Our wishes for the new year | In Our Opinion

We have reason to be optimistic about 2015. But the year brings with it new challenges as well as new opportunities. Here are some things we would like to see accomplished this year.

The City of Poulsbo starts 2015 having completed its best sales tax revenue year in at least five years. Kitsap County’s unemployment rate is the sixth-lowest in the state. New neighborhoods are under construction. The USS Nimitz will arrive at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in early 2015 to begin a 16-month maintenance period, and that means more jobs at PSNS.

Poulsbo and Kitsap County seem to be getting their economic groove back. But the county’s 6.2 percent jobless rate translates to 7,200 people out of work. And there are indications that in many cases, a new job doesn’t mean a livable wage; at North Kitsap Fishline, 700 clients moved on to self-sufficiency in 2014, but they were replaced by 600 others.

We have reason to be optimistic about 2015. But the year brings with it new challenges as well as new opportunities. Here are some things we would like to see accomplished this year.

Resolve dispute regarding liveaboard population

The Poulsbo Port District has ample parking on Jensen Street to accommodate an increased population of people who live on their boats at the Port of Poulsbo Marina. Its number of pumpout stations exceeds the state’s standards.

The port’s marina has 253 permanent slips and is allowed by state regulation to have up to 10 percent of those slips reserved for liveaboards. The port has 12 liveaboard slips now and would like to increase that number to 25.

Under a 1983 agreement with the city, the port is prevented from adding liveaboards because of limited downtown parking. The city would prefer that the port have one parking stall for every two boat slips. The port can now meet that requirement. Putting the port through a costly permit process is only a ploy to disguise the city’s opposition to the increase. And it’s wrong.

Liveaboards are good for marinas: They are a 24/7 presence and are often the first to notice anything that could threaten the environment or public safety. The marina is their front yard. Liveaboards shop close to home: For a liveaboard in the Port of Poulsbo Marina, close to home is downtown Poulsbo.

The city has no grounds to hold the port to the 1983 agreement. The Port of Poulsbo should be allowed to increase its number of liveaboard slips to 25.

Expand Port District boundaries to the city limits

The Port of Poulsbo erred a year ago when it proposed expanding the port district to include neighboring communities on Liberty Bay. And voters responded likewise, voting against the measure by a landslide.

However, among voters living within the Poulsbo city limits, the measure lost by 56 votes.

We believe the Poulsbo Port District should again ask voters — those living within the Poulsbo city limits – to enlarge the district boundaries to match the city’s boundaries. Currently, only half of the city’s commercial and residential property owners pay a property tax to support a port district that benefits the entire city.

The benefits of enlarging the district to the city limits: All voters in Poulsbo would be able to vote for port commissioners; currently, only port district residents can do that. All residents of Poulsbo would have a voice in port matters. The enlarged port district would generate significant tax revenue that could be used to replace the breakwater and its creosoted pilings; improve the seaplane dock and the marina, so it can accommodate larger tour vessels; and prevent further erosion at the foot of Anderson Parkway.

Larger port district boundaries would empower the commission to look beyond the waterfront for economic development. Under state law, the port district could play a major role in economic revitalization in Poulsbo through the acquisition of property for commercial, ecotourism and recreational uses. That means a stronger local economy and more jobs.

The commission should put the measure on the November 2015 ballot.

New vision for Viking Avenue

The former auto row still grasps for a new vision.

Downtown is “Little Norway.” College Marketplace is the destination for big box stores. Likewise, Viking Avenue needs a new brand and a new vision.

No other area of the city has more potential. Street improvements are completed to the city limits. All necessary infrastructure is installed. Two years ago, the city established design standards for mixed-use development that come with developer incentives.

There are established businesses here: Ag-related services, auto sales and services, a bank, brewery, children’s clothing store, grocery, home services, movie theater and restaurants. The area has historical resources such as the Martinson House Museum, Nelson Park, and the County Road 50 Walking Trail; and residential neighborhoods.

An organization similar to the Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association could help identify activities and services missing in Poulsbo that could be accommodated on Viking Avenue. This year, we urge the formation of a Historic Viking Avenue Association, which would engage commercial property owners, residents and city officials in conversation about Viking Avenue’s future. In the past, Mayor Becky Erickson suggested the city could start a fund which could make zero-interest loans to businesses so they could improve their properties. That should be part of the discussion.

Viking Avenue is an important part of the city’s economy. We believe it could again be an attractive, economically vibrant  thoroughfare.