Future of Poulsbo lies in public’s control

POULSBO — In the 1970s “velkommen” and an occasional “uffda” could be heard throughout the city, but 30 years later only Little Norway’s downtown core remains a testament to Poulsbo’s founding fathers.

Back in the ‘70s, the city didn’t have a comprehensive plan to guide its growth in an organized fashion, but laws and times have changed with the enactment of the state’s Growth Management Act, which mandates — among other things — a comprehensive plan.

In shaping that pathway for the next 20 years, city officials have enlisted the aid of Seattle’s Berk and Associates to solicit input from across the community.

“It needs to be a reflection of the needs, hopes, desires and vision residents have for their city’s future,” said project manager Meghann Glavin.

The city’s existing plan should be updated, because the city has experienced a significant amount of change since it was adopted, Glavin said.

As part of its efforts to link residents’ visions with city officials’ policy decisions, the company has organized two community conversations this month to hear directly from the public, she said.

The first is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to noon May 12 at Vinland Elementary School. The second is slated for 6-8:30 p.m. May 24 at Poulsbo Elementary School.

The initial half-hour of each session will be an open house format, so people can ask questions about the project and become familiar with exactly what a comprehensive plan is and how it works, she said.

The final two hours will spent in small groups discussing issues in greater detail. Berk and Associates staff or the city’s planning department personnel will facilitate the sessions.

“Facilitate means making sure we get to all of the questions,” Glavin said. “There’s a lot to cover and we want to get to all of it.”

For Councilman Ed Stern, his concern about the process isn’t necessarily with the level of participation, but the manner of the explanation from city staff and the city’s consultant.

“They need to talk in terms that everyone can understand, so everyone gets it,” Stern said.

Instead of inundating people with technical terms and regulatory jargon, illustrative scenarios and details about how the different aspects of the comprehensive plan will impact individual areas, neighborhoods and properties are key to maintaining community involvement throughout the process, he said.

As far as how many residents decide to participate, Stern said he views that issue as two choices.

“I think people can show up and get in front of all of the issues surrounding growth or they can do nothing and react on single issues,” he said.

The two workshops along with the community survey, which can be found on the city’s Web site or at city hall or the Poulsbo Library, are the first phase of the comprehensive plan update, she said.

“This is an opportunity to get in on the ground floor,” Glavin said. “I think this is the important time, because it’s where most of the work starts.”

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