Precious property for sale in Poulsbo

POULSBO — Briana Reber remembers childhood escapades spent frolicking through the crabapple trees of Mitchusson Park, a 9.5-acre undeveloped and nearly unheard of nature hideaway within Poulsbo’s city limits.

At the end of Second Avenue, the farm — once the residence of the Klingle family — was a place Reber went to interact with the wide world of the outdoors that included curious salamanders and tall tree branches.

“That really affected my childhood,” she said to Poulsbo’s city council Wednesday night.

She, along with more than a dozen other nearby residents, came to speak on behalf of a patch of preserved greenery they’ve come to cherish — a parcel the city, despite the concerned citizens’ best efforts, staked for sale Wednesday night as part of its city hall development plan.

The move wasn’t an unexpected one, as the council precluded its November purchase of part of the Third Avenue and Moe Street city hall land with the provision they would surplus the rural property to help offset costs. The unwelcome news fell on the ears of several from the neighborhood adjacent to the park who spoke to the council about the place that’s probably the last of its kind.

“I think that we’re going to lose a bunch of the charm of this Norwegian community,” said 30-year First Avenue resident Bill King.

Many stood to encourage the city to keep the property, which will more than likely be developed if sold. Zoned to hold four to five houses per acre, the area was first acquired by the city in 1997 for $295,000 and at one point was set aside to create a working farm on which local students and families could participate. City of Poulsbo Parks and Recreation director Mary McCluskey said a private group planned to have butter churns and farm animals as part of the farm, but maintaining such an operation proved to be the straw that toppled the idea’s feasibility. The land has never made it high enough on the city’s Capital Improvements Plan list to see development of any kind.

An arboretum-type park with trails — similar to Poulsbo’s Fish Park — was imagined for the area, but with budget and time limitations, it didn’t happen.

“It ended up not going anywhere,” McCluskey said. “There were always other priorities.”

The city later rented out the structures on the Mitchusson property and purchased what is now known as Centennial Park for $600,000, originally slating the land to hold a new city hall. Now that a downtown city hall location has been decided on, funds generated from the Mitchusson Park sale will help propel the new civic center project. While Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade expressed continued thanks to former Mayor Mitch Mitchusson, and made assurances the city would find another location to honor him, the sale of the park and the impacts of future development there, including those on traffic that may occur, is still an unwanted action to some.

Members of the city council expressed an understanding of the citizens’ concerns during the discussion, and hypothesized various ways in which at least parts of the open green space could be preserved, but the elephant in the room continued to be the indelible power of the almighty buck.

“We need to make the dollar stretch,” said Councilman Ed Stern. “There’s only so much we can do with the limited revenues we have.”

He reminded citizens that to achieve the city’s new city hall dreams, other properties, including at least part of the 10th Avenue parcel, may have to be put up for sale as well.

While Mitchusson Park will most likely become another of Poulsbo’s newest developments, its adjacent neighbor, Betty Iverson Kiwanis Park, will remain and the playground there will be replaced this year.

No bids on the park property have been received yet, but the general atmosphere of disappointment from the stalwart crowd Wednesday night remained, and the awareness that rural properties within city limits are fast becoming a pleasure of the past continued to cause wrinkles of concern.

“You’re never going to get that back,” Reber said.

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