Poulsbo growth in 2007: history in the making

The latter part of 2007 was filled with just as much growth and excitement for Little Norway as the first, as new city leaders emerged, some former Poulsbo institutions came back to life and Mother Nature threw a few curveballs of her own.

Here is a recap of the second half of the year that saw an array of discussions, debates and changes as Poulsbo marked one more down for the books.

Business owners defend their parking turf

POULSBO — Downtown business owners came in loud and clear July 11 at a special Community Services Committee meeting giving them the chance to voice their opinions over downtown festivals, especially those that take over Anderson Parkway.

“This is a huge concern,” JJ’s Fish House owner Judy Eagleson said. “They not only take our parking, they take our business.”

The meeting was scheduled in the Sons of Norway Viking Room to accommodate the more than 35 people who attended. Among them were Third of July planners Sandra Peterson and Mike McLaughlin and Viking Fest representatives Kathi Foresee and Ron Krell. Also in attendance were Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade and Sgt. Howard Leeming of the Poulsbo Police Department.

“I think we’re all looking to ensure the least impact on parking,” Mor Mor Bistro and Bar owner John Nesby said. He and other business owners expressed frustration over the loss of business and festival-goers who use Anderson Parkway. It was argued while the city owns the parking lot, it was business and property owners who paid to improve it.

Gasoline leak poses

threat to Liberty Bay

POULSBO — The Washington State Department of Ecology determined a gasoline leak stemming from one of three Poulsbo Junction Grocery underground tanks spread into the storm drainage system on the east side of Viking Way, but did not spread into Liberty Bay.

The 10,000-gallon tank, which was supposed to be replaced by 1998, was emptied and will be removed along with its surrounding soil so the scope of the leak can be determined, Public Works Director Jeff Bauman said. The bay has been tested and shows no signs of gasoline, he said.

The situation was first brought to Public Works’ attention when nearby business owners reported a pungent gasoline odor July 8.

“The day that it became known to us, one of our crew went out and installed absorbent barriers,” Bauman said. “If there’s any good news it’s that there was a concentrated effort to stop it before there was environmental damage.”

The DOE is overseeing the situation and has appropriated $200,000 in emergency funds to stabilize the situation.

City-wide moratoriums lifted for development

POULSBO — The Critical Areas Ordinance that has long been in the works for Poulsbo City Council was officially adopted July 18, putting an end to city-wide moratoriums that have been in place since last September. The ordinance was approved by the council June 20, but the moratoriums could not be lifted until the official vote.

“I want to thank all of the public participants,” Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade said after the vote, which was met with applause. “This was a long-anticipated, well thought out, well-participated in event... a major milestone.”

The moratoriums were originally enacted due to concerns about developments near critical areas, including a plan for more than 1,000 homes in the Noll Road area. The new ordinance identifies critical areas — which encompass such sites as wildlife habitat and environmentally sensitive lands and waterways — in greater detail than the previous regulations, passed in the mid 1990s.

Martinson Cabin offers historical touch

POULSBO — With the city government’s centennial celebration fast approaching, another historic structure in Poulsbo had a first anniversary of its own.

Martinson Cabin is already boasting nearly 100 visitors each month, and attendance is climbing. After opening to the public last fall, docents at the cabin have settled in to the tasks of museum care, and are ready to give the public a lesson in history.

“I’m surprised that we get the attendance that we do,” said Poulsbo Historical Society curator Erica Varga. “Our little cabin, it proves the city did the right thing.”

Restoration of Martinson Cabin was done by the Bight of Poulsbo organization, which then donated the structure to the city. The city has supplied electricity, exterior maintenance and security. Bight of Poulsbo founder Bill Austin, who did much of the reconstruction work, said the cabin is now functioning just as he imagined.

Peace Walkers march on Poulsbo’s Waterfront Park

POULSBO — Downtown Poulsbo may have seen its usual crowd of shoppers Aug. 4, but there were a few extra on the streets there for more than just unique wares.

Monks from the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple on Bainbridge Island, along with members of several other faiths, led the third annual Interfaith Peace Walk through the streets of Poulsbo, praying and chanting the Buddhist mantra “Namu-myoho-renge-kyo,” which means, “All beings or lives are sacred.” The march began on July 16 in Eugene, Ore. and ended at the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, where a groundbreaking ceremony took place Saturday.

“It’s a prayer walk for peace,” said walker and Sequim resident Cynthia Brooke. “We’re laying down a prayer on the earth.”

The walk, which boasted about 15 members of various religions, including Buddhism, Judaism and Catholicism, during its march through Little Norway, commemorated the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by nuclear bombs, while also honoring those throughout the U.S. who have suffered radiation poisoning near nuclear testing sites. Each step taken was dedicated to a nuclear-free future.

