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City-wide moratoriums lifted for developers

POULSBO — The Critical Areas Ordinance that has long been in the works for Poulsbo’s city council was officially adopted Wednesday night, putting an end to city-wide moratoriums that have been in place since September 2006. The ordinance was approved by the council June 20, but the moratoriums could not be lifted until Wednesday’s official vote.

“I want to thank all of the public participants,” Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade said after the movement, which was met with applause. “This was a long-anticipated, well thought out, well-participated in event... a major milestone.”

The moratoriums were originally enacted due to concerns about developments near critical areas, including a plan for more than 1,000 homes in the Noll Road area. The new ordinance identifies critical areas — which encompass such sites as wildlife habitat and environmentally-sensitive lands and waterways — in greater detail than the previous regulations, passed in the mid 1990s.

“The most important thing is that the moratoriums are lifted,” Mark Kulman of Team4 Engineering said. “Moratoriums are a significant disruption to the business of the city and the public. They (the city) will pay the price in the dramatic increase in work load from the plugged flow of projects. I’m glad it’s finally over.”

An influx of proposals from local developers is expected by Poulsbo’s public works department, as many of the projects have been stalled for nearly a year.

“There’s a fairly large amount of pent-up demand,” said city planning director Barry Berezowsky. “We’ll just process them like we always do, but with the new standards and regulations.”

The new regulations set shoreline wetland buffers at 100 feet, and stream wetland buffers between 75 and 150 feet, with the exception of Dogfish Creek, where buffers range from 50 to 100 feet due to existing development.

Encroachment into the buffers is an option only if developers mitigate the impact and pay for a certified study.

“This is not a document that is cast in concrete as much as it’s a living document,” said Poulsbo City Councilman Ed Stern. “It’s a beginning point, a starting point.”

Stern said the ordinance can be fine-tuned if the need arises.

“There’s breathing room,” he said. “It’s like a moving target. We need to get it up and have something to aim at.”

Stern said though the moratoriums held up some developments while in place, not all were postponed.

“There have been a lot of projects moving forward,” he said. “It was not a moratorium on growth.”

As developers express relief that moratoriums have been lifted, Critical Areas Ordinance Working Group chair Becky Erickson, who represented the stakeholders from the Noll Road Association, said she was proud of the process the city went through.

“There was a bunch of people that worked hard on this,” she said. “An amazing group effort occurred. I think we came to a really good compromise. All should be very proud.”

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