Poulsbo’s growth plan contested

POULSBO — A vocal group that lives just outside the city limits is crying foul over Poulsbo’s comprehensive plan. And they’re digging in their heels — and digging into their pocketbooks — to make sure their voices are heard.

Jan Wold, Paul Steenberg and Molly and John Lee, all vocal critics of the city, are appealing Poulsbo’s 2009 Comprehensive Plan. They contend the city skirted the public process and the plan doesn’t take into account the environmental impact development will have, particularly on Johnson Creek.

“The people who live right on the edge of the city or just outside of the edge, they’re always going to be the ones that complain ... because that’s where the negative effects are occurring,” Steenberg said.

Poulsbo’s comprehensive plan was adopted in December 2009 and serves as a guidance for Poulsbo’s future in accordance with Washington’s Growth Management Act. The Growth Management Act prevents uncoordinated and unplanned growth. Poulsbo created its first comprehensive plan in 1994. In 2006, development within the city prompted a comprehensive plan update. Public outreach to get feedback from the community began in January 2007.

The petitioners, who have 32 points of contention with the comprehensive plan, have a hearing with the Growth Management Hearing Board at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 23, at the Poulsbo Public Library. Among the petitioners’ complaints are what they allege was a lack of public participation, a lack of attention paid to environmental and critical areas. The group also is accuses the city’s of irresponsible development.

“We did hear them and we did make some changes, according to their testimony,” Poulsbo City Planner Barry Berezowsky said.

One environmental concern points to an ever-growing mudflat where Johnson Creek meets Liberty Bay, said Wold, whose home overlooks the area. The stormwater runoff from new developments has clogged the creek with too much debris causing the creek to widen, Wold said. Runoff has loosened tree roots, causing them to fall. One tree fell on Wold’s garage and did $3,000 worth of damage.

“The creek can’t handle all that water and what’s happening is it’s starting to erode,” Wold said.

John and Molly Lee have different issues with the comprehensive plan. The city is creating residential sprawl, instead of developing the city from its center and working its way out, John Lee said. The Lees think the city is planning recklessly, annexing areas where public facilities, like sewers and water, aren’t supported and they worry the city won’t have the funding to provide those facilities.

The Lees own 34 acres just outside of the city limits, in the Urban Growth Area. They worry envelopment into the city would lead to unwanted development.

“As a potential developer,” Molly Lee said. “There is no innovative ways of thinking and those are things that I would like to look at for my property and the surrounding properties.”

Even with a petition of appeals against the city’s comprehensive plan, Dan Baskins, a 30-year Poulsbo resident engaged in the development of the plan, thinks the plan is solid.

“I actually look at the plan as being really balanced and the appeals being unmerited,” Baskins said. “I think this plan is a good snapshot of what Poulsbo is and where it’s going.”

He said the city took its time with the plan and really dug into issues facing the community.

“Poulsbo’s lucky they have a Planning Commission that actually believes in what they’re supposed to do,” Baskins said.

The city has spent more than $20,000 fighting the appeal and the petitioners have invested their own money and time without having a lawyer.

“They didn’t get their way and they’re going to go to the mat over it,” Berezowsky said.

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