City trails plan on hold until consensus is reached

POULSBO — The Urban Paths of Poulsbo plan has not been adopted into the Comprehensive Plan, and won’t until the City Council and displeased residents reach consensus.

The council went through this year’s amendments to the Comprehensive Plan, last updated in 2009, on Wednesday and agreed all amendments but the urban paths plan was ready to be passed. However, the city is only allowed to amend the Comprehensive Plan once a year.

After more submitted comments and several testifiers at the public hearing — the majority concerned about private property rights and environmental impacts of some conceptual trails — the council continued the public hearing to May 16.

Since the plan has been vetted by the public beginning last year, many West Poulsbo property owners have submitted comments, frustrated that a dotted pink line has been placed through their property. The pink line is a conceptual suggestion for a future trail in that area — but those property owners see it as “trampling” on their rights.

From suggestions from the Planning Commission, and alternative language from Mayor Becky Erickson, the plan now states the city ensures a trail will only be surveyed if “each affected property owner is willing and has been closely coordinated with” and will “voluntarily acquire property rights” for future trails.

Many property owners said they appreciated the “softer” approach, but does not assuage their fears.

“We have no legal assurance that in the future, [the city] won’t force a trail on us,” resident John Lee said.

Hans Nielsen, board member of Liberty Bay Estates, said additional language should be added to state the city will not use eminent domain to seize land in the future.

Another homeowner at Liberty Bay Estates, Chuck Driver, said he was concerned that even with the word “conceptual,” Poulsbo walkers would see that line on the map and use it as a trail before one is built.

Others thought “conceptual” was clear enough, and wanted to see Poulsbo adopt a non-motorized trail plan.

“By articulating the connected trails, it opens the way for future generations to contribute to this important conversation,” said Edie Lau, who served on the trails committee that built the map.

Russ Perisho, board member of the North Kitsap Trails Association, said he wants Poulsbo to become part of the north end’s String of Pearls plan. The central and south end of the county is currently building a String of Pearls plan to connect the whole county by trail.

“Poulsbo is one of those pearls,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to drive to go on a walk.”

The council and planning staff will continue to take comments until the May 16 public hearing, at the City Council meeting. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.


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