The Mayor and City Council are currently discussing a proposal to give property to two nonprofits, the Coffee Oasis (CO) and the Poulsbo Farmers Market (PFM). We have questions and concerns about this idea, and we hope city government will seriously consider them before moving ahead.
The 3.5-acre property includes the old site of Poulsbo’s Public Works department, the parcel on long-term lease by CO, and the city-owned portion of the Library’s parking lot.
At first glance, what a great gift: the nonprofits would finally own the space they need. CO has been a lifeline for homeless youth here for over 20 years. The proposal would grant them both the building and parking space they sorely need.
PFM, another Poulsbo jewel, provides healthy food and Saturday morning outings, and gives local farmers and artisans an outlet for their products. Gateway Church’s parking lot has housed the market on Saturdays in recent years, but disagreements with the Church have prodded PFM to move by 2023. The Public Works site would provide shelter during intemperate weather.
Readers might question whether it’s advisable for the city to simply hand over land, no matter how dearly the community holds CO and PFM. In answer, the Mayor says that the Iverson property is massively “encumbered,” meaning that it comes with big problems that the city no longer wants to deal with.
The “encumbrance” is water, water everywhere. Dogfish Creek flows through a culvert under 8th Avenue and seriously floods the area. Public Works employees have joked that they go fishing on their own parking lot. The CO building is buttressed on at least two sides by sandbags and berms to protect it from flooding. (It badly needs repairs, too.)
L: view of flooding through Coffee Oasis window, 12/2017. Photo by Nick Twietmeyer, Kitsap Daily News. R: rot and sandbags alongside CO.
The city’s gesture is not much of a gift. Both CO and PFM would be inheriting major environmental problems—problems that will require enormous expense in the near future. We want these groups to survive, not to incur massive financial and legal liability.
Of the three Public Works buildings PFM would inherit, one (the Quonset hut) is dilapidated, with a very old, possibly irreplaceable arched metal roof and holes in the wood siding. The other two structures—maintenance sheds—teeter over the creek that runs barely 15 feet away.
The Quonset hut, 5/2022
So it looks like the city wants to bestow (dump?) flooding, crumbling property on CO and PFM. PFM could never afford to mitigate the water damage, let alone fix the buildings. We lack sufficient information on CO’s ability to rehab the property they’d be getting: the Better Business Bureau refuses to accredit CO since it has failed to report data required of nonprofits. We hope Poulsbo city government will investigate this failing before considering any property transfer.
The Mayor herself says that, in its current state, the site is “unbuildable” without removal of existing structures and significant site remediation in conformance with the City’s code (chapter 16, on environment).
Summing Up: Questions and Recommendations
Human construction—buildings and asphalt—has created impermeable surfaces and allows nowhere for water to go. The water problem will only worsen with increasingly powerful storms being caused by climate change. It is ironic that the education signage in Centennial Park advocates caring stewardship of our environment, while just steps across the creek, environmental catastrophe is brewing.
We are eager to be informed about more recent environmental assessments, and the City’s reasoning behind the “gift.”
A 2017 article in the Kitsap Daily News said the City received a $100k EPA grant to begin to “restore the stream channel, flood plain, and riparian buffer between 8th Avenue and Centennial Park,” and that “a nearby retention pond will be converted to a wetland that will treat stormwater runoff,” and further, “city engineers will be working out how best to replace the 24-inch culvert…with a 12-foot-wide concrete box culvert.” We still see the retention pond and the highly inadequate culvert. Which of the other plans were implemented, if any?
“All told,” the 2017 article continues, “the restoration of the south fork of Dogfish Creek will cost $1.3 million—$937,500 from the state, $380,644 in city funds. The project is ‘currently the highest ranked stormwater-related habitat restoration project in Kitsap County under the Puget Sound Partnership Near-Term Action Plan’.” Again, what happened to this project?
Imagine that Coffee Oasis, once it has owner’s rights, replaces its building and builds concrete fortifications against the floodwaters. Would this rehab exacerbate the water problem downstream? What legal guarantees could the City establish to protect the land below CO? Further, what will happen if Coffee Oasis ever discontinues its work with the community—does the land become the permanent property of their parent church, and if so, might the City of Poulsbo build in a clause to reclaim that property?
Our Recommendations, Based on Current Knowledge:
(1) Regarding CO and the proposed transfer to them, we lack information by which to make a recommendation.
(2) For the rest of the 3.5 acres, we recommend:
—total or partial demolition of the Public Works buildings and blacktop, according to assessments of hydrologists and engineers,
—environmental mitigation measures as advised by experts, such as swales and plantings,
—transform the non-CO property into an extension of Centennial Park, which would house the Saturday markets.
We recognize two major problems with this recommendation:
—expense to the city (demolition and water mitigation (but where’s the $937,500 from the state, foreseen in 2017?), and
—lack of shelter for PFM. Could one of the Public Works structures be saved for the market?
In any case, we hope the City will fully acknowledge the reality of climate change and continue to assume responsible stewardship of public land.
What can you do?
Attend City Council meetings!
Write to the Mayor at email@example.com
and City Council members at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell them you advocate responsible stewardship of the Iverson property, and enlargement of Centennial Park for ALL in Poulsbo to enjoy!