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Residents not pleased with proposed plan for parks
POULSBO — To salvage some dollars from a down real estate market, the city of Poulsbo wants to rezone two park properties to allow for high-density development.
The plan to sell park property isn’t new, two years ago the City Council approved the plan to sell the 8.31-acre undeveloped Klingel property to help offset the $16 million bill for the new city hall, now under construction.
It’s been on the market, and like a lot of real estate, it’s not selling.
“It hasn’t sold in the last two years, that’s an indicator,” said Mayor Kathryn Quade.
But when neighbors in the Torval Canyon area recently received the redesignation application notification in the mail, news tore through the neighborhood and resistance sprang up. A 114-signature-strong petition was handed to city leaders and skeptical residents from the neighborhood packed park and planning commission meetings this week despite the heat and lack of air conditioning.
Of interest to neighbors who like the woodsy, genial nature of their surroundings, was the legal boilerplate on the application.
“The city is seeking to expand its higher density land capacity and sell off a portion of the properties for development,” the application read. Later, the application adds, “The proposal will enhance development opportunities for the subject properties.”
Bundled together in the application is a request from the city to upgrade the zoning for the 2.76-acre Betty Iverson Kiwanis Park at Scandia Knoll.
The Kiwanis Park was established as open space when the apartment complex was developed, another sore spot for neighbors.
Stephen Smith, who rallied neighbors and encouraged attendance at the commission meetings, opposes changing the nature of the open area in the neighborhood, doubts the land would be suitable for development and questions the wisdom of the whole endeavor.
“Now they’re just selling the parks to pay for city hall,” Smith said. “They have totally lost control of the construction budget process.”
In addition to the city-owned property, 7.15 acres of private property in the area — owned by Peter Sing and the PeeWee Association Field — was recommended to be upgraded from low-density to medium density.
Taken together, “That’s a huge amount of land,” Smith said, and could open the door to dramatically change the character of the neighborhood.
Quade emphasized, both in an interview and before the parks commission, that the planning for the park property has not gone any further than the request.
“This is not a done deal,” she said.
Smith was unimpressed.
“She didn’t convince me one whit,” he said.
One of the possible proposals is to reconfigure Kiwanis park, parcel off areas of the two properties that could be developed, and attempt to connect to other open space in the area, Quade said.
Ultimately, she said, the potential of this plan could result in more contiguous open space.
The proposal was not slated to to be heard before the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, an advisory body to the City Council.
Wayne Hill, a member of the commission and a resident of the neighborhood, said it should have come before the panel.
“That would seem like the thing to do,” he said, noting that the proposal may conflict with other Poulsbo park policies.
Quade did attend Monday’s parks commission meeting to discuss the proposal.
Quade admitted the intent of the city had not been explained well to residents.
“All I can say is the city could do a better job of being an applicant,” she said. “I understand why people are concerned, and I’m doing my best to address those concerns.”
Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting, the body that advises the city on zoning changes, has been continued to Aug. 4. The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. at the Sons of Norway, 18891 Front Street, to accommodate the number of residents who may wish to attend.