Poulsbo's parks may be protected

POULSBO — Following a summer outcry over a now-scuttled application to reconfigure a Poulsbo city park, the City Council on Wednesday threw its support behind a proposal to protect the city’s open spaces.

Under the proposal, city-owned parks would be zoned with a new designation for parks so if the city wants to sell park property residents have a way to examine the plan and make a recommendation to the City Council.

The commission had recommended a public advisory committee be formed, but council members wanted more “flexible” language to not specify what kind of public process would be required.

Karla Boughton, a planning consultant for the city, said the proposal intended to protect city parks by making it more difficult for the city to sell them.

“It would make it harder for a park not to be a park,” Boughton said.

Councilwoman Connie Lord was first to give her support.

“It’s good for the record, it’s good for future councils,” she said.

The proposal, discussed as part of the city’s ongoing effort to update its comprehensive plan, will be included in the final draft that will be discussed by the council over the coming weeks. No formal action was taken. The council will vote on the comprehensive plan after more discussion. Boughton estimated the council could vote in three to four weeks.

The commission’s recommendation comes in response to a request from Mayor Kathryn Quade’s administration to rezone the Betty Iverson Kiwanis Park at Scandia Knoll. It brought droves of residents to public hearings, worried about the possibility of losing a nearby park.

Quade said the intent was not to dispose of the park, but to reconfigure how it interfaced with other nearby park land to better expand the city’s open space areas.

Residents of the neighborhood organized with fliers and required an additional Planning Committee meeting to hear from residents.

In the end, Quade withdrew the request, and shelved another request related to parkland. She said Wednesday she supported the proposal because it gave residents more direct control over parks.

“I think that can be good,” she said.

Barry Berezowsky, planning director, debated the idea, saying the city’s zoning plan doesn’t have a park designation for a reason.

“We don’t have school zones, we don’t have hospital zones, we don’t have Wal-Mart zones,” he said. “Parks are a use, not a real designation.”

Other councilmembers expressed doubt about creating the zoning designation, but supported the requirement for a public process.

Councilman Jeff McGinty spoke against the requirement of a public process in the event the city planned to sell park land, saying the reaction to the city’s request to rezone Kiwanis Park was misinterpreted.

“It’s a whole lot of work” to protect something that isn’t threatened, he said.

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