Public hearing Oct. 25 on Port of Poulsbo's proposed expansion

POULSBO — Poulsbo residents have their first opportunity to comment on the Port of Poulsbo’s annexation plan Oct. 25, 6 p.m., in the Poulsbo City Hall council chambers.

The meeting, a public hearing, will be an official meeting of the Port Commission, which moved the meeting to City Hall from its floating meeting room on E Dock to accommodate as many residents as possible.

Port Manager Brad Miller said a map of the proposed annexation area will be presented.

The port district is currently half the size of the city of Poulsbo. Commissioners say enlarging the port district’s boundaries to the city limits would give all Poulsbo residents a voice in port district affairs, and would generate more property tax revenue that could be used for economic development, jobs creation, and to improve the health of Liberty Bay.

Commissioners intend to place an annexation measure on the February ballot. An earlier effort to place a measure on the Nov. 5 ballot failed because of a technicality.

The port district initially intended to ask voters to expand its borders to match that of the city limits, but the latest proposal also includes both sides of Liberty Bay, from Lemolo to Keyport’s port district boundaries.

Miller said those proposed boundaries are not set in stone. “[Commissioners] have an idea what they want, and we have drafted documents to that effect, but everything is changeable,” he said. “The general feeling is that everybody who lives on the shores of Liberty Bay could be helping to promote cleaner water. This office has had complaints [about pollution in the bay] and the finger’s always pointed at the port. Here’s their opportunity to help us clean it up.”

Other benefits of being annexed to the port district: “The No. 1 benefit is people having a voice in what their local government is doing in their backyard,” Miller said. “The benefit to the port is having more people to draw from for elected positions. Right now, it’s a pretty small area.” At one time, port commissioners were elected by district, but the port went to at-large elections because candidates became scarce, he said.

Mayor Becky Erickson said she is publicly staying neutral on the annexation. But she sees benefits to it.

“The port’s main purpose is economic development, which can bring new jobs to our community and help foster employment,” she said, adding that the port district could also be a force for environmental protection in Liberty Bay.

“I’d like to see the port install some large moorage buoys and extend its jurisdiction into Liberty Bay,” Erickson said. “A couple of large moorage buoys could drive some rental income into the port, and we would have better enforcement and better environmental controls in the bay.”

Miller said the port would use the additional tax revenue from annexation to accomplish some big projects sooner — replacing creosoted pilings with steel pilings, and repairing the parking lot near the boat ramp. Port officials also want to buy some office space upland, and replace the existing laundry and shower facilities.

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 in an earlier interview. In 2006-12, the port received between $224,000 and $265,000 in tax revenue each year.

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.

“Go big,” resident Matt Mikkelborg said at the Sept. 19 port commission meeting, in support of district boundaries that extend beyond the city limits. “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.”

Port Commissioner Stephen Swann agreed. “The homes on the western shores of Liberty Bay directly benefit from the things we do here,” he said.


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