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Poulsbo First makes appeal to community

POULSBO — A group united against a Wal-Mart in Poulsbo has once again resurfaced to stump up support for its efforts.

They’ve got a new name, a new game plan but the same basic premise.

“What we foresaw was whether Wal-Mart came or left, what Poulsbo lacked was a group of people to monitor development and growth in Poulsbo,” commented Poulsbo First vice president Stephen Augustine. “We saw Poulsbo needed a voice in responsible growth and development and environmentally safe growth and development.”

Citizens to Stop Wal-Mart in Poulsbo organized after it was announced in May that a Wal-Mart hoped to locate at Poulsbo’s Olhava development. Though they called themselves CSW, the group actually incorporated as a 501c6 not-for-profit corporation under the name Poulsbo First.

“So, we were Poulsbo First first,” commented Poulsbo First treasurer Rita Davidson.

As CSW, the group filed a handful appeals aimed at stopping the construction of a Wal-Mart at Olhava. The State Environmental Protection Agency appeal, EIS adequacy appeal and Olhava Site Plan 4A appeal were heard by the Poulsbo City Council over several nights in June and July. In the end, the council voted in 4-2 decisions to reject the appeals, which had been filed on behalf of CSW by Seattle Attorney Ryan Vancil.

In a statement released the night of the last Wal-Mart hearing, CSW members said they would be looking into the possibility of taking other actions.

“We were disappointed by the decision on Wal-Mart but one of the reasons why we stayed together was that we found that a lot of us shared the same vision for what we want for this community,” said Poulsbo First president Van Bergen.

Augustine said Poulsbo First members continue to meet on a regular basis and have tried to maintain a presence at city council meetings. They are also considering several watchdog strategies that encompass Poulsbo as a whole, not just Olhava or the potential Wal-Mart.

“We’re thinking of putting together score cards for the council members with the Kitsap Conservation Voters to rank the council members on how we think they’ve been doing on behalf of responsible growth,” Augustine gave as an example.

“We’re interested in monitoring what goes on at Olhava and at other areas in the city,” Bergen added. “That’s partially why we changed our name. We’re a group of people who like Poulsbo and want it to continue to be a pleasant place to live.”

But their biggest challenge right now has to do with money.

Poulsbo First incurred about $28,000 debt through the City of Poulsbo hearings and decided not to appeal to Kitsap County because of the costs that would have been involved. That initial debt is now about $6,000, which members hope to have paid off in one year. The group is also hoping to raise about $10,000 to help a recent appeal by three of its members.

Tom Anderson, Joan Hett and Richard Boughner filed appeals of the Olhava Site 4A (Wal-Mart) stormwater permit with the Washington State Department of Ecology Pollution Control Board over the summer.

“We’re very low on the balance books,” Augustine commented. “We still have a debt and we need money to keep taking helpful steps. We’d like to hire (Vancil) back but we don’t have the money yet.”

The group recently sent out a letter to past supporters asking for donations to support Poulsbo First’s continued work. Davidson said the one thing she wants the community to know is they didn’t go anywhere and they don’t intend to.

“We have lots of volunteers and lots of supporters,” she said. “The fund-raising letter had been welcomed, it’s brought in some funds and we find we have some supporters on Bainbridge Island as well as in Poulsbo.”

Bergen said Poulsbo First also plans to hold a public meeting, possibly sometime in early 2004, to reconnect with supporters and also to update the public on the appeal.

For more information about Poulsbo First, call (360) 621-0418. Donations can be sent to 19689 7th Avenue Northeast, Poulsbo, WA 98370-7531.

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