Poulsbo to buy city hall property

POULSBO — Poulsbo’s City Council took a another stride in the direction of a new downtown city hall Wednesday night 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 the selling of the Klingle property — also known as Mitchusson Park — a 9.5-acre parcel of undeveloped land at the end of 2nd Avenue.

The city still has plans to purchase another piece of property for the project, a .48-acre parcel at 3rd Avenue and Moe Street costing $1.2 million. That commercial property is owned by Rose Properties and currently houses Sound Naturopathic Clinic. The smaller piece is privately-owned and has a closing date of Nov. 20, which spurred the council to proceed quickly. The council faced the decision of constructing on just the larger parcel, which the city will purchase from the KCCHA by May 2008, or on both parcels, in which case an immediate purchase of the smaller piece of land needed to occur. Ultimately, the group went ahead with the $425,000 transaction.

The decisions followed a presentation by KCCHA representatives, including executive director Norm McLoughlin and LMN Architects’ Walt Niehoff, who outlined two different fit designs the city could pursue based on the purchase option they chose. Both designs showed preliminary schematics in an effort to display the site’s potential. Actual architecture designs have yet to be created.

The single site option, which would have included only the larger, commercial piece of land, required two underground parking levels and a higher structure, while the double site option, combining both parcels of land, will allow for a lower-scale structure of about 50 feet with only one level of parking. The double site option comes with a final price tag of about $1,625,000.

McLoughlin, along with members of the council’s Long Range Planning Committee and KCCHA director of urban development Gary Tusberg, said much of the added cost of the extra parcel will be made up for in construction benefits, as well as allow for a lesser building height and larger plaza, and more expansion capabilities for the city’s future.

“We have always believed it would be better to have both pieces of property,” McLoughlin said. Tusberg later added, “When we factor in the construction benefits of having the larger purchase, the real difference is $150,000-$200,000.”

Council members Dale Rudolph and Ed Stern both spoke out in agreement.

“This is a project with a life of at least 50 years,” Stern said. “We need to allow for the full life cycle and not be penny wise and dollar foolish as we approach the decision here.”

Rudolph said 80 percent of the cost of the smaller property will be regained in benefits of the double site purchase.

“It gets to be a bit of a monstrous looking building if we don’t buy the extra parcel,” he said.

Stern, along with councilman Jeff McGinty, also expressed the need to be willing to sell not just the Klingle property, but perhaps all or part of the 10th Avenue parcel, which was purchased for $2.1 million in 2005 and later abandoned after the citizens’ advisory vote. Possibly delaying the construction of a new police station was mentioned as well, should unexpected costs arise, Stern said.

“I fully expect we might need to put additional assets on the table,” he said, urging the council to make an “open-eyed” decision so that the city’s services and general fund are not negatively impacted.

“We don’t know what it’s going to cost,” McGinty added. “We’ve got a lot of unknowns.”

Councilwoman Connie Lord said, like any other developers, the city will conduct traffic and street circulation studies and alleviate the effects construction will have on the area, as well as address the status and possible upgrades of 3rd Avenue.

Rudolph said the project as a whole will stimulate downtown revitalization.

“This is an opportunity to be a catalyst to the redevelopment of this portion of downtown,” he said.

Both councilmen McGinty and Jim Henry, before giving their go-aheads, mentioned former hopes of seeing city hall constructed on 10th Avenue.

Before the motion, Henry said, “This is like hearing the final gavel in divorce court.”

McGinty added, “I feel like we’re in a gridlock here. I don’t see any other place we can pursue.”

Regis, the lone nay-sayer in each vote, continued to champion the 10th Avenue site.

“I’m still in love,” he said before casting his vote. “Regis nay.”

Tusberg said Thursday the council’s action will allow the KCCHA the ability to move “right into the design process that will be very transparent, i.e. public.”

The agency has a design goal of creating not just a remarkable view from the structure itself, but also of maintaining as much as possible the views of residential structures around it. Tusberg added the Housing Authority will largely look to community feedback in creating the structure, so that its materials, shape and theme each match Little Norway’s charm.

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