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LID grant money rains down on City of Poulsbo

POULSBO — Rain falling from the sky nourishes plants, refills reservoirs and refreshes wetlands.

But it also has the potential to wash out hillsides, carry pollutants into rivers and streams and flood parking lots.

But a new project taking place in Poulsbo soon has the possibility to make sure the former happens more often than the latter.

The City of Poulsbo received notification last week it was one of five cities and six counties chosen to take part in a project to draft low impact development (LID) standards for municipalities. The effort is headed by the Puget Sound Action Team (PSAT).

Poulsbo applied for the funding in February with the help of grant writer Kathleen Byrne-Barrantes of Lemolo. Byrne-Barrantes volunteered her assistance and was able to use much of the same information as a Kitsap Home Builders Foundation (KHBF) grant application submitted earlier.

“I’m just excited,” Poulsbo Councilwoman Kathryn Quade said about the grant award. “We’ve been trying to get something together for a long time but there hasn’t been a lot of time for our staff to take on any of these new things.”

The KHBF’s $182,000 request to the Washington State Department of Ecology for a “Low Impact Development Standards Implementation Project” is also likely to be funded. Fueled by Federal Clean Water Act Section 319 non-point source funds, the amount available will be determined by the state legislature in its current session.

If and when funding is received for the KHBF effort, the county’s four cities would work with the home builders to draft countywide LID standards. Poulsbo’s grant from the Action Team will pay for a consultant and PSAT technical team to work with city staff on a city LID document from reviewing current standards to drafting an adoptable document.

“(PSAT officials) said it’s worth about $50,000 to each jurisdiction,” Byrne-Barrantes said.

A land development method, LID takes various forms but all are aimed at better stormwater management. Some LID components, including use of engineered soils and vegetation, bioretention systems and pervious pavers, have also been found to be less costly than traditional means. But there is a lack of standards that allow LID to be used in an efficient or timely manner in Washington.

“We’ve been beating the drums for about five years to get them to look at some of these things because it seemed like such a no-brainer,” Byrne-Barrantes said.

“There are developers who want to use this but they tell us one of the biggest obstacles they have is with ordinances being either prohibitive or making it very difficult,” added Harriet Beale, acting director of programs for the Action Team. “And a lot of times, cities want to make a change but they don’t have the time or resources to do it.”

The goal of the Action Team project is to have a consultant on board by next month and a product completed by this fall. Beale explained the technical team will sit down with planning staff at the participating jurisdictions to determine what their needs are and then help draft documents tailored to those needs. One thing each of the documents will have in common, though, is an emphasis on LID being a supplement to current development standards.

“Our approach has always been voluntary,” Beale said. “What we’re trying to do is remove obstacles to it so builders and developers have the option of either traditional or LID building. We’re not looking for governments to make this a requirement.”

Byrne-Barrantes said she expects the Action Team and KHBF projects to work well together. The KHBF project will draft a county document and cities, in turn, would still need to adopt their own standards since the two operate under different planning ordinances. Basically, taking part in the PSAT effort means Poulsbo will be ahead of the curve.

“I think that’s due mainly to (Byrne-Barrantes),” Quade commented. “She’s an excellent person for writing grants and she was able to convince them that we were a willing subject.”

Byrne-Barrantes added that Poulsbo is by far the smallest city, and the only one in Kitsap County, chosen for the PSAT project. The other cities participating will be Bellingham, Redmond, Issaquah and Marysville. Counties chosen for the effort are Whatcom, Jefferson, Thurston, Clallam, Kitsap and Snohomish.

“I thought it was great that Kitsap County and we got it and the two adjoining counties, so it’ll be like a regional effort,” Byrne-Barrantes noted.

This is the first such LID project the Action Team has organized, which means there will be a steep learning curve, Beale explained. But she added she was glad Poulsbo would be part of the ground-breaking experiment both because its officials have long championed LID and because of its size.

“That was exciting to us to see a good geographic and size distribution so we can get a lot of examples out of this project for use by other jurisdictions,” she commented.

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