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Poulsbo gets UGA... finally

POULSBO — “I’d say we could have put it through college by now,” Poulsbo Planning Director Glenn Gross replied Thursday when asked if it felt good to finally put the city’s Urban Growth Area “baby” to bed.

He wasn’t exaggerating, really.

The UGA process has been in the works since 1997 but has jumped more hurdles than Jesse Owens on its way to the finish line. After half a decade of ups and downs, Poulsbo and Kitsap County broke the tape on the long-awaited subarea plan this week with commissioners approving the UGA Monday and city council following suit Wednesday night.

“It’s been a long haul,” Gross remarked.

The UGA didn’t come easy and, more often than not, the two governments took contrary positions. While Poulsbo pushed for larger boundaries, the county sought more density within the city limits.

Planning commissions on both sides were brought into the mix but — after months of laboring over the plan — reached an impasse and sent the entire package back to their respective staffs and elected officials to iron out. Despite the conflicts, the problems, and an almost endless list of concerns from both city and county residents, Gross said he felt the approved UGA was worth it.

“I think that the effort and the time spend on this really paid off in the end,” he explained. “The city and the planning commission have always maintained that the plan had to reflect Poulsbo’s vision and values. And I think it does.”

Finn Hill was a major sticking point during negotiations but last December the city and county reached a milestone consensus on the rural neighborhood, agreeing to retain the majority of the property in the UGA while removing about 65 acres south of Finn Hill Road.

Such land battles were common during the process.

Unanimous approval of the interlocal agreement was like calling a truce for a while but even so, the city and county will have get things rolling on the next Urban Growth Area pretty soon. The existing plan accommodates 20-year growth based on the state Office of Financial Management’s 1992 statistics. The OFM expects 8,000 residents here by 2012, meaning that in the next few years Poulsbo and Kitsap County will have to start considering how to allocate additional population through 2032.

For now, they get a break and celebrated this fact during city council Wednesday.

Darryl Piercy, assistant director for the Kitsap County Department of Community Development, was on hand at the council session to make sure every question was answered and no stone went unturned.

“Darryl would you like to step forward and accept this?” Mayor Donna Jean Bruce asked after the agreement was approved.

“I would, most willingly,” Piercy responded before thanking Poulsbo for its patience during what he called a “long, difficult process.”

Gross said later that the process never would have gotten to the point it had without a remarkable commitment from the Poulsbo City Council, Kitsap County Commissioners, planning departments and advisory commissions from both entities.

“It allows us to plan for infrastructure, plan for growth and begin considering annexations,” he added, noting that despite a recent ruling from the state Supreme Court that did away with the preferred method of annexation, the city was still better off than it was without a UGA. “It will affect us. But for Poulsbo, is the glass half full or half empty? Now, at least we can annex.”

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