Port’s liveaboard proposal: Parking still top concern

Port of Poulsbo commission held a public hearing for increasing the number of liveaboard residents downtown.

POULSBO — Poulsbo Port Commissioner Mark DeSalvo is in favor of adding more liveaboards to the port’s marina. And he’s done his research.

“I’ve been going around to (downtown) business owners and asking them their concerns,” DeSalvo said at the port’s Feb.  19 public hearing at Poulsbo City Hall.

Overall, business owners expressed support of allowing more liveaboards.

“Only one person I spoke to had a concern,” DeSalvo said. “And it had more to do with worrying about the types of people that would be hanging around — vagrant and homeless types.”

DeSalvo and fellow commissioners Jim Rutledge and Stephen Swann met with the public in a hearing as a pre-application requirement of the city. The port contends that increasing liveaboards — residents who live aboard their boats full-time — would benefit downtown. They say it would increase population without new construction, would result in more money spent in local businesses, and would bolster security at the port.

The port wants to increase the number of liveaboard slips by 13, making a total of 25.

The port intends to submit an application for the increase to the city’s planning department, once it can determine how it will pay for more than $50,000 in permit fees and address the city’s chief concern of parking. Port Manager Brad Miller has drafted an application and awaits commission approval. The commission’s next meeting is March 5.

“If they do (approve the application), then I will submit the application shortly thereafter,” Miller said. “Then it’s in the city’s hands.”

After the hearing, Miller noted that once the application is submitted, it will be a process spanning months before it is known whether more liveaboards slips are approved.

The hearing addressed city concerns over liveaboard parking downtown, and how the port would pay for the application.

Should more liveaboards be added to the downtown area, where would they park in an area known for its limited parking availability?

The port’s answer is its parking lot on Jensen Way. The port proposes that all new liveaboards would park in the lot, and would be distinguished by a parking permit unique to them. DeSalvo addressed concerns that liveaboards may also park on the street or in the Anderson Way parking lot.

“As far as where they park, they are still citizens here and can park as anyone else can,” DeSalvo said.

Downtown parking spaces are limited to four hours unless otherwise marked, city planner Keri Weaver said at the hearing.

“Nobody should be parking overnight or in Anderson Parkway,” Weaver said. “In order to make this work, it’s got to have to be a cooperative effort.”

She added, “The port cannot enforce parking on the street.”

But the port can assist with enforcement. The port would provide the Poulsbo Police Department with liveaboards’ vehicle information to prevent parking abuse.

“If they get ticket, after ticket, after ticket, then the port can take action,” DeSalvo said, noting that such “action” would likely be eviction.

The other matter the port faces is how it would pay for the permit fees. Swann said that if the port raised its liveaboard fee to $100, from $56.43, it could nearly break even in a year.

Miller suggested new liveaboards pay an application fee that would defray the expense.

“I think the best way would be to have a mixture of all this,” DeSalvo said.

The port’s next step will be to submit the application to the planning department, which will check it against the city’s Shoreline Master Program. Then it will be reviewed by the hearing examiner.

The port’s relationship with the city is unique regarding liveaboards. Other Puget Sound ports with marinas are not required to seek a city’s approval to increase liveaboard numbers. But the port and the city have an agreement from 1983 that prevents the port from making that increase.

In the agreement, the port agreed to cap its number at 12 in exchange for shoreline space to construct a bathroom and permission to expand its dock. The port is required to approach the city for any change to that agreement.