Terrie Comstock of Port Townsend asks questions about a display at the city’s kickoff meeting for its 2025 Comprehensive Plan update at the Marvin G. Shields Memorial Post 26 American Legion Hall on Thursday. The meeting was the first in a series for the update, due at the end of 2025 and required by state law. (Peter Segall/Peninsula Daily News)

Terrie Comstock of Port Townsend asks questions about a display at the city’s kickoff meeting for its 2025 Comprehensive Plan update at the Marvin G. Shields Memorial Post 26 American Legion Hall on Thursday. The meeting was the first in a series for the update, due at the end of 2025 and required by state law. (Peter Segall/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend kicks off plan for next 20 years

City seeking input on comprehensive outlook

PORT TOWNSEND — More than 100 people turned out for the first public meeting of Port Townsend’s comprehensive plan update, kicking off a process that will take more than a year to complete.

The state Growth Management Act requires cities of a certain size to update their comprehensive plans every eight to 10 years and future legislative actions by the city council are meant to comply with the plan.

City officials said Thursday they wanted community members to share their vision for what the city will look like in 2045, and any thoughts they had on how to achieve those goals.

Several stations covering various aspects of the planning process — transportation, economic development, housing, etc. — were set up around the meeting hall at the American Legion Marvin G. Shields Memorial Post 26, with opportunities for community members to give notes and feedback about each topic.

Mayor David Faber said the comprehensive plan update is one of the most important things a city can do.

“The comprehensive plan effectively defines what our built environment can be,” Faber said. “The infrastructure and the built environment is probably the biggest thing the city does, and this defines what that’s going to look like for the next 20 years.”

Comprehensive plans can go largely unused, but city officials have said they hope this update will be referenced by future city governments.

“You can put whatever in the plan that you want to, but the plan is laying the rules, what people do with them, we don’t know,” Faber said. “That’s one of the complications. We say what we want in the plan, but if we try and box people into one direction, that can create unintended consequences where things go off in a way we don’t expect. So people may not do what we’re asking them to do.”

Port Townsend residents speak with city staff members at a public meeting for the city’s Comprehensive Plan update due in 2025. The city held an open house meeting at the Marvin G. Shields Memorial Post 26 American Legion Hall where members of the public could ask questions and give feedback about the process. (Peter Segall/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend residents speak with city staff members at a public meeting for the city’s Comprehensive Plan update due in 2025. The city held an open house meeting at the Marvin G. Shields Memorial Post 26 American Legion Hall where members of the public could ask questions and give feedback about the process. (Peter Segall/Peninsula Daily News)

The city’s comprehensive plan update is due Dec. 31, 2025, but much of the work is hoped to be done by next June, said Bill Grimes, principal with SCJ Alliance Consulting Services, the group the city has hired to guide the update process.

Thursday’s event was meant to gather public priorities and aspirations of the community which will be integrated into a future draft of the comprehensive plan.

“We’re looking for a mosaic of snapshots for the year 2045 so we know what the community is thinking about and hoping for its future,” Grimes said. “The next step after this is to prepare a draft vision and have the community vet it, so they can make sure that we’re on target and then work through some different scenarios or alternative strategies that we can consider to achieve it.”

Grimes, who said he’s worked on 40-50 comprehensive plan updates in his career, said future city council actions have to fit with the comprehensive plan, and if they don’t, cities can be held accountable.

“People can appeal a local decision and say, ‘Your decision is not consistent with the comprehensive plan, you need to reconsider it,’ and it’ll go to the state growth management hearings board and they will decide,” Grimes said.

Grimes said he felt Thursday’s meeting was well-attended with good feedback provided.

“I’m encouraged by the number of people here and some of the conversation I’ve overheard,” he said. “People are looking at the information and they’re challenging us on it, and that’s wonderful.”

Several meeting attendees listed housing as a major priority.

“I would like to see as much of the piece of culture and character that drew me to live here 25 years ago maintained, and I know that’s hard; things change,” said Corena Stern, a Port Townsend resident. “It was a quirky arts town when I moved here, and I don’t want to see too much gentrification get in the way of that.”

Stern said affordable housing is an important part of being able to maintain a vibrant arts community.

Natalie Maitland, a Port Townsend resident and director of operations for Fort Worden Hospitality, said she wants the city to develop both workforce and affordable housing.

“I spent a little time over there making sure the word ‘workforce’ got on the board because it was not on the board,” Maitland said of the housing display. “I think looking at workforce housing and affordable housing will be in my comments. I do think there is an opportunity Port Townsend has to look at what its long-term vision is for its sustainability in a couple areas, with the creative economy but also the tourist economy.”

Grimes said the next public event will take place later this summer, but a date has not been set. That event will likely be a multi-day “community studio” dedicated to defining and vetting a community vision and then developing workable scenarios to achieve it.

“Then we’ll write the plan based on what emerges as a preferred scenario,” Grimes said.

Emma Bolin, Port Townsend’s director of Planning and Community Development, said the city hired SCJ Alliance to help with the comprehensive plan update and other revisions to city policies for a total contract of $376,799, with $213,507 dedicated to the plan update.

The city received a total of $325,000 from the state, including $150,000 from Climate Planning Grants, $125,000 from Comprehensive Plan Periodic Update Grants and $50,000 from Middle House Grants.

The gap between grants and contract costs are being paid from by the planning department’s professional services budget and will be adjusted as needed for the 2025 budget, since the work transcends both fiscal years 2024 and 2025, Bolin said.

More information on the update can be found at the city’s project website, pt2045planning.org.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached by email at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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