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Finding space for Poulsbo Place

POULSBO — Temperatures rose in the Poulsbo Fire Station meeting hall Thursday night during a Poulsbo Place II neighborhood gathering, where more than 60 residents opined some fiery views on a new development planned by Central Highlands Builders (CHB). In the face of what, at times, was fairly heavy fire, representatives from the development firm did their best to extinguish the crowd’s fears and provide answers to their doubts.

The meeting showcased the newest plans CHB has for the area along Fourth Avenue, as well as the land next to and behind the Poulsbo Post Office on Jensen Way and Sunset Street. Three- to four-story mixed-use and condominium structures are planned, totaling the Poulsbo Place neighborhood to 480 residential units — a 120 unit climb from the original 1995 Master Plan. Plans also detail a decrease in commercial space from 216,000 square feet to only 30,000, a trade-off for the increase in residential dwellings.

Because the structures will provide underbuilding parking spaces, they can reach a 45-foot height, instead of the usual 35-foot limitation.

The development will require a change in Poulsbo’s Master Plan to accommodate the increased amount of residential units. CHB has yet to file its official permit application for the project, nor have the plans been approved by the city.

Despite the project still being in initial stages, Thursday night’s crowd had more than a few stones to throw at what many deemed would be detrimental to the values and feel of Poulsbo’s core.

CHB principle Mike Brown said the developer has a commitment to community involvement for the project. Throughout the night he encouraged audience members to join subcommittees to continually have their input heard.

He outlined advantages urban development brings to a city, including getting more use out of existing infrastructure, reducing impacts on the environment, supporting existing downtown businesses and preserving undeveloped green spaces.

Various members of the crowd shot back, questioning the ability of the infrastructure to handle increased usage, especially after the December 2007 flooding. Replacing open space and precious trees with lines of rooftops was another concern discussed, as was the imminent exasperation of traffic problems the neighborhood already suffers. Sunset Street and Fourth Avenue were cited as currently being overwrought with cut-through traffic.

Many expressed a desire to preserve Poulsbo’s current village state, and keep it from becoming an urban area in the likes of Bellevue or Kirkland.

After the meeting, Dolores Lynch, organizer of the Friends of Poulsbo organization, which is circulating a petition to keep CHB from building to a 45-foot height, said she thought the developers’ minds were already made up, despite the community’s protests.

“I don’t feel they’re hearing us, they’re just hearing their pocketbooks,” said the Poulsbo Place I resident.

Other sentiments shared during the meeting characterized the selling of homes in the first Poulsbo Place neighborhoods a “bait ‘n switch,” as those buying were unaware of the development that would later occur.

“This to us is the village of Poulsbo,” said resident Margaret Atwood. “It’s just going to destroy the heart of our city.”

Both Lynch and Atwood said they aren’t against condominiums or other development in the area, they simply want new structures to stay in keeping with Poulsbo’s present scale and stick to the city’s current master plan.

Brown said after the meeting the concerns raised by those in attendance are common and are often a part of development, which is an “evolutionary process.” CHB will continue its commitment to involving the community and recognizes the importance of input, he said. He believes the particular project is a unique opportunity, one he wants to do well and be proud of.

For more information on CHB’s plans, visit poulsboplace3.org. To sign the Friends of Poulsbo height petition, visit friendsofpoulsbo.org. To view a video of Thursday night’s meeting, stop by the Poulsbo Place II sales office for a complimentary copy.

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