A backhoe driver works Thursday at the Elwha Hotel construction site in downtown Port Angeles while awaiting removal of an electrical switch box, foreground. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)

A backhoe driver works Thursday at the Elwha Hotel construction site in downtown Port Angeles while awaiting removal of an electrical switch box, foreground. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)

Switch to be moved for Elwha hotel

Project remains on hold for now

PORT ANGELES — The dormant, flat Elwha Hotel site stirred to muted life this week while workers prepared to remove an electrical switch box that was compromising design plans for the waterfront facility.

The eastern section of Railroad Avenue is expected to be closed to through traffic for up to three weeks — until the start of the Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival — while the green, metal container is extracted and its replacement installed near the Gandy Dancer sculpture at the east end of the street.

But hotel construction won’t begin until after an already-submitted shoreline permit is reviewed by city Community and Economic Development Director Allyson Brekke.

Nor will it begin until after a building permit for the 80,494-square-foot hotel that the tribe has yet to put together is approved by the agency.

Lower Elwha Klallam tribal project Manager Michael Peters said Thursday.

In addition, Peters said, the final design of the four-story, 106-room hotel at 101-111 E. Front St. is dependent on contingencies that make it hard to estimate when construction will start or end, although he was confident the tribe is ready to start work this winter.

Factors include the city’s ongoing establishment of a form-based zoning code, which focuses on building design and form rather than uses, and its impact on the project, and the city council’s Sept. 7 moratorium on new surface parking lots within some city commercial corridors, including the 101-111 E. Front St. street site of the $25 million project, he said.

“We were thrown a curve ball by the city” on the moratorium, Peters said, adding that only structured, or parking garage-style parking, may be allowed.

A 36-space parking area has been planned for the interior of the hotel site along the main entrance on North Laurel Street, but those plans are in limbo, Peters said.

“We don’t know what the implications of the parking moratorium or the form-based code will have on us,” he said. “It could have some dramatic impacts on the design as well as the timing of this project.”

Still, moving the city Public Works Light Operations Division switch box is an important step, he said.

“This is a huge milestone because it’s extremely tough to finalize a design with that switch there and the clearance requirements that are required around that switch,” Peters said.

“Of course, we wish this would have happened two years ago, but it is what it is. We are finally doing it; we are moving forward.”

Switch-box removal supervisor Randy Osborn of Longview-based PNE Construction, a subsidiary of PNE Corp., said Thursday the small, blocked section of Railroad Avenue will open up again by Oct. 8.

“I want to get the street back together and make it all safe for Crab Fest,” he said Thursday morning at the site, its grounds suddenly crowded with six vehicles and a backhoe after several weeks of quietude.

“That’s the goal.”

Osborn said a new electric switch box will installed near The Rail restaurant at the east end of Railroad Avenue.

The move was scheduled to begin Thursday.

The city electrical line to The Rail, the Black Ball Ferry Line and Customs and Border Protection facilities will shut down between 10 p.m. Monday and 2 a.m. Tuesday, Osborn said.

A single generator will provide backup power to the sites with no interruption in service during the project, he added.

Peters said the next inflection point for the hotel is determining the impact of input generated during the public comment period on the shoreline permit that ended Sept. 23, and whether any of those comments will need to be mitigated.

“We are waiting for a response from the city on that permit so we can then start work on finalizing our design,” Peters said.

Brekke said Thursday the city had to grant a right-of-way construction permit to move the switch box.

“There were some things my department had to handle with the shoreline permit part of it,” she said. “That procedural part took some time.”

A shoreline permit is required because 45 feet of the 1.16-acre site lies within 200 feet of the shoreline as measured from the ordinary high-water mark.

The project included removal of 8,000 tons of contaminated soil.

The hotel will include a pool, a 3,060-square-foot restaurant and kitchen and a landscaped public seating area with views of Port Angeles Harbor.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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