Poulsbo City Council talks commercial code changes

Members from the public speak up during public hearing

POULSBO — During a June 20 meeting, the Poulsbo City Council delayed voting on updates to commercial district code and zoning until July 11. Council is currently deliberating the final revisions to the code updates — originally recommended by the city’s Planning Commission. Since the code updates are currently under deliberation by the council, they are subject to change prior to the final vote.

Some of the updates under consideration include:

• Updating overall design standards for the C-1 (downtown) Zoning District to reinforce and enhance the existing Scandinavian heritage and small-town, waterfront fishing village character.

• Reinforcing the “Little Norway” moniker through design details, artwork, community-oriented spaces and accessories.

Consideration of the impact new construction may have on the view of First Lutheran Church

Rearrangement of the downtown shopfront overlay boundary

Changing the maximum building height downtown from 45 feet to 35 feet and decreasing the lot coverage standard for larger lots from 100 percent to 85 percent.

The public hearing portion of the meeting saw its fair share of speakers approaching the lecturn.

Architect Charlie Wenzlau explained he had a keen interest in the city’s character and history.

“I’m one of the guys who gets to write rules as well as build as an architect with those rules,” Wenzlau said. “I am interested in the impacts that these changes may have on the work that we’re trying to do in your downtown.”

Wenzlau voiced his concern around the proposed height limit within the downtown area, a common theme among those who approached the lecturn during the meeting.

“The height limit change that’s now proposed — which is based on the 30-foot height limit — I just wanted to make sure you all understood that effectively 30 feet with 35 if it’s a pitched roof,” Wenzlau said, referencing a previous proposal by the council that suggested buildings be capped at 30 feet, with an additional five feet permitted if a gable roof were included.

“You can’t do a three-story building within 30 feet. Essentially what you’ll be doing is a two-story building with a pitched roof,” he explained. “The predominant character of downtown, as you all know, is flat roofs. Most are two story; there are some three story. The pitched roof idea isn’t really a pattern you have in your community. I’m not saying it’s a bad one, but it’s not a theme you currently have.”

Lynn Myrvang is part of a group of homeowners near downtown concerned about what the updates could mean for the future of Poulsbo.

“Yesterday and today, two of us spent four hours going door-to-door in the city of Poulsbo. We presented a petition asking the homeowners to read it and if they agreed with it, to please sign it,” Myrvang said. “In just four hours, over 100 people signed the petition.”

According to Myrvang one of the main complaints from the residents she encountered while gathering signatures was that the city had not adequately advertised the proposed changes and their possible effects.

The petition requested that the council maintain the “quaint Norwegian heritage in downtown Poulsbo’s C-1 Zone and do not allow any multi-level, large apartments, such as the proposed Vanaheimer Apartment building at the old police station, or the proposed development of 84 units at the old city hall. Buildings taller than two stories are too high, bulky and out-of-scale for downtown Poulsbo. We ask you, the city council to approve the downtown Poulsbo code in the C-1 zone and the shopfront overlay with buildings no taller than 25 feet including roofs and only commercial businesses on the first floor and apartments on the second floor. Put big apartment buildings in areas of Poulsbo outside the C-1 zone, where there can be true affordable housing with needed transit, grocery stores and services. The anticipated increase in traffic if apartment buildings are allowed will severely affect the already dense traffic and parking loads in downtown Poulsbo.”

Former city council elect John R. Bukowsky stepped up during the hearing as well. Bukowsky initially was elected to Poulsbo City Council Position 7 last November, but chose not to accept the appointment due to the obligations of his day job as senior director of Citrix Global Solutions, a multinational software company.

Bukowsky suggested the council take a “systems view” when considering the revisions to the commercial district code and suggested developing a master plan.

“We need to communicate to the community the true impact of the suggestions that are being made for the downtown area,” Bukowsky said. “I can tell you as a resident living on Fjord [Drive], the traffic is atrocious and we haven’t even dug the first piece of ground downtown yet. What will happen?”

Bukowsky urged council to put off their decision until a clearer plan had been developed and presented to the community.

“I hope that we would stop for a moment, lay out a plan, communicate the plan to the community and really understand what the vision is for downtown.” he said. “Think about residential implications, think about traffic flow. Put together a master plan that we can take out to the community and socialize it.”

The Poulsbo City Council will reconvene for a regular meeting July 11 in order to continue their deliberation of the code changes.

— Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at ntwietmeyer@soundpublishing.com.

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