Poulsbo port officials say port has parking for liveaboards

POULSBO — The Port of Poulsbo remains on a course toward hosting more liveaboards. How it will get there is yet to be seen.

The port has met with city staff and Mayor Becky Erickson to discuss the idea.

“The big issue at play is the parking. It always has been, it always will be,” Port Manager Brad Miller told the City Council’s economic development committee, updating the committee on the matter March 26.

“The very first response was what we expected — it was the code book coming out,” he said.

The port would like to increase its liveaboard capacity to its maximum allowed number, by state regulation, of 38 slips. It currently is limited to 12 slips because of a 1983 agreement with the city that caps the number of liveaboards. The city was concerned about downtown parking and has historically stipulated that the port should add one parking spot for every two boat slips.

“What we are supposed to have — unless we buy downtown, level the place and build a parking lot — we are never going to have,” Miller told the committee. “There is not that much available real estate.”

In addition to some parking spaces at the Port of Poulsbo Marina, the port owns and operates a public parking lot at 19133 Jensen Way. The lot consists of 56 parking stalls, including four electric car charging stations and 12 stalls for RVs and vehicles with trailers.

Miller is researching other communities and ports for examples of how they handle similar issues. The port will eventually present a plan to the City Council to remedy the matter.

Port Commissioner Jim Rutledge commented that the issue involves an outdated agreement.

“I think this idea that we somehow need to become historically compliant is wrong,” Rutledge said, noting that the port has constructed its own parking lot that will negate any impact of liveaboards.

“Why would the city object to there being additional liveaboards? Parking, right?” Rutledge said. “Downtown merchants should like it; they got more customers living right there by their shops. I’ve always been slightly puzzled by this wall that gets thrown up when you talk about it.”

The battle over downtown parking is waged by many stakeholders — the port, the city and merchants, to name a few.

“I know the merchants are defensive of their parking spaces because that’s money,” Councilman David Musgrove said at the meeting. “So they are resistant to opening (parking) to people that are going to park indefinitely in the same spot, instead of turnover customers.”

Musgrove said he will investigate the port’s liveaboard issue for the committee — without getting in the way of staff or the mayor — and report back.

“It’s not a simple cut and dry issue,” he said. “There are a lot of factors that go into this, historically and emotionally. But I think there is a lot of room for discussion.”

“It’s a discovery mission, to find out whether the solution is the old way or some new way,” he added. “I don’t want to assume it should be one way or the other.”

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