POULSBO — The Poulsbo City Council is unhappy that Mayor Becky Erickson spoke out against a proposed development plan for the Port Gamble townsite without a formal council discussion first.
The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing for the county Shoreline Management Program at City Hall Oct. 29. Erickson, speaking as a resident of Kitsap County, said she was concerned about the intensity of development in the Port Gamble Master Plan, of which an outline is included in the draft SMP.
The total construction planned for Port Gamble is excessive, Erickson said. The growth of Port Gamble could negatively impact Poulsbo’s city services, which are often utilized by the rural communities of North Kitsap, she said.
Jon Rose, president of Olympic Property Group, which owns and is planning to develop Port Gamble, and Port Gamble town manager Shana Smith testified at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. Rose said he was “confused” and “blindsided” by the mayor’s comments, and Smith said the mayor’s comments reflected poorly on the council and the community.
“I’m insulted to think our 52 residents are a burden to … the residents of Poulsbo,” Smith said.
Erickson stood by her comments. She said OPG is planning on 420,000 square feet of commercial and residential space within the 200-foot shoreline jurisdiction — comparing the proposed development to the size of two Walmarts or 14 City Halls.
“I didn’t give up my citizenship when I took this job,” Erickson said. “I want to protect and preserve the rural character of this county.”
Many of Erickson’s statements are not accurate, Rose said Thursday morning. The property group first drafted the Master Plan in 2006, and there are no changes in regard to Port Gamble’s zoning in the draft SMP.
“There are no change in uses from the old [code] to the new code,” Rose said. “The plan is consistent and legal with GMA [Growth Management Act] and Kitsap County regulation.”
Port Gamble is designated as a Limited Area of More Intense Rural Development, or LAMIRD. The LAMIRD language in the SMP “provides a range of uses that we can use to help design our plan,” Rose said, but that does not mean they will build all 420,000 square feet of space.
Passage of the county SMP is not an approval of the Master Plan, which has not yet been submitted but will be by the end of the year, Rose said. Rose expects permitting will take two to four years, if approved at all stages.
Port Gamble will not be a burden on any other community — the town maintains its own roads, water and sewer systems, stormwater treatment, and uses county sheriff deputies and Fire District 18 for law and safety, Rose said.
“We’re working to preserve 7,000 acres,” Rose said, referring to the Kitsap Forest and Bay Project coalition. “Port Gamble is about 120 acres, it will all comply with code and is not going to pollute anything. Port Gamble is 2 percent of the Kitsap Forest and Bay Project … It seems like that calls for some balance. I think that balance has been lost in that conversation.”
After Wednesday’s testimony, Erickson apologized to the council for speaking from the heart before a formal discussion with the council. A few council members also expressed concern that Erickson had testified before the county.
Councilman Ed Stern said he understood Erickson’s “passion,” but “infra-jurisdictional” questions should be discussed by the whole council.
“Can you take on and off your mayoral hat? It’s problematic at best,” Stern said to Erickson.
Councilwoman Linda Berry-Maraist said Erickson stepped outside her bounds as mayor to comment on projects outside of her jurisdiction.
Council members agreed they wanted to have a discussion about the Port Gamble development, but were divided on whether to issue a policy statement or opinion.
Erickson and Rose said they would also like to have a discussion between the council and OPG.