Port Angeles City Council votes to create housing crisis task force

PORT ANGELES — The City Council has created a task force to tackle the housing crisis in Port Angeles.

Council members voted 6-0 Tuesday to assemble a group of representatives to address the lack of affordable housing, vacant properties, stormwater regulations and other housing issues.

The task force will include representatives of Peninsula Housing Authority, Port Angeles Association of Realtors, local churches and banks, the city Planning Commission and mayor, Clallam County, North Peninsula Building Association, North Olympic Development Council, Olympic Medical Center, Peninsula Behavioral Health and Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles.

“That is a broad spectrum that’s going to represent all aspects of housing in our community,” council member Michael Merideth said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Housing has been identified as a top priority in the city’s annual work plan.

City staff recommended the addition of OMC, PBH and Coast Guard representatives after an initial discussion at the council’s think tank June 12. The initial composition of the committee was based on the city of Vancouver’s housing task force.

“I’m very happy with this result,” Council member Mike French said Tuesday. “I appreciate staff listening to our suggestions and ideas and making them better.”

The council spent the majority of its two-hour business meeting Tuesday discussing items that originated at the think tank.

Mayor Sissi Bruch was absent Tuesday but led the informal discussion last week.

In another unanimous vote, the council agreed Tuesday to call a joint meeting with the city Planning Commission to review the comprehensive plan. A comprehensive plan puts forth a city’s vision.

A 4-3 majority of the council voted June 5 to remand a proposed 2018 comprehensive plan amendment to the Planning Commission for a substantive review that meets a June 2019 deadline.

The Planning Commission then referred the council to its previous recommendation to support the original amendment.

“There was some confusion of what direction council is directing them in,” Planning Manager Allyson Brekke told the council Tuesday.

No date for the joint work session has been set.

Community and Economic Development Director Nathan West suggested that the agenda for the joint meeting include a discussion on a proposed alternate truck route through Port Angeles.

“As contemplated in the think tank, the desire was to integrate and evaluate the alternative transportation route as part of the comprehensive plan review,” West said.

Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin said the alternative route is a “major decision” that “needs to be in the comprehensive plan.”

“I think we’re doing the people of Port Angeles a disservice by not being specific on where this alternate route is,” Schromen-Wawrin said.

City Manager Dan McKeen said an alternate truck route has been discussed by city officials and citizens for more than 15 years.

He suggested that the council hear a staff report on the history of the cross-town bypass proposal.

“There a lot of information out there,” McKeen said.

The City Council will review a final agenda for the joint meeting July 3.

Meanwhile, the council could not reach a consensus Tuesday on the formation of a policy review committee.

The committee would be composed of three council members who would help draft new policies and review existing ordinances.

Schromen-Wawrin, French and Bruch had volunteered to serve on the policy subcommittee at the June 12 think tank.

“I don’t really understand the need for this committee,” council member Cherie Kidd said Tuesday.

Council member Jim Moran questioned where the policies would originate and who would set the agenda for the committee.

“I think if there are council members who are interested and have the time,” Deputy Mayor Kate Dexter said, “it’s not necessarily a bad thing for them to dig into some policies that may need some reworking and come up with some recommendations so that staff doesn’t have to do it.”

Schromen-Wawrin, a constitutional attorney, drew objections from several council members after he drafted a third version of a plastic bag ordinance that was to be considered in March before appearing in the City Council’s agenda packet.

A 4-3 majority of the council eventually approved Schromen-Wawrin’s ordinance, which restricts city merchants from distributing thin-film, single-use plastic bags at the point of sale and requires stores to charge a 5-cent fee for any bag provided at checkout.

The city’s Bring Your Own Bag law takes effect July 2.

“As the legislative branch of the city government, we need a mechanism to be able to bring forward polices, work collaboratively with city staff and with the public on figuring out what the best policies are, what the best ordinances are to enact for the betterment of Port Angeles,” Schromen-Wawrin said.

“It’s taken me a long time to figure out how to even drop a bill.

“I think we need a mechanism for bringing forward policy,” Schromen-Wawrin added.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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