Poulsbo’s permit fees may halt port’s liveaboard expansion plans

The Port of Poulsbo began an effort to increase its liveaboard numbers in March 2014. Since then, it has engaged the City of Poulsbo to find a process to do so.

POULSBO — The Port of Poulsbo began an effort to increase its liveaboard numbers in March 2014. Since then, it has engaged the City of Poulsbo to find a process to do so.

Port commissioners have attended City Council and city committee meetings, and met with staff city members, often finding a new process thrown into the mix.

Now, another process may halt the effort altogether.

“Brad [Miller] and I went up in April and talked with [city officials] face-to-face and we thought that was a pre-application meeting, and then they tell us the rules have changed,” Commissioner Steve Swann said.

Miller, the port manager, added, “We were told that was the process. We were following that process, and toward the end of that process we were told ‘That’s not the process.’ ”

What the port faces now is a months-long planning department process that will carry hefty fees.

The port will have to organize a community meeting before moving ahead with the process. It is not yet known when that meeting will be.

“We are going to have a neighborhood meeting, which is required prior to submitting an application,” Commissioner Jim Rutledge said. “We will decide at the next meeting whether to go forward with the process.”

Part of that decision will be whether the port can afford nearly $5,000 in permit fees, as well as about $4,000 per slip in impact fees, adding up to more than $50,000.

According to Poulsbo Planning Director Barry Berezowsky, the port will have the neighborhood meeting prior to submitting an application. After the application is submitted, the public will have a period of time to comment on the matter. Then a Planning Commission meeting, and finally a public hearing with the city’s hearing examiner. The hearing examiner will make the final decision.

The city’s main concern with adding liveaboards is the availability of downtown parking spaces. The port contends it has ample parking for liveaboards at its Jensen Way parking lot.

A “liveaboard” is a person who lives aboard a boat full time.

The port’s relationship with the city regarding the issue is unique. Other ports with marinas in the Puget Sound region 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. 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.

But by state law, marinas are allowed to have a number of liveaboards equal to 10 percent of its total number of slips. That makes the port’s cap 25. Currently, six port residents make use of their liveaboard status.

After bringing the issue to the city in March, as stated in its 31-year-old agreement, the port has been required to answer council member questions and submit a proposal to the council. After seven months of going back and forth with the city, council members then told the port in October that it must instead go through its planning department process and submit an application.

“If we had known that you guys would be up for having an application, then we would have done that a long time ago,” Rutledge said at an Oct. 22 meeting with the council’s Economic Development Committee.