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Council puts Olhava Developer’s Agreement to bed

POULSBO — Though Poulsbo First members urged them to take it slow, Poulsbo City Council members felt they already had enough information to approve the Olhava Developers Agreement this week.

While proponents say the document paves the way for better dealings at the 216-acre development, opponents say the move is just another disappointment.

“The impression I’m getting is they don’t care what we think, which is kind of scary,” commented Van Bergen, President of Poulsbo First, this week.

The agreement, which city staff and representatives from First Western had been drafting since May 2003, was reviewed by the council’s Public Works and Finance/Administration Committees last month. It was first heard by the full council Jan. 21, where council members had a handful of community members urge them to take all the time they needed. The item was tabled to allow council members Kathryn Quade and Jim Henry an opportunity to weigh in.

At the Feb. 4 council meeting, the council voted unanimously to approve the document. While council members admitted that citizens had posed some fair questions, they said they also felt that those questions had been answered by City Attorney Jim Haney and city staff.

“This is cumbersome, I think that’s why the public has been so confused through this whole process,” Councilwoman Connie Lord commented.

Though members of Poulsbo First did not attend Wednesday’s meeting, Bergen said that there were still several questions his group had that were not adequately answered. Further, Bergen claimed the citizens were not confused by the document, but rather they felt council members were the ones misunderstanding the issues.

“The idea of going and speaking to them was to encourage them to study it and we thought they’d find some issues with it,” Bergen said. “I think the citizens that spoke were in understanding of the agreement and were trying to explain it to the council.”

The largest overall issue Poulsbo First had with the Developer’s Agreement was that they felt it took away Poulsbo’s power and put more rights into the hands of the developer. Haney commented that the agreement was meant to supplement the Olhava Master Plan and neither added nor took away any provisions. But Bergen saw it another way.

“The city says the purpose is to add detail and clarification to the master plan but it also adds some new things, new processes,” Bergen commented. “The most obvious being the reduction of traffic impact mitigation. There is a process laid out whereby the developer can submit new traffic counts and get their traffic mitigation reduced.”

Council members brought this issue up Wednesday night and Haney countered that process remains the same — council holds the power to issue or not issue permits. This basis applies to everything from the traffic mitigation fees to the park mitigation land.

“We are definitely not giving away any control or discretion. The city has the right to make the final determination,” Councilman Dale Rudolph commented.

But members of Poulsbo First say only time will tell whether that interpretation of the agreement is correct. Bergen contends that ultimately the city will lose some of its control over the project. He said his group intends to continue following the entire development as it unfolds, but doesn’t have high expectations for getting the council to see things its way.

“I do admire the jobs that the council does, they don’t get paid much for what they do, I can’t imagine taking that on in my normal life ... But in the best of all possible worlds they’d be less sure of their own beliefs and views and more open to their constituents,” he commented.

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