Local business asks city for emergency assistance

POULSBO - Despite the many hot-button issues the city faces, more than half of Aug. 8’s 20 city council meeting attendees showed up for one and only one purpose: Armstrong Fitness University.

Six citizens spoke on behalf of the athletic club, including owner Ann Armstrong, one of her employees, and four of her clients, calling on the city council for assistance after AFU was forced to move from its Viking Avenue location. A nearby gas leak threatened the health of staff and customers both, and the Washington State Department of Health agreed with Armstrong’s decision to close after several in the building became sick due to overexposure to gasoline.

Armstrong moved her facility to a downtown building, but struggled to provide the city with the necessary fees for operation. She and others complained of the city’s treatment through the ordeal, and asked for assistance from the council and mayor.

Poulsbo councilwoman looks to have trolley system running next year

POULSBO — Little Norway’s streets may be a far cry from the busy hills of San Francisco, but one of the California city’s most famous attractions could soon be duplicated near the shores of Liberty Bay.

With potential to solve several difficulties in downtown Poulsbo, a trolley system proposed and spearheaded by councilwoman Kim Crowder could make a show on city thoroughfares as early as 2008. Sporting the benefits of easy access, a dependable schedule and charming town attraction, Crowder’s plan is tentatively expected to be put through a trial run this coming May.

“When people think of buses, there’s such a stigma. It’s too much work to figure out how to get on them,” Crowder said. “This is tourist friendly. People want to ride on it just because it’s a novelty.”

Marine Science Center reopens to the public

POULSBO — In a building that has echoed emptily with the construction sounds of just a few dedicated volunteers for more than two years, the hum of a crowd filling its every nook and cranny Sept. 30 was nothing short of harmonious.

And the excitement illuminating children’s faces as they entered the treasure of seafaring creatures and dockside decor now refurbished and redesigned from the depths proved the incredible efforts of a small few were more than worth it.

“It’s wonderful. I was hoping for this,” said Poulsbo Marine Science Center Foundation Vice President and volunteer extraordinaire Bill Austin, observing groups of kids reaching into a saltwater touch tank toward various undersea inhabitants. “This is good, this is working.”

The center closed because of financial shortfalls in February 2005, and for nine months Austin has taken on the task of reopening the structure — a goal he’s worked for on nearly a daily basis. Though an octopus has yet to make a showing, he said the tanks are now ready and more critters will soon be on their way.

City asks HDPA, Viking Fest to cooperate

POULSBO — It was a familiar discussion, but with a new and different ending as the Viking Fest board and Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association members were asked by the city’s Community Services Committee to work together to solve the Viking Fest location dilemma. Since the dialogue began during the summer, the city has provided a venue for it on several occasions, seeing a record number of meeting attendees.

The conversation — and at times debate — was first brought to the committee’s agenda in July in an effort by downtown merchants to rid Anderson Parkway of events, especially the Viking Fest carnival, that overtake needed parking spaces. Nearly 50 downtown business owners signed a petition to have the carnival removed.

The Viking Fest board responded to the HDPA’s requests saying that moving just the carnival, and not the entire event, would be a difficult task. Viking Fest Executive Vice President Kathi Foresee said they are now in negotiations with three different locations and are considering the feasibility and cost of relocating just the carnival or the entire event from downtown.

“At this point we’re trying to weigh all of our options, and do what’s best for the city, the heritage and Viking Fest,” she said.

Poulsbo names new top cop

POULSBO — Seven months and nearly $60,000 after beginning the search for a new leader at the Poulsbo Police Department, Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade announced Oct. 10 Dennis Swiney has accepted the police chief position.

Swiney previously served as assistant police chief in Visalia, Calif. He will take over the posting Nov. 26, relieving Interim Chief Jake Evans, who has served in the capacity since former chief Jeff Doran’s mid-March retirement.

Swiney worked his way through the ranks at the Visalia Police Department during his 25 years of service. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social business administration from Chadwick University in Alabama, and attended the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.

SR 305 widening work to continue in 2008

POULSBO — Motorists slogging through the orange-coned obstacle course of State Route 305 while ticking down the days until October’s end stopped counting, as the work first expected to be finished by then will take until next summer to complete.

“We’re not going to make the October dream date,” said Washington State Department of Transportation project engineer Jerry Moore. “It’s going to be early- to mid- next summer before this job gets wrapped up.”

Moore said the rainy weather, along with the usual surprises and delays that occur during construction, led to setbacks which will keep the project from completion until summer 2008. The project began August 2006 with a projected $14.9 price tag, but Moore said the cost could reach the $20 million mark.

New Taprock Northwest Grill opening delayed

POULSBO — Originally scheduled to launch in the fall, the new Taprock Northwest Grill in the Poulsbo Village is scheduled for an early 2008 debut.

While its construction, like that of many other projects this time of year, may be running a bit behind, Elmers Restaurant, Inc. is still awaiting the opening of the restaurant with excitement.

