Poulsbo port hears more support for annexation

From left, Poulsbo Port Commission members Steve Swann, Tony DeCarlo and Jim Rutledge discuss the merits of enlarging the port district
From left, Poulsbo Port Commission members Steve Swann, Tony DeCarlo and Jim Rutledge discuss the merits of enlarging the port district's borders, Oct. 25 at Poulsbo City Hall. The proposed port district boundaries are shown on the map on the screen.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley

POULSBO — The Port of Poulsbo has previously heard support for its aims to annex areas around Liberty Bay.

The sentiment was amplified at the port's public hearing on the subject Oct. 25, though by only a handful of residents.

The public hearing on the annexation of the eastern and western shores of Liberty Bay garnered 11 audience members. Of that 11, three attended from the areas proposed to be annexed.

Port commissioners began by laying out their argument for annexation.

"The surrounding area has grown a lot in the past few years without the expansion of the port," Port Commissioner Jim Rutledge said. "The reason we are considering the new boundaries is that we consider the land around Liberty Bay, and Poulsbo, as all part of the port district. You just aren't being represented."

Commissioners stressed that the port's mission is to aid economic development in the region, benefiting its constituents through lessening their overall tax burden, increasing their property values and creating jobs.

The crowd's response to annexation was overwhelmingly supportive, including the three from outside the port's current boundaries.

"I live outside [the] port district," David Wells said. “My wife and I are one of the first to be annexed under urban expansion. We did not realize at the time we were not being annexed into the port district and it was a separate entity (from the city)."

He added, “This is part of what we call economic responsibility. The port district isn't just there for the marina. It's economic development."

Others supported the annexation because they live around Liberty Bay but don't have any say in the port's operations.

"I'm like everybody — against raising my taxes," said Dennis Beach of Scandia Point. "I have enough being on the water. But that investment pays in the future. I think it's a small step for the taxes I pay to have Poulsbo succeed. If we don't support (annexation) then we don't have any voice over there."

Beach also said that he supports the port for its involvement in improving the water quality of Liberty Bay.

The only concern the crowd agreed upon was the timing of the annexation. The port plans to place an annexation measure on a special ballot in February. Community members were concerned that the ballot, coming at an uncommon time, may not receive enough votes for the measure to pass. But the commission felt that no matter what the outcome is in February, it will ultimately help the overall effort to enlarge its borders in the future.

"Just like [a] person running for office, even if they don't win the first year, their name is out there," Commissioner Tony DeCarlo said. "We want to put this out there and hopefully it passes, but if it doesn't, it is out there."

The commission tried to put annexation on the November ballot, but its efforts were thwarted due to a technicality.

Approximately half of the city of Poulsbo is within the port district. Current port district property owners pay a tax of 30 cents for every $1,000 of assessed valuation. That factors to about $75 a year for a $275,000 house. The port received between $224,000 and $265,000 in tax revenue each year from 2006-12.

Commissioners pointed to water quality improvements, public functions, seawall repairs and other shoreline improvements as a few projects it would like to take on.

Rutledge noted that parts of the bay may need dredging, and docks will need to be improved to accommodate cruise ships that have begun charting courses to the area.

Other economic entities have sought port partnerships recently, such as the Poulsbo Farmers Market. The market wants to establish a permanent location; one option would be for an entity like the port to buy a site, which would be leased by the market.


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