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Council holds off on Olhava agreement

POULSBO — Citing the need for more time and more voices, the city council held off on approving a new Olhava development document this week.

The proposed Olhava Developers Agreement, which city staff and representatives from First Western have been drafting since May 2003, was on the table at the Jan. 21 city council meeting. Through a public hearing, council members were urged by several speakers to take their time, which is exactly what they did — tabling the item until their Feb. 4 meeting.

The development agreement is meant to clarify a number of issues for First Western and the City of Poulsbo regarding issues like mitigation fees, improvements to public facilities and allowed development allocations within the 216-acre development.

Planning Director Barry Berezowsky explained Wednesday night that the state legislature came up with the developers’ agreements to simplify the process for both developers and jurisdictions. He said the document is based on the current Olhava Master Plan, but lays out specific requirements for both Poulsbo and First Western.

“The legislature determined there was too much uncertainty to the permit process, leading to excess expenses for developers and public jurisdictions,” he said.

Berezowsky added that the proposed document had been in the works for many months and had already received the scrutiny of the Public Works and Finance/Administration committees before the public hearing.

“I believe we have finally arrived at a document that the city staff and the developer have agreed to live with,” Berezowsky said.

But the complexity of the issue had a number of community members urging the council to hold off on making a decision just yet. Members of Poulsbo First (who were warned by Mayor Donna Jean Bruce that the issue of Wal-Mart would not be allowed in Wednesday’s proceedings), came armed with questions about the documents and suggestions that the council take its time.

“The bottom line is this is a very complicated, big deal thing and I’d ask you to do similar to the Lemolo trail and wait before you rush into a decision,” said Van Bergen of Poulsbo First, noting that Olhava is the single largest commercial development in the State of Washington at the moment.

“Look at all of this from the perspective of the citizens, take our side, so to speak, let’s not have to pay for more than we should and let the developer get away with something,” added Stephen Augustine.

But ultimately it was absent council members Kathryn Quade and Jim Henry, who were attending a Smart Growth conference in Portland, Ore., that postponed the decision.

After having all of the council questions were answered by staff, Councilman Mike Regis made a motion to approve the agreement.

But the motion was quickly taken back off the table when Councilman Dale Rudolph mentioned the missing council members’ wishes to be present for the vote.

“We’ve come so far on this,” Rudolph commented. “I think everyone should be able to be here, have their say and be on the record.”

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