Poulsbo moratoriums delay causing frustration

POULSBO — News that the earliest the Poulsbo City Council could lift both of its citywide moratoriums is this summer wasn’t greeted warmly by homebuilders or developers Monday.

The cold shoulder might be deserved as the prohibitions were originally expected to end in February.

Even so, the city’s moratoriums on development in or near critical environmental areas and planned residential developments will remain in effect until the city’s proposed Critical Areas Ordinance and new Planned Residential Development Ordinance are adopted.

Both moratoriums have been in place since Sept. 13, 2006 when the city council OK’d them in part due to concerns about more than 1,000 homes planned for the Noll Road area.

Poulsbo Planning Director Barry Berezowsky said this month the earliest the CAO could be adopted by the council is June 20 or possibly June 27. Any further delays would place the CAO on top of the PRD public hearing, which is scheduled for July 11.

“It’s pretty much blown out everything for this year,” said Kitsap Homebuilders Association executive director Art Castle.

When the moratoriums were first enacted the hope was to have them lifted by spring, but now the hope is that the resolution will come this summer, Castle said.

“If they don’t get it resolved this summer, it will start impacting next year,” he said. “There has been a lot of frustration about the amount of time it has taken.”

While some would argue that the moratoriums weren’t needed, it was a policy decision made by the council to do what it did, he said.

“Hopefully, they will have it done,” Castle said, noting the CAO adoption isn’t scheduled until June and the PRD approval won’t happen until the middle of July.

Mark Kulhman of Team4Engineering, which has several projects planned in the Noll Road area, said he isn’t surprised by the council’s failure to lift the moratoriums sooner.

“Moratoriums take on a life of their own,” Kuhlman said. “I’m disappointed.”

The council could have taken action to allow projects to move forward this summer based on an idea floated by Councilman Jeff McGinty, Kuhlman said.

“He had a good point when he said, ‘Can’t we adopt the CAO and make amendments when we get comments back from CTED (Washington state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development)?’” Kulman said. “That would have allowed projects to move ahead.”

Moratoriums are bad business in general, and the development community is taking a wait-and-see approach on both, he said.

“Moratoriums mean the legislative body hasn’t done its work,” he said. “Moratoriums not only affect the public and development community, they affect the city as well.”

Instead, the development community is preparing projects based upon its estimation of the new ordinances to be ready when the moratoriums are lifted, he said.

“I have projects I am going to submit the day the moratoriums are lifted,” Kuhlman said.

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