Poulsbo Council, Planning Commission discuss 2024 Comp. Plan

More discussions to take place this year

The Poulsbo City Council and Planning Commission held a joint meeting last week to discuss the 2024 Comprehensive Plan.

The purpose of the meeting was to provide an overview of state requirements, including the Growth Management Act, Puget Sound Regional Council and Vision 2050, Countywide Planning Policies and Buildable Lands Report, and ultimately Poulsbo’s 2024 Comprehensive Plan.

The meeting provided an opportunity for the mayor, staff, commission and council to talk about their visions for Poulsbo and what’s missing from the plan. Planning director Heather Wright and city planner Karla Boughton led the council and commission through a presentation.

“The goal of this journey is to determine how we want Poulsbo to grow, look and feel over the next twenty years,” Wright said, adding it’s mandated by the state and is built upon the desires of the community. Boughton added that the plan will be implemented through the city’s budget, capital improvement projects, developing regulations and ultimately permitting.

After the presentation, a discussion was held by the council, commission and city staff.

Mayor Becky Erickson started the conversation by saying, “We love what we have, but what are we missing? Growth doesn’t have to be scary if we’re making the community better than it is.”

“We need better medical care in this town, especially with what we’ve been through the past few years,” she continued. “I would love to have more walking pathways. I want to figure out how to fix our street lamps better. I want to make sure our kids are safe, meaning supporting public schools.”

Councilmember Britt Livdahl said: “We have a tree board, and they work really hard but we don’t have a very proactive retention preservation program. There are some absolutely incredible trees that we can never get back. It was alarming to me to find out that on private property there’s actually nothing we can do currently in our code to preserve those amazing trees.”

Livdahl also mentioned the lack of childcare in Poulsbo. “I know people really struggle with that.”

Councilmember Connie Lord added they need to look into more access and resources for senior citizens. She mentioned the North Kitsap Senior Citizens Center isn’t very big and not very many people know about it, and she also wants more parks and recreation programming to accommodate seniors.

“I think we have a lack of things to do for older citizens. They need their own community too.”

Councilmember David Musgrove talked about the city’s higher than average age population and what could be done to buck that trend.

“Sometimes the tail can wag the dog,” he said. “For example, if we have schools with great education for these families but they don’t have a place to work here, they will leave. We can look at commercial development. If commercial development comes in as part of economic development, then we need to fashion our housing toward catering to that workforce. You’re creating a younger population instead of an older growing population.”

Councilmember Andrew Phillips was concerned with the overcrowding of schools. Erickson added that Poulsbo will soon need another elementary school.

Planning Commissioner Ray Stevens said the city needs more activities for teens, while fellow commissioner Mark Kipps said he’d like to see some redevelopment of Poulsbo Village and Centennial Park. Commissioner David Strickon also would like to see Poulsbo Village redone, specifically with a couple indoor pickleball courts, food court, indoor play area and a sit-down place for adults to socialize.

Councilmember Ed Stern said that the soon-to-be Poulsbo Events and Recreation Center could be that centralized center that some of the commissioners mentioned.

Growth Management Act

The GMA is a series of state statutes, first adopted in 1990, that require fast-growing cities and counties to develop a comprehensive plan to manage their population growth and establishes 14 goals that should act as the basis of all comp plans, council documents say.

The 14 planning goals include urban growth; property rights; public participation; reduce sprawl; permits; public facilities and services; transportation; natural resource lands; historic preservation; housing; open space and recreation; shoreline management; economic development; and environment.

Puget Sound Regional Council

PSRC develops policies and coordinates decisions about regional growth, transportation and economic development within King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties, documents state. It is composed of nearly 100 elected officials, including the four counties, cities and towns, ports, state and local transportation agencies and tribal governments within the region.

The region is expected to grow by 1.5 million people by 2050, reaching a population of 5.8 million. An anticipated 1.1 million more jobs are forecast by 2050. The region’s population in 2050 will be older and more diverse, with smaller households than today, per documents.

Poulsbo is designated as a High Capacity Transit Community, which are cities and unincorporated areas that are connected to the regional high-capacity transit system. They are required to plan for an anticipated amount of population growth and jobs. Other HCTC’s in Kitsap County are Bainbridge Island, Kingston and Port Orchard.

Countywide planning

Regional coordination between counties and cities is emphasized in the GMA. Counties are required to adopt policies to guide comp plan development, according to documents. The policies must include urban growth areas outside of which such development will not occur. Counties work collaboratively with cities to allocate projected population for the next 20 years. UGAs are designated based upon the need to accommodate population projections.

The Buildable Lands Program was included as a component of the GMA in 1997. It requires that Clark, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston and Whatcom counties and the cities within them complete a report every eight years. That program includes:

  • “Look back” to evaluate whether development trends are consistent with assumptions and policies noted in countywide planning and local comp plans.
  • “Look forward” to determine if there is sufficient land supply in urban areas to accommodate the remainder of the 20-year targets for commercial employment, industrial employment and housing units to accommodate population.
  • Identify reasonable measures that reduce the differences between growth and development assumptions and targets contained in the plans.

Part of a county’s long-range planning process involves identifying UGA’s where “urban growth shall be encouraged and outside of which growth can occur only if it is not urban in nature,” per state law. Counties are responsible for designating, expanding, and reducing UGA boundaries, although they are required to consult with the cities.

UGAs and zoning densities can provide additional capacity to accommodate a “reasonable land market supply factor.”

Poulsbo UGA is about 351 acres.

Comprehensive Plan

The comp plan includes policy documents, capital facility plan and land use map. Its vision statement is as follows:

Poulsbo is a vibrant community distinguished by its unique location on the shore of Liberty Bay, access to natural beauty and urban amenities, and historic, small-town quaint character. Situated at the crossroads of Puget Sound, Poulsbo is a locally based economy with a strong sense of community and heritage, where civic groups, local government, families and neighbors work collaboratively to continually maintain and improve high quality of life.

Elements of the plan include land use; transportation, capital facilities; housing and utilities, which are mandatory under the GMA. Other optional elements are community character; natural development; parks, recreation and open space; economic development; and participation, implementation and evaluation. It was noted that climate change may become a mandatory element.

Technical work completed thus far consists of Best Available Science; Housing Needs Assessment and Housing Action Plan; Commercial Land Analysis; Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Plan; and Buildable Lands Report/Land Capacity Analysis.

Public participation is a key component, and many opportunities will be provided for that this year, such as interactive website/social media, community survey, pop-up studios at farmers market, and an online open house.

Next steps are continued workshops with the planning commission and city council regarding growth targets (population and employment), followed by review and discussion with the commission on specific elements in 2022 and continual public outreach. Longer-term steps include affordable housing targets, environmental impact statement and development regulations update. Adoption of the plan is scheduled for June of 2024.