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Sunset extension revisited

POULSBO — Though it’s often said that people fear change, it wasn’t the amendments to the Poulsbo Place second phase that caused a ruckus Wednesday.

Instead, it was a section of the proposal that has been in place for more than 20 years.

A packed house of visitors to the Poulsbo City Council Feb. 2 raised objections to the connection of Sunset Street, 3rd Avenue and Iverson Street that is part of Poulsbo Place’s second phase. Though council unanimously voted to approve the plans, they also directed staff to expedite a process to mitigate the potential traffic impacts.

The objections were brought during a public hearing for a Type III permit applied for by Central Highland Builders for master plan amendments and a site plan review for Poulsbo Place II. It encompasses almost 12 acres on both sides of Jensen Way between the existing Poulsbo Place and the post office. With the approval, construction could start in March or April and completed homes could be ready by the end of 2005.

A plan for one of the earliest phases of Phase II is the connection of Sunset, 3rd and Iverson, which was approved as part of the original Poulsbo Place master plan in 1996, has been on Poulsbo’s comprehensive plan since 1994 and may date back to the early 1980s. Councilman Dale Rudolph added that he remembered the street extension being a “project killer” when Poulsbo originally contemplated the proposed redevelopment of the “Projects.”

“This is an engineered solution that the city was quite adamant about,” Rudolph remembered. “This Sunset extension, quite possibly, if we didn’t get it, we weren’t going to do Poulsbo Place.”

While the street plan is long-standing, it is still a concern for Martha & Mary, which has its childcare center located at the end of the current 3rd Avenue dead end. Wendy Winn, Director of Martha & Mary Childcare, said at any one time, the center might have 10-12 cars, busses carrying disabled children and high school volunteers and dozens of parents and young children coming and going. She said she had concerns that the original study that warranted the road extension might not apply to conditions today.

“I think this is something that we need to readdress and look at now,” Winn said.

“I’m really scared for the safety of my child,” added Katherine Wright, whose child attends the Martha & Mary program. “At first, I was so angry. That daycare is so wonderful and I don’t want to have to leave because of this.”

Martha & Mary Administrator Chad Solvie added that there are concerns about the potential lack of parking with the build-out. He said Martha & Mary would like to work with the city to find a way to create more than the planned eight on-street parking spaces and suggested that those next to the center be designated 15-minute parking during business hours to help parents.

Planning Director Barry Berezowsky explained that the parking issues for Martha & Mary date back to a concomitant agreement with the health care center in the 1980s. In that agreement, the center gave some of its parking areas to the city for right-of-way and also agreed to the extension of Sunset.

“The onus would be on the property owner to solve parking problems,” Berezowsky said.

But there was agreement in council chambers to work on pedestrian safety along the connected street. David Smith, one of the principals of Central Highland Builders said he saw a problem with the current traffic patterns through Poulsbo Place. His idea would be championing a four-way stop at Sunset and Jensen.

“We’ll pay for the stop signs,” Smith said.

Councilman Ed Stern said he’d like to see council add severe traffic calming measures to 3rd when it is extended. He said he liked what was done on Forest Rock Lane, where a series of speed bumps prevent motorists from driving too fast.

“More than anything, we need to take a very active role in 3rd Avenue and make that very unattractive at anything but a very slow pace,” he said.

While council agreed that another look at the road needed to happen prior to Phase II, the Sunset extension was not actually on the table Wednesday night. After approving the Type III permit, council also unanimously decided to direct planning and engineering staff to examine the Sunset/3rd issue for potential traffic calming measures. They made it clear that some action should be taken prior to the road’s extension.

“Obviously, we’ve all got some work to do — the council, the developer, the engineers and Martha & Mary,” Councilman Mike Regis commented.

“I can tell you’re very worried and I would be, too,” Councilwoman Connie Lord assured Martha & Mary representatives. “We’re right there with you. I don’t want a single child to be harmed.”

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