PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council voted unanimously to have City Manager John Mauro execute a major purchase of 14.4 acres of land for future affordable housing.
A state Department of Commerce grant of $1.37 million will fund the acquisition, so the city won’t be taking the purchase cost out of its general fund, Deputy Mayor David Faber noted just before Monday night’s vote.
The land, 8 acres of which is flat or gently sloping and considered suitable for construction, has room for 100 or more homes, Public Works Director Steve King has said.
These may accommodate a mix of housing for low- and moderate-income residents and units priced at the market rate.
The council members, who have been discussing this purchase for months, received an uncommon wave of public comment before Monday night’s decision, all of it enthusiastic.
Both Mike Rogers and Gloria Lamson of Port Townsend wrote the same thing, with the same capital letters, repeated thrice: “YES YES YES!”
“This is the perfect time to develop housing that’s innovative,” wrote Annalee McConnell, adding the Evans Vista purchase is “a win-win-win opportunity!”
“I wish you every success in making Evans Vista a future home for many of us,” Peter West emailed.
“I want to live in an income- and age-diverse community that remains vitalized with its quirky artists, local farmers, and multitude of nonprofits,” wrote Judy Alexander, an affordable-housing advocate and volunteer builder.
“It will take a strong partnership between our government and our public participants to establish the best vision possible,” she noted, adding “the collective brain IS smarter than the individual one.”
Commenters Bill Wise and Jane Armstrong emphasized the need to keep Evans Vista’s future homes moderately priced — for generations to come.
“We need to ensure that as development completes, the ‘affordable concept’ continues in perpetuity and beyond the first owner. I personally support a managed affordable rental situation,” Wise wrote.
“Especially when public dollars are involved,” Armstrong said, “the affordability of that housing should be permanent or long term, sustained from its original designation.”
Mayor Michelle Sandoval, in her last City Council meeting before retirement from the post, spoke her mind about the larger topic of affordable housing.
“It’s interesting. There are no neighbors here,” she said, “so we haven’t had a lot of negative [comments],” about the plans for a mixed-income development on Evans Vista.”
Over many years, Sandoval added, she has heard lots of complaints about other housing plans and ideas, be they cottages or single-family homes or apartments. Density “isn’t becoming for Port Townsend,” some have told her.
As an urban growth area, “we have the responsibility as well as the privilege to have housing here,” the mayor said.
“We need to get over ourselves. We need to start doing this.”
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]