Poulsbo OKs ‘complicated’ Nordic Cottages site plan

The Poulsbo City Council approved the Nordic Cottages site plan review and exceptions for housing authorities following a public hearing Sept. 20.

Housing Kitsap, working in partnership with the city and Gateway Fellowship, proposes the use of city property at 609 NE Lincoln for deeply affordable permanent housing for seniors, city documents state. Housing Kitsap will provide project and property management services. Gateway intends to provide land adjacent to the site for parking.

Two quadplexes will be constructed that each have a footprint of approximately 1,370 square feet, with a total of eight units. There will be common areas used for recreation/gardens. Rental costs will be defrayed by project or tenant vouchers. Rent will be used to defray the costs of utilities, maintenance, and property management. Applicants will be processed by Housing Kitsap with eligibility based on age and disability status.

The exceptions for housing authorities include: Multifamily as a permitted use by allowing it without a planned residential development; density of 26 dwelling units per acre rather than the 4-5 allowed in the zoning code; front setback reduction from 20 feet to 10 feet; and parking reduction from 14 to 10 spaces.

The proposed project area includes a variety of land uses such as Seabird manufactured home park with 44 residential units, Poulsbo public library, First Lutheran Cemetery, Gateway church and school, and Antonson Place small lot infill development.

Regarding the front setback, the building to the east on the Gateway school property is 10 feet from the property line and the manufactured homes across the street are 5-15 feet from the property line, a city presentation states. Additionally, the proposed buildings were pushed closer to NE Lincoln Road to provide space for the 20-foot access easement on the southern property line serving the existing single-family homes.

For parking, residential units are restricted to use for seniors (65 and older); one and one-quarter spaces per dwelling unit. The parking exception requests include: grant an exception from 14 to eight spaces; grant exception from 14 to 10 spaces and require two spaces onsite; grant exception from 14 to 10 spaces and require spaces be provided offsite; or do not grant an exception to parking.

During the public hearing, former city councilman Mike Regis blasted the site plan and urged city staff to take another close look to fix “inconsistencies.”

“There are still anomalies within the site plan and in the report, and incomplete standards and very poor explanation,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time doing site plan reviews in my career, and this is the most burdensome one I’ve ever dealt with. The Planning Commission made hardly any comments and passed it along to the City Council.”

Following the public hearing, Mayor Becky Erickson addressed some of the parking concerns by pointing out how the Hostmark apartments have 120 units and 87 parking spaces, which is about ⅔ of a parking spot per unit. A report from August indicates that only 48 of those parking spots were occupied.

“By having one parking spot per unit, especially because these are all one-bedroom units, we actually have more parking by far than the Hostmark apartments,” she said. “Having eight parking spaces for the Nordic Cottage is not unusual for this type of housing.

“I don’t think that parking is an issue,” Erickson continued. “As much trouble as we’ve had with parking, I wouldn’t be going forward if I thought this was an issue.”

Councilmember Connie Lord read a letter she received from Gateway that states it is committed to providing eight parking spots for the project in exchange for the eight city-owned spots at the library and removal of three-hour parking on Lincoln Road adjacent to Gateway school. In the letter, Gateway reiterated that no official commitment can be made by them or the city until the project is approved for construction.

“I haven’t been able to come up with a solid reason in my heart to oppose this,” Lord said. “I think it’s a weird piece of property, and it’s been accommodated. I guess we’ll just have to see how it turns out. I’m concerned about how the financing is going to turn out on this.”

Councilmember Ed Stern took a broader look at the project and said a city of this size should be proud of what it’s doing to create affordable housing. “We are somewhat the exception in the state of Washington for creating low-income housing that we will own,” he said. “For a city of 12,000, that’s pretty amazing.”

While Councilmember David Musgrove has some precautions about this affordable housing project, he said it will be the model moving forward so the city can implement more of them in an easier way and learn from any mistakes that were made during this process.

“We’re now up to $3.1 million for eight units and probably going to go substantially higher,” he said. “I think we’re learning our lessons on this one for sure. I have high hopes that things will evolve, and we will work out solutions. We need this here but I also think we need to get through this one to learn our lessons to see how we can do it for 18 or 80 units in the future for a few million dollars. Perhaps when it’s all over we can debrief on how we can do it better next time.”

Councilmember Britt Livdahl pointed out how the project site is incredibly complex and has lots of nuances so any other projects at other city sites shouldn’t be as difficult. “A site plan and a site can’t get more complicated than this one so it can really only get easier from here,” Livdahl said. “To me, that’s very exciting.”

Erickson concluded: “We picked the hardest site in the whole city. If we can do this here, we can do this over and over again.”