Port Townsend plan seeks to encourage small-scale business

Moving away from traditional economic development encouraged

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council agreed with the city Planning Commission’s “holistic neighborhood planning” approach that will guide the development of the Rainier Street and the Upper Sims Way Subarea Plan.

Development Services Director Lance Bailey said Monday’s three-hour joint meeting went very well and that “there were no major fundamental disagreements” between the planning department and the City Council.

“There were a lot a questions and comments, and I think we are on a good path,” Bailey said.

The plan encourages artisan businesses, moving away from traditional economic development and focusing on entrepreneurial ventures.

“We are looking to develop micro-enterprises, those small businesses that can’t afford the capital infrastructure to get going,” said City Manager David Timmons.

“They are the types of small startups in the [Port Townsend Business Park] and in Glen Cove.”

Bailey presented the 155-page document that provides an overview of the plan featuring five project objectives: vision and assets, community character, plan organization, meaningful community engagement, local opportunities, and jobs and housing balance.

The plan was developed with community input over the past two years.

Of the 175 acres of land in the subarea, 49 acres are already developed, 98.7 acres are vacant, 11 acres are underdeveloped and 15.7 are public lands or exempt.

The plan suggests that the vacant and underdeveloped land “provides an opportunity to meet much needed housing and employment needs within the City.”

With the completion of the Rainier Street extension, the study says the area is a “gateway” ripe for redevelopment with housing and employment opportunities.

The plan calls for an interconnected and safe transportation network and a vibrant urban design concept while including open space and parks.

Timmons said the city began to take a more focused look at development patterns and consistency with plans in 2002.

He said that the problem with creative ideas and solutions is that they don’t mesh well with the black-and-white of current zoning regulations.

“We needed to take a more comprehensive look and make sure our current regulations are consistent with development patterns and then put them in sync with each other,” Timmons said.

“Currently they are not supportive of the changes in today’s environment in terms of housing and economic growth.”

In order to attract micro-enterprises, Timmons said the city has to be supportive in two ways.

“There needs to be capital infrastructure in the ground, and the regulations have to be consistent with those goals,” he said.

”The planning needs to keep up with the code that’s keeping out the negative effects of development.”

Timmons said buying habits have changed. People don’t want to see big box stores in Port Townsend and that the internet has taken retail to a completely different level.

“Just look in the recycling bins,” he said. “There are a lot of Amazon boxes. The current regulations were written to address big box retailers who wanted to come to town. Our regulations are designed to thwart that, but are crushing everyone else.

“There was fear and phobia over big retail and it blocked everything else.”

Timmons said after the language is tweaked and a final review, the Subarea Plan will be presented to the City Council in April. Public hearings will be conducted and he expects council adoption before summer.

“These regulations have been long in the making, going back two decades,” Timmons said.

“This is putting it all together to implement it. Large development can be sited in the county where regulations will permit the kind of growth they’ll eventually see there.

“Small scale startups are prime for this area.”

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335orat[email protected].

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