Property rights group forms to fight Upper Sims project in Port Townsend
By Jeff Chew, Peninsula Daily News
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"We have a goal of ensuring there is no creation of a [local improvement district] or taking of any property for the project without just compensation," said Jim Boyer, who is developing high-density homes on Sixth Street just north of Upper Sims and Vintage Hardware.
Boyer said he and his business partner, Hugh Jenings, have formed a chapter of Citizens Alliance for Property Rights with about 30 members.
Citizens Alliance for Properlty Rights was originally formed by former King County commissioner Steve Hammond, and has chapters in San Juan and Pierce counties.
A meeting of the group is set for 1 p.m. Monday at Vintage Hardware, 200 W. Sims Way.
Boyer said that city leaders have ignored the Upper Sims Way-area business and property owners who are opposed to a proposed Sims Way makeover.
The Port Townsend City Council approved roundabouts on Sims in June after receiving a petition carrying signatures of more than 1,000 who opposed having roundabouts instead of traffic lights.
The council has taken no action on other elements of the proposed project, which would cost an estimated $5 million to $6 million.
The roundabouts would be at Howard and Thomas streets. Between them is proposed a solid median down the middle of Sims. Left turns would be allowed at Cliff Street toward the north and at Alder Street to the south.
Uncontrolled left turns on Upper Sims, which are widely supported by business owners, are not supported by the state Department of Transportation, which will help with funding the Sims Way project.
The council has taken no action on Sims median, parking or pedestrian access proposals.
During a Monday open house and City Council workshop, city Planning Director Rick Sepler said the city has investigated several financing options for the project, including a local improvement district, or LID.
"An LID is one of those options," Sepler told an audience of about 100.
Boyer said at the Monday workshop that, under state law, the city would have to obtain support for a local improvement district, or LID, from property owners representing 60 percent of the tax base within the district's boundaries.
"We've got solid support up and down the street, probably, to kill it," Boyer said.
Mayor Mark Welch said that a local improvement district was only one potential financing option.
"An LID will take a vote and people can overturn it, and that's OK," the mayor said.
"But the idea of an LID is to benefit the property owners and increase their property values."
Upper Sims property owners Shirley Rudolph and Ken Kelly have said the redesign as proposed would threaten, even kill, their investments.
Kelly owns Vintage Hardware and Rudolph owns a commercial building at McPherson Street and Sims that houses three businesses.
On Monday, Kelly said the proposal to block off the entrance to his parking lot fronting Sims and Thomas, would ruin his business to accommodate a roundabout.
Boyer said the Jefferson County Citizens Alliance for Property Rights chapter has already received contributions to help with mailings and possible legal fees should the group seek future recourse.
"We are also going to start a lobbying effort," Boyer said.
"Why are they moving so fast on roundabouts and medians regardless of the input from the people that would be affected?" Boyer said.
Welch disagreed that the city was moving too fast on the project. He said everything possible will be done to ensure all those affected will be heard.
"I think that we've had a lot of public process on this. We've had lots of meetings, and people have been listened to," Welch said.
"And we continue to work with them."
The city is scheduled to have a new draft of the Upper Sims plan in February.
"We won't have any finalization until spring of next year," Welch said, adding that construction would begin in 2009, at the earliest.
"We're working in the interest of the entire community," Welch said.
Port Townsend-Jefferson County Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-385-2335 or email@example.com.
Last modified: October 24. 2007 9:00PM