Poulsbo port considers casting larger net for annexation

The Poulsbo Port District boundaries are in purple; the Poulsbo city limits are in pink.    - Port of Poulsbo
The Poulsbo Port District boundaries are in purple; the Poulsbo city limits are in pink.
— image credit: Port of Poulsbo

POULSBO — In the wake of a failed attempt to place annexation on the November ballot, the Port of Poulsbo is going back to the drawing board. This time, it may be thinking bigger.

On Sept. 19, commissioners tossed around ideas for their second effort to annex beyond the port's current borders, with the aim to place the matter on a special February ballot. Ideas ranged from resubmitting the same ballot measure as is, or possibly including other areas of Liberty Bay beyond Poulsbo's city limits, such as Lemolo and the western shores of the bay. "The homes on the western shores of Liberty Bay directly benefit from the things we do here," Commissioner Stephen Swann said.

Another option would be to annex to the city limits of Poulsbo first, then attempt to annex further at a later time. A special workshop to consider the merits of all options was scheduled for Sept. 25, 1 p.m.

Commissioners did not present preferences either way and only appeared interested in talking through the options. Residents present at the meeting, however, did weigh in.

"Go big," Matt Mikkelborg said. "To me, this organization is an economic engine for a much larger area. I think the port district should be much larger than it is."

Under state law, port districts are empowered to acquire property, lease property, engage in economic development, improve land for commercial and industrial use, and establish local improvement districts. Ports can invest in park and recreation facilities; roads and streets that serve port facilities; acquire, maintain and operate passenger-carrying vessels; and promote tourism.

Mikkelborg noted that if he and his neighbors were included in the district, they could vote for port commissioners.

Annexation is easier said than done, commissioners noted.

"Odds could be that we might not pass it the first time," Commissioner Jim Rutledge said. "Some of those people (outside the city) may be more receptive a year or two down the road."

Port commissioners say expanded district boundaries would give all city residents a voice in port district business and would generate more revenue for the port for economic development.

About half of the city’s population resides within the port district — 4,548 of Poulsbo's 9,300 residents. The number of tax parcels within the port district: 3,359, of which 2,024 are single-family residential. Those property owners pay a tax of 30 cents for every $1,000 of assessed valuation — about $75 a year for a $275,000 house, port accountant Carol Tripp said. Between 2006-12, the port received between $224,000 and $265,000 in tax revenue each year.

Convincing property owners of the benefits of the port, in exchange for their tax dollars, could be a challenge, Swann said.

The port initially intended to put annexation up for a vote on the Nov. 5 ballot, but its application was rejected on a technicality; port commissioners had not approved a resolution for the annexation measure by the county auditor's Aug. 6 deadline.

According to Poulsbo City Councilman Dave Musgrove, who attended the Sept. 19 meeting, economic development draws more people to the area. The money visitors spend lessens the tax burden on residents, he said.


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