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Poulsbo City Council expected to vote Tuesday on new neighborhood at 305/Bond; Planning Commission votes 3-2 to recommend approval
POULSBO — The Poulsbo City Council meets in special session Tuesday, 6 p.m., to discuss Edward Rose & Sons’ proposed neighborhood at State Route 305 and Bond Road.
The public hearing on the developer’s agreement is at 6:15 p.m. City Clerk Jill Boltz said the council is expected to vote on the project after the hearing.
The Planning Commission voted 3-2 Thursday to recommend the City Council approve the project: 540 apartments on 46 acres — 11.7 units per acre — with a community center and swimming pool and a central park with pedestrian paths. In addition, Rose proposes building a commercial area and 160-room senior care apartments on 9.2 acres, with pedestrian plazas, a public park, a shared-use path, transit stops and streetscape landscaping.
If approved, the new neighborhood would boost Poulsbo’s population by about 15 percent.
The commission recommended these modifications: The developer has proposed underground parking under eight of 18 buildings, but sought an increase in building height from 35 to 45 feet for all 18 buildings. The commission recommended easing height restrictions only for those buildings with underground parking.
In addition, the developer had sought a period of up to 10 years from time of master plan approval to begin construction. The commission is recommending seven years, in accordance with state law.
There have been some changes to the plan since it was initially proposed. A Bond Road entrance to the neighborhood has been moved east, about midway between 305 and Big Valley Road, farther away from Dogfish Creek and protected open space. That new road — on the map as Road A — would lead from Bond Road through the neighborhood to Vetter Road and Viking Way. A left-turn lane would be added at the Bond Road entrance and the state Department of Transportation would require the developer to install a traffic signal at Bond and Big Valley Road. City Engineer Andrzej Kasiniak said those measures would actually improve traffic flow at 305 and Bond, although the improvement is slight — from an average 48.3-second wait to 47.9 seconds.
Those involved in the Rose project said they want to create a unique village of single-family and senior care apartments, neighborhood businesses, pedestrian paths and open space, a place where residents can “age in place.” Stormwater would be controlled with porous pavement and rain gardens with amended soil to increase water retention.
But most people in attendance still feared the intensity of the development outweighs mitigation measures on the site, which features two streams and three wetlands.
Gene Bullock of the Audubon Society said stormwater doesn’t get the consideration it deserves in development discussions. Stormwater, unbridled by plant and tree removal, scours creeks and buries estuaries in silt, he said. “It’s one of the reasons we’re losing our salmon stocks.”
Bullock said he likes some of the measures the developer proposes to control stormwater, “but rain gardens and buffers don’t replace natural buffers ... We’re incrementally losing our natural buffers. It’s death by a thousand permits.”
Richard Frederickson of Big Valley Road said he’s “very upset” about the proposed neighborhood and how it would affect animal and plant life. He said he’s seen bear, salmon, skunks and other species in the area proposed for development. “It’s very elegant," he said of the proposed neighborhood, "but all I see is a degrading of our quality of life ... This seems to be the wrong location for this.”
Vetter Road residents expressed concern that their road, which they describe as a “one-lane country road,” would be transformed as motorists drive from Bond Road through the neighborhood to Vetter Road to Viking Way.
Phil Colcord of Vetter Road said the city Planning Commission once “guaranteed” that Vetter Road would not be used as access to neighboring development. “They recognized the beauty of our one-lane country road,” he said.
He said 305 has become congested again despite improvements in the last decade, and he fears Vetter Road could take some of that congestion as motorists start using Bond Road/Road A/Vetter Road as an alternative to waiting at the 305/Bond intersection.
“Our quiet, country lane will be lost forever,” he said.
Karen Grooms of Sherman Hill Road said Johnson Creek, which flows from the Olhava area to Viking Way to Liberty Bay, is an example of how development can negatively impact streams despite efforts to minimize the impacts of development.
“Johnson Creek has never been the same,” she said. “We need to rebuild Viking Way, not take out every blessed tree.”
Another resident agreed. He said he remembers when the “projects” were redeveloped into Poulsbo Place. But infrastructure was already installed in that area. “This doesn’t do the same thing,” he said. “It’s not appropriate for this area.”
No one from the Suquamish Tribe testified at the public hearing. But the next day, Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman said Suquamish has, on a government-to-government basis, been “communicating with the City of Poulsbo to make sure our concerns are addressed.” He indicated that Suquamish was concerned about potential impacts to Dogfish Creek, a salmon-bearing stream, as well as cultural resources.
In an earlier interview, he said, “We still have concerns about Dogfish Creek ... Any time you’re in a place where there’s a salmon run and a freshwater source, there’s potential for cultural resources.”
Commissioners James Coleman Sr., Bob Nordnes and James Thayer voted to recommend approval with modifications; Kate Nunes and Ray Stevens voted no.
Despite the proposed neighborhood’s pedestrian trails, Nunes said later her concerns were with the project’s lack of bicyclist and pedestrian connectivity with the rest of Poulsbo. “It’s 6/10s of a mile to Central Market from Bond and 305. But to safely get there (by sidewalk), you have to route through downtown if you’re not willing to walk Bond Road or Highway 305.” She said that could be solved with a crosswalk at Bond and Big Valley roads; Big Valley turns into Little Valley, which leads to 10th Avenue.
Another concern: Pedestrians will have one option to get to Viking Way — walk a half-mile north on Vetter Road to Viking Way, then loop south to get to shopping and other Viking Way amenities. Kasiniak said the city is negotiating with the county for an easement across the Poulsbo Recycling Center property, reducing that connection to Viking Way in half.
“I thought the development looked good," Nunes said. “I like what they did with the site. But if we have the connections, that would be a good thing.”
Stevens, the commission chairman, said he was opposed to the modifications, but not the project.
“This is the best project I’ve seen come into Poulsbo ever,” he said. “I’ve been on the Planning Commission for 14 or 16 years. The way this (master plan) is written, it will protect this area, it will be the best thing we can do to (this site). The building height is not a big problem. The 10-year (vesting), I wasn’t too worried about. I’m fully behind the project.”
Luanne Hill lives on a stretch of Vetter Road that is outside of the city limits. But until Road A is developed, Vetter Road provides the only access to the site for construction equipment. "Two cars can't pass on this road," she said. "The city has to address Vetter Road."
Neighbor Jeff Haines has lived his entire life in the 1949 log cabin his father built, on acreage shared with bears, deer and rabbits. "You can go an hour or two without a car going by," he said. Of the proposed development, he said, "It's too big, too intense. I have nothing against someone devleoping their property, but I think this is overkill."