“Our hope is that Taprock will be a welcome addition to the community,” said ERI marketing manager Michelle Hicks. “As a company whose heritage is based in the Northwest, we believe whole-heartedly in connecting with the neighborhood and the residents we serve. We’re hopeful we’re creating a place that will immediately blend into the close-knit community.”

Public relations representative Becky Emmett said the restaurant’s progress hasn’t hit any major road blocks, and construction is steadily moving ahead despite missing the September completion date.

“Construction is construction,” she added.

Poulsbo council to make city hall land purchase

POULSBO — Poulsbo’s City Council took a another stride in the direction of a new downtown city hall Nov. 7 with the authorization of a land purchase at 3rd Avenue and Moe Street.

With six years of effort, two prior property purchases, and a remaining budget of about $12.4 million, the council took action on its desire to see the project finally move ahead.

Leading into the lengthy discussion, Mayor Kathryn Quade urged the council to follow the citizens’ advisory vote, calling on the seven members to acquire the land and enter into a $480,000 agreement for the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority to act as project manager in an effort to “move our city forward.” She said she hopes to break ground on the project next year, and be moved into the new structure in 2009.

“Tonight is that time to be bold,” she said.

Following that advice, the council decided in three 6-1 votes (with Councilman Mike Regis voting “nay”) to enter into an agreement to hire the KCCHA to manage the project’s daily tasks, spend $425,000 to purchase a roughly .12-acre parcel needed for the project, and pursue sell the Klingle property — also known as Mitchusson Park — a 9.5 acre parcel of undeveloped land at the end of 2nd Avenue.

It’s mostly change for Poulsbo City Council

POULSBO — Two of the three seats up for grabs on Poulsbo’s City Council were handed over to political newcomers, as just one incumbent claimed victory in November’s elections.

Positions 1 through 4 on the seven-seat council were up for re-election. Position 4 incumbent Jeff McGinty will serve another four years, as he ran unchallenged.

Preliminary postings reported Linda Berry-Maraist leading incumbent Mike Regis with about 56 percent of votes for council seat one and Becky Erickson leading incumbent Jim Henry with nearly 62 percent of votes for seat three. Connie Lord looked to be the lone re-elected incumbent, retaining her seat with almost 70 percent of votes after beating challenger Joe Price.

Berry-Maraist and Erickson have both become familiar faces to Poulsbo’s city government, known especially for work on growth, planning and development issues.

Vetter Homesteaders beat the building clock

POULSBO — Joel Kirtley says it’s been a dream.

Building his house, that is.

And he’s not just pitching in to construct his own home, but the houses of nine others in Vetter Homestead, a neighborhood developed by the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority.

Kirtley worked Saturday as part of one of four teams of homeowners putting in some manual labor on their future dwellings, bundled up and gung-ho on a process many started as early as last spring.

Each of the four groups — established in teams of 10 homeowners — has reached or is nearing the half-way point in their year-long process of constructing their own affordable housing. And the process is one as much about neighbors as it is about building a neighborhood. Where slabs of foundation stood bare this summer, walls, roofs and even sheet-rock are now beginning to fill in.

Kirtley, his wife and their five kids are looking forward to settling into what will be a two-story, 1656-square-foot home, something he said would never have been possible without the Housing Authority’s program, which allows interested home buyers with pre-approved incomes the opportunity to create “sweat equity” by helping construct their home and the homes of their neighbors. Instead of a large down payment, 30 work hours are expected each week.

Poulsbo flood damage estimated at $360,000

POULSBO — Nearly two weeks after much of Kitsap County became waterlogged by heavy rains and flooding, the city of Poulsbo continued its efforts to repair damages and assist property owners in filing for federal relief funding. More than three dozen private property and business owners filed for flood cleanup assistance.

The city had its own list of needed repairs, including the Public Works building on Iverson Street and 8th Avenue, which was severely flooded during the storm.

“For most everyone we’re back to normal, but not for Public Works,” said Public Works director Jeff Bauman.

The city’s damages have been estimated at $360,000, though Bauman said he believes that initial amount to be high. He is continuing to work with the county, as officials there compile a list of damages in an effort to gain federal relief aid.

Poulsbo council bids farewell to outgoing members

POULSBO — It was a different scene Dec. 12 in the Poulsbo city council chambers, where serious discussions were put aside for a slice of cake and dish on the works of two longtime council members leaving at the end of the year.

Councilmen Mike Regis and Jim Henry were honored by their fellow political peers and Mayor Kathryn Quade for their combined 16 years on council, and decades more of service to the city as a whole.

Regis began his work with the city in 1977 and was elected to council Position 1 in 2000. He has become a primary source of Poulsbo’s civic history. Henry was appointed to the council in 2000 as well, and has carried the transportation baton — as well as developed strong relations with the Suquamish Tribe — during his eight years of service.

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