City hall proposals enter crucial decision-making phase

POULSBO — Any bets about where Little Norway’s new city hall will be located remain a mystery as some council members held their cards close to their vests at Monday night’s city hall presentation.

The final three candidates in the latest attempt to build a new municipal government building put their best foot forward before the entire council as several council members got their first crack at the details of the most recent ideas.

“I would remind the rest of the council against going for perfect,” said Councilman Ed Stern. “Whichever proposal we go for we do it in an expeditious fashion.”

Mayor Kathryn Quade asked Stern and the rest of the council not to express views in favor of any of the three proposals.

“I would not anticipate any of you would be prepared to vote on this issue at this time,” Quade said.

Both the King Olav Development, LLC and the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority said they believed they could build the city hall building and parking garage within the estimated $14 million budget. The Pioneer Property Group estimated the costs at around $16 million with the difference between the city’s available funds and the actual cost coming from the private sector through a private/public partnership.

Of the three finalists, Stern spoke most highly of the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority’s proposal to relocate city hall at the existing parks and recreation building on Front Street and place a conference center and parking garage on the existing city hall site and the King Olav parking lot.

“Does anyone not think downtown is going to be centered where it is?” he asked. “It is going to spread to the west side of Poulsbo, which is the water side of Front Street.”

The housing authority has an outstanding track record of being able to secure federal and state funding for projects and it also has a long-standing presence in the city dating back to the 1980s, Stern said.

However, Councilwoman Connie Lord and Councilman Dale Rudolph, who also serve on the city’s long-range planning committee tasked with narrowing down the city hall proposals, expressed slightly different views.

“Of the three, the one I can understand and support is the Pioneer Property Group,” Lord said.

The Pioneer Property Group has proposed moving city hall to the Front Street side of the King Olav parking lot and constructing a parking garage behind the new city hall building with the potential for a mixed-use building along Jensen Way.

“I like the idea of keeping it within the downtown core area and allowing the expansion of Jensen,” Lord said.

Although Rudolph had earlier advocated rejecting all of the three finalists at the June 18 long-range planning committee meeting, he softened his rhetoric after listening to the finalists’ presentations.

“I would support any proposal as long as it’s really downtown,” he said. “I think each of the proposals did a very good job of trying to anticipate what we wanted.”

The King Olav Development, LLC’s revised proposal was exciting in that it offers the potential to clean up the Front Street/Jensen Way intersection for both pedestrian and vehicle traffic, he said.

Instead of moving city hall across Front Street to the current Nilsen’s Appliance Center property, the Mentor family has proposed building city hall on the Front Street side of the King Olav parking lot with a parking garage toward Jensen Way and concurrently redeveloping their property directly across Front Street.

Councilmen Mike Regis, Jeff McGinty and Jim Henry made no statements indicating their preference for any of the three proposals after seeing them for the first time.

“You have given me a lot to think about,” Henry said. “I’m not sure which way I’ll go.”

The entire council, including Councilwoman Kimberlee Crowder, who was absent Monday night, is expected to make a final decision sometime in July. Quade will not have a vote unless the issue is tied.

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