POULSBO — The sounds of flying hammers and bulldozers might not be ringing through Little Norway this spring as city officials announced more delays in resolving the issues surrounding two citywide moratoriums.
Currently, the city has a moratorium on development in or near environmentally sensitive areas until the adoption of its new Critical Areas Ordinance and a moratorium on Planned Unit Developments, which are being changed to Planned Residential Developments.
Even though a public hearing on the proposed CAO is scheduled for Feb. 7, Planning Director Barry Berezowsky said the council isn’t likely to adopt the ordinance until Feb. 21.
The delay is due to the city’s Critical Areas Ordinance working group, composed of environmentalists and representatives from the development community, has not yet completed its review of the issue.
“I know it’s been difficult for them,” said Mayor Kathryn Quade.
Working group leader Becky Erickson said while the committee is not yet ready to make its final recommendations to the council, it is making headway.
“I think things are going very well,” Erickson said. “Everybody seems to be participating.”
When asked about the recommendations, Erickson declined to comment until they are forwarded to the council.
The postponement will push the CAO’s adoption back at least two weeks as council isn’t scheduled to meet until Feb. 21.
Even though both the CAO and Planned Unit Development ordinance adoptions have faced numerous delays, Quade said the intent has never been to stop development, but rather to get in front of it.
“It is not meant to chill or stifle development, but it’s going to allow us time to complete these ordinances,” Quade said.
However, Councilman Ed Stern said he is strongly opposed to any further extension of the moratoriums that are currently in place.
“I am concerned about the impacts on both in terms of local construction and financing costs,” Stern said. “For council to do so would be improper.”
The potential impacts of the moratoriums during the winter were negated by harsh weather, which limited construction activity, he said.
But the 2007-2008 construction season could be dramatically affected by the moratoriums if they remain in place, he said.
“The city department heads have recommended a full blown six month extension, and I cannot support it,” Stern said.
Instead of lifting one moratorium at a time, the council needs to adopt the CAO, the PUD ordinance and the traffic impact fee ordinance at the same time, he said.
“All three are tied together, and all three need to come out together,” Stern said. “You can’t take one of the horses out of the barn, when you have a coach to pull.”
Without all three of the ordinances in place simultaneously, the council will not be able to ensure that development supports itself in terms of infrastructure and environmental protections, Stern said.
Regardless of what happens with the CAO, Berezowsky said the city’s moratorium on PUDs will probably be extended for an additional six months beyond its March 13 expiration date.
“I hope to have the draft ordinance in hand for public distribution within the next two weeks,” he said. “We have to send the ordinance to (the Washington State Department of Commerce Tourism and Economic Development) for comment and we shouldn’t do anything before we have that.”
The council’s public works committee has already expressed an interest in expediting the PUD ordinance as much as possible, which should limit the length of the moratorium, he said.
The council could extend the moratorium for 30 days, but if the ordinance is not completed in that period of time, another extension would be required, he said.
“We want to do it as best we can the first time as opposed to rushing to conclusions,” Berezowsky said.