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Vetter Homestead gets OK from city

POULSBO — On paper, the preliminary plat application for the Vetter Homestead appeared tailor-made for approval. However, two words brought the wheels of the Poulsbo City Council to a near halt Wednesday night: open space.

Council members struggled with the open space concept before finally giving their unanimous approval to the proposed 93-unit subdivision on eastside of Vetter Road NE, near Viking Way and State Route 3.

One of the unique aspects of the proposed development is that it includes a 60-foot wide open space that is almost a quarter-mile long in its center. That area, which is designated as an open space/utility corridor, stirred much of the council’s debate.

“I’m no longer thinking of this as park or an open space, it’s a utility corridor in my mind until proven otherwise,” said Councilman Ed Stern.

Associate Planner Karla Boughton said the developer approached the city’s planning department with the idea that the open space could be used for recreation, but that would be determined later in the process.

“Regardless of what recreational improvements the applicant is making, the policy is that they will pay a park mitigation fee,” Boughton said.

Since this is the preliminary plat, the developer would like the option to use it for utilities if necessary, said Jeff Coombes, project coordinator for property owner Harley Unruh.

“We understand all of the concerns and we can’t create a nightmare for our customers and we don’t want to create one for you,” Coombes said.

Most consumers would rather have the largest lot size possible than have their children playing in an area that is out of their sight, he said.

The final responsibility for the open space would be given to the homeowners’ association, once the development is completed, Coombes said.

“The problem with that is that homeowners’ associations have been hit and miss and have left the city with problems,” Stern said. “I’d like to see the developer give more thought to the open space/utility corridor.”

Councilmen Dale Rudolph and Jeff McGinty disagreed with Stern’s assessment, stating that the homeowners should be able to determine the space’s use.

“It all depends on what they decide to do because they have to live with it,” McGinty said. “You’re right, there’s a risk there.”

The only thing that could possibly go into the open space would be a stormwater bioswale rather than a sewer or water line, Rudolph said.

“I think what’s important is that 93 homeowners will have control over it,” Rudolph said. “I think in hindsight what happened before was a lack of enforcement by the homeowners’ association or the city.”

When the discussion finally settled down, Councilman Mike Regis pointed out that there were, indeed, some challenges with the proposed development.

“(Coombes is) struggling with the engineering himself and I think we need to let him go forward,” Regis said. “I think he’s got an earful of what we want.”

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