Noll Road Improvement Project engines revved

POULSBO — Initial planning has begun for the Noll Road Improvement Project, a process that will drive transportation-related improvements in the recently-annexed area.

City staff and Public Works Committee members Wednesday afternoon discussed how best to incorporate public and other agency involvement, including how best to outlay the plan and attain suggestions.

The project’s scope spans from Noll Road to State Route 305, and includes the Mesford Road area. The corridor planning study, which will precede any actual work, has a budget of $78,000 and an expected completion timeframe of summer 2008. Parametrix is working as the city’s consultant.

Public Works director Jeff Bauman said he knows the study will be one in which several outside parties, including residents, the North Kitsap School District and Kitsap Transit, will have input. He suggested the creation of an advisory council or task force to help steer the efforts and determine a mission of what the city should and shouldn’t strive to take on during this particular process.

“We’re trying to walk a fine line,” he said. “It could be an unbounded conversation.”

Stakeholder issues could include stormwater, infrastructure, the interchange with Lincoln Road, as well as potential impacts to SR 305, the school district and bus systems.

“Some of these are at the heart of the study and some of these get further and further afield,” he said, adding a more detailed focus and understanding of what the city can address is needed so the public and other agencies have appropriate expectations and peripheral issues do not take the wheel. The project is transportation-focused, not annexation-driven, he said.

“I think this has implications as far as a precedent,” said Councilman Ed Stern. “This will become a template potentially for how we look at the Johnson Creek (urban growth) area.”

Stern said the study — a combined effort between the city’s planning and public works departments managed by city engineer Andrzej Kasiniak — needs to focus foremost on technical importance and accomplishment, not policy. When it comes to the desires of many stakeholders for the area, “the sky is the limit” for issues they may want the city to take on.

Councilman Jeff McGinty agreed.

“There’s a lot of wish list stuff for that,” he said.

Stern suggested the city turn to consulting planner Karla Boughton, who has worked on the city’s comprehensive planning, to get recommendations for approach.

City Planning Director Barry Berezowsky said though public involvement is significant, it will be important for the city to determine its technical parameters, as well as the areas time, scope and budget allow for flexibility, before opening up the floor.

Councilwoman-elect Linda Berry-Maraist said she could see several unique challenges the project will need to address, including possible safety concerns the school district may have regarding both North Kitsap High School and Poulsbo Middle School, as well as resident concerns about traffic congestion, which could affect neighborhoods including Deer Run and Meredith Heights.

Councilwoman-elect and Noll Road Association president Becky Erickson said the improvement project encompasses more than just transportation, as the roads will serve as connectors for the neighborhoods — containing hundreds of homes — that are set to be built in the area.

“It is more about the beginning of building a neighborhood,” she said, terming it as “neighborhood creation.”

She listed three specific things necessary to the success of the work: a high level of citizen involvement so that those served by the roads can have their voices heard; appropriate environmental considerations, including potential effects on Bjorgen Creek; and coordination with the Washington State Department of Transportation for traffic light installations.

“We’re very excited about it and we want to do it right,” Erickson said. “I think they need to bring the citizens early on first.”

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