kitsap County Triage Center will open this year. This is “one more resource to drive people into treatment,” said Kim Hendrickson, project manager of Poulsbo’s behavioral health outreach program.