POULSBO — The last time the Port of Poulsbo proposed enlarging its boundaries by annexation, it failed big at the polls.
That was Feb. 11, 2014, when Port of Poulsbo Proposition 1 lost 823-289, a margin of 534 votes. That was for all votes cast in Poulsbo, Lemolo, Pearson and Scandia.
But in Poulsbo alone, the measure failed by about 60 votes.
Port of Poulsbo commissioners believe the port district should try again in November — but they may propose annexing only to the city limits, not neighboring communities on the bay.
The port commission is scheduled to discuss the annexation measure when it meets at 7 p.m. March 3 in the floating dock at the Port of Poulsbo Marina. The meeting is open to the public. The port commission must approve a resolution by Aug. 2 to place on the measure on the Nov. 8 general election ballot, according to the Kitsap County Auditor Elections website.
Property owners within the port district pay 30 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property valuation toward the district. Those funds are used by the port to maintain and improve the marina and other port properties, engage in economic development and jobs creation, and take measures to protect the health of Liberty Bay.
But only half of the city is within the port district boundaries; while the city grew geographically, the port district’s boundaries remained unchanged. Residents who live outside the port district don’t have the same voice as residents within the district; they can’t vote for or serve as commissioners. And, proponents say, property owners outside the district boundaries benefit from the work of the port district, but don’t help support it.
Port commissioners believe more revenue would lead to more improvements to the marina, and an even cleaner Liberty Bay.
Port Commission President Steve Swann said he sees the Port of Poulsbo as “a Liberty Bay port” that provides economic, environmental and recreational benefit to the communities of Lemolo, Scandia and Virginia Point, but “probably as a minimum we would propose annexing to the city’s limits. I think all three [commissioners] will agree with that. One of the things that I learned in the last exercise was no one wants to pay more taxes, and Lemolo doesn’t consider itself part of the Poulsbo community. And we, perhaps, didn’t do a very good job of marketing the last time.”
In response to a port business owner’s concerns at the commission’s Jan. 21 meeting, Port Commissioner Mark DeSalvo said communities that voted against annexation in 2014 should not be included in the latest measure. He said while a larger port district would collect more property tax revenue for economic development and port district improvements, the average property tax contribution would decrease for existing port district residents because more properties would be contributing.
Swann is confident voters within the city limits would agree to be annexed. “The port is a community activity. And I suspect things are changing here. Businesses are doing well, more homes are being built, and the economy is on an upswing.”
Swann said the top priority, in his view, is replacement of the breakwater within four years (that’s an environmental issue, because many of the breakwater pilings to be replaced are creosoted); followed by dock expansion to increase the number of slips (that’s an economic issue, because more slips means more boaters which means more visitors to Poulsbo); and expansion of the seaplane dock to make landings, in Swann’s words, “less challenging.”
WHAT PORT DISTRICTS DO
State law, approved in 1911, empowers voters to create port districts “for the purposes of acquisition, construction, maintenance, operation, development and regulation … of harbor improvements, rail or motor vehicle transfer and terminal facilities, water transfer and terminal facilities, air transfer and terminal facilities, or any combination of such transfer and terminal facilities, and other commercial transportation, transfer, handling, storage and terminal facilities, and industrial improvements.”
Port districts can also provide Wi-Fi services — the Port of Poulsbo was beaten to the punch on that by the Kitsap Public Utilities District.
There are 12 port districts in Kitsap County: Bremerton, Brownsville, Eglon, Illahee, Indianola, Keyport, Kingston, Manchester, Poulsbo, Silverdale, Tracyton, and Waterman.
Here’s what those port districts maintain for public benefit.
Port of Bremerton: Bremerton Marina and Port Orchard Marina, Bremerton National Airport, Olympic View Industrial Park, Port Orchard Marina Park, Annapolis Pier, Harper Pier, the Evergreen and Chico boat ramps, and the Water Street Boat Launch.
Port of Brownsville: Port of Brownsville Marina, Burke Bay Overlook Park, a waterfront park with pavilion, and buildings and land that are leased for commercial or recreational use.
Port of Eglon: boat launch and a park.
Port of Illahee: pier and floats commonly called the Illahee Dock.
Port of Indianola: pier and float commonly called the Indianola Dock.
Port of Keyport: Port of Keyport Marina.
Port of Kingston: Port of Kingston Marina, Mike Wallace Park, buildings and land that are leased for commercial or recreational use, and land that is leased by the state for the ferry landing.
Port of Manchester: boat launch, floating dock, and Pomeroy Park.
Port of Poulsbo: Port of Poulsbo Marina, a seaplane base, a public parking lot on Jensen Way, and the last tidal maintenance grid in Puget Sound.
Port of Silverdale: pier, boat launch, and a children’s park.
Port of Tracyton: a pier, boat launch, and picnic areas.
Port of Waterman: a pier.