Opinion

Attend forum on Port of Poulsbo expansion | In Our Opinion

The North Kitsap Herald will present a public forum on Jan. 24, 6-7:30 p.m., on the issue of the Poulsbo Port District’s proposed boundary expansion. The forum will take place in Poulsbo City Hall’s council chambers. It will be information-filled, with visuals, concise explanations, and an opportunity for you to ask questions.

The issue will be on the Feb. 11 ballot. While it will be decided by those in the proposed annexation area, current residents of the port district should attend as well.

Voters created the Port of Poulsbo in 1951 to operate marine- and recreation-related facilities and help bring economic development — investment and jobs — to the community.

But as the city boundaries grew, the port district boundaries did not. As a result, only half of the city’s commercial and residential property owners pay a property tax to support a port district that benefits the entire city.

The benefits of expanding the port district’s boundaries: All voters in Poulsbo would be able to vote for port commissioners; only port district residents can do that. All residents of Poulsbo would have a voice in port matters. The enlarged port district would generate significant tax revenue that could be used to replace the breakwater and its creosoted pilings; improve the seaplane dock and the marina so the port can accommodate larger tour vessels; and prevent further erosion at the foot of Anderson Parkway.

Larger port district boundaries would also empower the commission to look beyond the waterfront for economic development. Under state law, the port district could play a major role in economic revitalization in Poulsbo through the acquisition of property for commercial, ecotourism and recreational uses. The port has an option on the old city hall property, and is discussing how to best redevelop the site. One idea is a hotel, which makes sense in an event- and visitor-oriented waterfront downtown. A hotel would create jobs, create an important downtown amenity, and complement efforts by the port, city and downtown merchants to bring more visitors here by water.

In an earlier interview, Port District accountant Carol Tripp said the property tax levy will stay at 30 cents for every $1,000 of assessed valuation — about $75 a year for a $275,000 house. Between 2006-12, the port took in between $224,000 and $265,000 in tax revenue each year. The expanded port boundaries would increase that amount by almost $200,000.

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.

Currently, the port district is limited in its ability to do any of those things.

We can do better. We can empower the port district to be a greater force for quality of life and economic well-being in our community — to attract more businesses to Poulsbo, create new jobs, find a solution to erosion on Anderson Parkway, improve the health of Liberty Bay, improve boat, plane and customer facilities at the Port of Poulsbo, give more residents a voice in port matters, and spread taxpayer investment in the port across the entire city, not just a portion of it.

If you could do all that for $75 a year, would you do it? We hope so. Attend the forum on Jan. 24 so you can make an educated decision on Feb. 11.

 

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