PORT TOWNSEND — The City of Port Townsend will help Homeward Bound Community Land Trust with project management assistance as it works to complete its low-income housing project on Cherry Street, which has been stalled since spring 2017.
The Port Townsend City Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday night that authorizes the city to provide the assistance to the nonprofit community land trust for six months.
Work on the apartment building, which was floated in from Victoria in May 2017, is expected to begin this winter.
The group used a $250,000 loan from the city to purchase and transport on a barge the apartment complex from Victoria to provide affordable housing units in Port Townsend.
It was placed on a lot at Cherry and Van Ness streets that the city declared as surplus. It has yet to be placed on a foundation, but the building is stable and is checked on a weekly basis, City Manager David Timmons said.
“The Cherry Street Apartment house has four two-bedroom units now, and the plan is to add four single units below,” Timmons said.
“We modified our codes to allow that, so we can have eight units per building,” Timmons said. “Before, it would have to have been in two buildings. It’s a conditional use permit and the paperwork has been filed on that.”
Timmons said the city is trying to help the housing project get started again.
“We are talking about 80 hours of time and we have the staff capacity. We want to help them get the foundation in and stabilized, and then regroup from there.
“This is not a major contract commitment because it isn’t that complicated. Someone has to meet with the contractor to create the estimates for the initial phases and then monitor the performance of the contractor during the construction period and reconcile invoices.”
Timmons said the project has experienced a series of problems.
“They ran into a whole series of glitches,” he said.
The construction industry changed drastically, Timmons explained, and the group had to replace its original contractor.
“The reason for the delay is simply the lack of qualified contractors,” said Mark Cooper, treasurer of Homeward Bound. “I personally called 30 to 40 contractors and there were none available to bid on the project.”
“I had a subcontractor who was ready, but called the next day saying they had gotten a big contract and that their entire crew would be out on that job for six months.”
Plans and permits are finally in place and a contractor, Pacific Environmental, a local company based in Glen Cove, will take on the project.
“Clashes occurred that interfered with the functioning of the board. Now they are in the process of looking for an executive director,” Timmons said. “They are going through all the same growing pains as any other start-up organization would go through.”
Cooper said the group held its annual meeting Wednesday night and conduct board elections.
In addition to Cooper, Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean, Regan Harrison, Kristina Hestenef-Stimson were re-elected, and new members Tobi McEnerney and Justine Gonzalez-Berg were installed. Harrison was tapped to be board president.
Copper said the project management help from the city is invaluable.
“Currently we don’t have people on the board who are deeply knowledgeable about building codes,” Cooper said. “Having a project manager we can bounce ideas off of and be the liaison between contractor and us is what we need.”
In May, the council approved an $834,000 bond financing package with a 40-year term; Council member Michelle Sandoval was absent and Robert Gray voted no.
It folds in the repayment of the $250,000 loan due at the end of December. That loan was originally set to be repaid in December 2017 but in November 2017, the council approved a payment extension.
Homeward Bound has been in business since 2005.
“We built five homes in Port Angeles, then we took a hiatus. When this project came in, we wanted a create a community land trust. So, we are reinvigorating the board to get this project done.”
Timmons said the relationship shows through cooperation and partnership, things can get done.
“It takes perseverance, and government has to have a role in it,” Timmons said. “If you want affordability, there just isn’t any other way around it. We are going to have to invest in partnerships.
“There are people who are critical of it because they feel somehow government shouldn’t be involved. But, it’s ironic. I found a document that said it was June 20, 2011 when we passed a resolution about Cherry Street and Homeward Bound, creating a consortium.
“Seven years later we are still trying.”
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org