Council moves forward with PERC feasibility study; mayor addresses economic recovery

The Poulsbo City Council moved forward with the next step in the proposed Poulsbo Event and Recreation Center as officials approved a contract for a feasibility study to be done by an outside consulting company.

The council voted 7-0 at its Wednesday meeting in favor of the deal with Everett-based Perteet Inc., which will assess the feasibility of a 30,000 to 40,000 square-foot center to be located near the Olympic College/Western Washington campus at Poulsbo’s College Marketplace.

Perteet Inc. will take on several tasks, including the management of the assessment of site conditions, developing a conceptual plan and community outreach.

“If you saw the scope of work for this contract, there is a lot of work that goes into a feasibility study as well as subcontracts that are necessary,” said Karla Boughton, the city’s planning director.

The city received four proposals and three firms were interviewed. A selection committee consisting of nine people then unanimously agreed on Perteet Inc.

A previous interlocal agreement with the Kitsap Public Facilities District (KPFD) will cover the $82,823 cost of the study.

“We’re very excited to be at this position,” Boughton said.

Mayor addresses COVID-19 recovery

With the state moving slowly through a phased reopening of the economy, Mayor Becky Erickson took time to address the council Wednesday with ideas to help city businesses, especially the downtown core, get back on track.

When Washington moves into phase two, restaurants will be able to reopen, but only at half capacity. That proves especially tricky for downtown restaurants, which generally deal with a smaller footprint. In light of that, Erickson proposed that business could — voluntarily — choose to utilize sidewalk space and parking spaces on Front Street to add capacity and bring in more revenue.

“The idea is for them to spill out onto the streets,” Erickson said. “Moving into the sidewalks, moving into the parking spaces on Front Street to give them more physical space.”

Erickson also reasoned that the city has a large population of older folks who might not be comfortable returning to restaurants even as restrictions are lifted, due to their vulnerability to viruses such as COVID-19.

“We need to regain that customer group back,” Erickson added.

This idea would not entail closing Front Street, but business would be able to use parking spaces on Front Street and Jensen Way to create a sort of “Poulsbo Summer Fair.”

Erickson also spoke about a paid parking model, though in bringing up the idea she noted that she would back off of the concept for now as she did not believe there was enough support for it.

However, Erickson does believe that a paid parking model could be a boon for local businesses as the city could put the revenue in a fund for the Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association as a type of emergency business recovery fund.

Erickson also stated that the money generated from parking in the future could be used to fund the bonds for a parking garage downtown.

But the pushback she has received on paid parking caused her to temporarily put those plans aside. Drawing on her time as mayor during the last great recession, Erickson did say the issue would need to be revisited if in the late summer, the city was seeing a swell of empty storefronts.

“I’m doing this because I’m very worried,” Erickson said. “I was mayor in 2010 during the last great recession. I remember downtown Poulsbo with 13 empty storefronts and cars abandoned in the parking lots.”

“I’m not saying that’s what’s going to happen in downtown Poulsbo,” Erickson added. “I don’t know. But I’ll tell you what, I’m very worried about it.”

City council member Gary McVey said he would be in favor of revisiting the parking issue at a later date, but “now is not the right time” to pursue such an idea. McVey suggested looking at where employers and employees park during the day and developing partnerships with the Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association to open up more spaces for customers.