Housing project before Port Townsend City Council

City to consider buying property

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council will be poised tonight to make way for a housing development that mixes prices and people.

The council authorized City Manager John Mauro last August to enter into a purchase agreement for land at the end of Evans Vista Drive, 14 acres south of Sims Way and the Rainier Street roundabout.

Then came the research and the grant-seeking, which bore fruit: a $1,372,000 award from the state Department of Commerce. The City Council accepted it last week.

The money, which will cover the $1,355,000 purchase price, is designated for “support of affordable housing.”

Yet the parcel, which could accommodate more than 100 units, comes with known unknowns, Public Works Director Steve King has said.

The city doesn’t know who will construct the housing. It could be a multiple-developer project, and Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County Executive Director Jamie Maciejewski has expressed interest.

Also to be determined: how many units will be categorized “affordable,” for low-income residents, how many will be “workforce housing,” for people earning up to 120 percent of the area median income, and how many — and if any — will be market-rate units.

“The Department of Commerce urges us to look at options of creating [housing for] diverse income ranges,” King told the council during its meeting last Monday.

The words “mixed income” are in the grant agreement, he added; that’s “simply a term that allows us to do some units that may not have a specific income restriction.”

The council, having previously heard detailed reports on the Evans Vista property and its potential, voted unanimously to take the Commerce money.

“That’s sort of an exciting vote,” Mayor Michelle Sandoval said.

In prior discussions, the mayor noted she felt some trepidation about the risk involved in acquiring land for affordable housing development. But after talking with housing advocate Peter Bonyun, who urged the council to take bold action, Sandoval and the rest of the council opted to move forward.

The members saved the property purchase resolution for the meeting at 6:30 p.m. today. The agenda item will include another report from King on the study done by Willamette Cultural Resources Associates, a firm that investigates land parcels for Native American remains and other artifacts.

“Willamette CRA did not find any evidence of cultural resources in their field investigation,” King noted. “However, the literature review did reveal that a portion of the property was used as the region’s ‘Pest House.’ Based on research, Pest Houses were used for quarantine, most commonly for passengers and crew on vessels entering the United States from abroad who were suspected of carrying communicable disease.”

Pest houses existed all over the country during the 19th and early 20th centuries, “especially among port cities in which overseas travelers went through quarantine,” King added.

His report and the rest of today’s agenda can be found online at www.cityofpt.us under Government and Agendas & Minutes. A link to view the meeting live, or watch the recording afterward, also will be provided on the webpage.

At the top of this agenda is another notable event: the oaths of office for the council members elected in November.

Ben Thomas will succeed Ariel Speser, who didn’t run for re-election; Libby Wennstrom will take the seat of Pamela Adams, who is retiring, and Aislinn Diamanti will succeed Sandoval, who is stepping down after five terms.

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Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or durbanidelapaz@peninsula dailynews.com.

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