PORT TOWNSEND — Parking concerns frustrate neighbors of the close-to-completed Salish Coast Elementary School on Grant Street and Discovery Road.
On Monday, Hearing Examiner Emily Terrell approved a parking variance for the school. She placed amended conditions on the variance that include a city review of a Transportation Management Plan (TMP) due four weeks before the school district’s target date for certificate of occupancy of the school at 1637 Grant St. The Port Townsend school year begins Sept. 4.
Also, the study area for the plan has been extended to one-fourth mile in all directions from the boundaries of the site. A previous TMP had asked for an impact study within 300 feet of the school.
The variance waives on-site parking for the school.
In lieu of all 96 parking spaces being on campus, the school district proposed to provide 46 on-street spaces, including 15 new and the rest are re-striping of existing spaces, and 22 peak hour off-site spaces through an agreement with the Port Townsend Friends Meeting (Quaker). Also, a new parking lot has been created by tearing down a home and using two undeveloped residential lots that will provide 28 spots for staff.
None of the proposed parking spaces are actually on the Salish Coast campus.
Senior Planner John McDonagh said the project received a variance last year which was contingent on the district successfully negotiating shared parking arrangements with two local churches: the Friends on Sheridan and the San Juan Baptist Church on Discovery Road.
Only the Friends agreed to terms with the school. The Baptist Church is not in negotiations at this time.
Salish Coast Elementary School is about twice as big as the Grant Street Elementary it will replace. Grant Street served students in pre-kindergarten through third grades, while Salish Coast will serve pre-kindergarten through fifth grades beginning int he fall.
John Polm, superintendent of Port Townsend School District, said that construction of the new school has been a challenge for the neighborhood, creating months of construction noise as well as increased traffic.
“The district had to create a playground in place of the staff parking that was previously at the school. This, along with the addition of dozens of construction workers, pushed street parking into the neighborhood this year,” Polm said.
”I would say neighbors have been frustrated at times with cars parked in front of homes that had not previously been on Sheridan or other nearby streets.
“The school principal and other staff want to help the transition to the new school be as smooth as possible,” Polm added.
”Part of this process is to complete a Transportation and Parking Management Plan as a condition of the approved parking variance. This plan will be submitted to city officials, and the district will implement and monitor the plan as required.”
Julia Rouse, a therapist, has been living and working at her location on Sheridan and 16th for 21 years. She owns a home and two additional lots. She said she is impacted by the lack of parking which she said is endemic to the Castle Hill neighborhood.
“It’s a beautiful ecological campus they’re creating,” Rouse said. “However, it’s ignoring the ecology all around it, the ecology of the neighborhood, and the neighborhood’s quality and character.”
Cars and trucks have blocked the access to her therapy clinic so patients have a hard time finding a place to park, she said.
“All the traffic and all of the parking is flowing into the neighborhoods. I’m now surrounded by school traffic on three sides which equals 400 of the 500 feet of the perimeter of my property.”
Rouse received some mitigation in the form of the staff parking lot that was created along her boundary line.
“Once it’s planted, foliage will provide a buffer to my backyard,” she said.
”Cars will be angled to minimize lights and maximize available space. They’ve agreed to use low-sited lighting that will be on a sensor to lessen the impact. The only access is from Grant Street.”
Jen Clark owns a home on 16th across Sheridan, and is a couple of blocks away from the school. She is concerned about the impact on her neighborhood.
Clark said she paid $11,000 over the asking price for her home, but fears the parking issue will have an impact on its value.
“I’m living in a parking lot,” Clark said. “That’s what they did to my neighborhood. I didn’t buy into this.”
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected],