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Council breaks building ban

POULSBO — The sound of hammers and saws in the Old Town will be allowed to resume before the results of a study of the area are known.

At its Sept. 3 meeting, the Poulsbo City Council voted 5-2 in favor of repealing a building moratorium in the Old Town Study area. The six-month ban on new construction activity was enacted by the council Aug. 6.

The moratorium was first suggested by neighbors of the proposed Terhune short plat near Haugen Street. In a conditional use permit (CUP) hearing, neighbors expressed fear that their neighbor’s new development was a potential “monster house.” While the council had to act on the CUP, neighbors urged that the council enact a moratorium until the Old Town Study could be completed.

The study of some of Poulsbo’s oldest neighborhoods had been proposed many months ago but began just last month.

Interim Planning Director Barry Berezowsky said Architect Mark Hinshaw has completed preliminary fact finding in the area and will be scheduling a public meeting sometime at the end of September.

Wednesday night’s meeting was a public hearing over the moratorium and the majority of people who spoke made it clear they did not want the ban in place.

Old Town resident Lynn Myrvang said she and her husband were in the process of getting permitted for a home renovation when the moratorium was enacted. Myrvang said she loved the character of her 100-year-old home and had planned an addition that she felt was in keeping with the neighborhood values and yet was still not able to build.

“What we’d appreciate is for the moratorium to be reversed. We think the old town can be studied without it in place,” Myrvang told council members.

“If the concern is really large homes then why not put a moratorium on large homes?” added Mike Stimac, who owns property in the Old Town. “To restrict all development seems like a knee jerk reaction. Are you leading with a clear vision or just reacting to the loudest voice?”

Still, a number of residents reiterated the support for a moratorium that had been heard at the Aug. 6 meeting.

Ken O’Brien is also renovating his Fjord Drive home but said he was willing to wait for the Old Town Study to be completed. He said he loved the character of the area and thought the moratorium could help preserve that.

“We believe six months is not that long to wait to get a clear sense of what the community is about,” O’Brien said.

Councilmen Ed Stern and Jeff McGinty were both absent from the Aug. 6 meeting and said they were surprised council members had enacted the moratorium. They both said they felt the ban was much too strong a tool to use in this situation.

“Where I come from, a moratorium is a four-letter word. It sends the wrong message. It should only be done carefully and slowly and judiciously and when a true emergency is in place,” Stern said.

“I think a moratorium is way beyond my intent... I don’t want this to be adversarial. I want this to be a group that works together,” McGinty added.

Councilman Mike Regis likened the moratorium to a “dead giraffe” across the council’s path. He said he voted for the moratorium Aug. 6 but did so to reserve his judgement until later. He said since the vote he’d heard from many people who had been hurt by the action.

“In my view, it’s caused the community to be unable to come in with an open heart. I think they’re coming in because they’re hurt now,” Regis commented.

Councilwomen Jackie Aitchison and Kathryn Quade were alone in voting to keep the moratorium in place. Aitchison said during her more than 11 years on the council, she remembered only one other moratorium the council placed — one on adult entertainment facilities.

“We took a six-month time out to figure out how we could abide by the law and still preserve and protect our community,” Aitchison recalled. “Some people will be upset and some won’t be but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a breather.”

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