Several months have passed since work proceeded on the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s downtown Port Angeles hotel, but the project passed a major hurdle when the tribe lowered the height. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)

Several months have passed since work proceeded on the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s downtown Port Angeles hotel, but the project passed a major hurdle when the tribe lowered the height. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)

Tribe lowers height of planned hotel

Way paved for permit approval

PORT ANGELES — The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe has lowered the height of a planned $25 million waterfront hotel in downtown Port Angeles to 45 feet, removing the need for a conditional use permit and shoreline variance for the long-stalled project.

The planned four-story Elwha Hotel at 101-111 E. Front St. would still have 106 guest rooms, according to the tribe’s updated shoreline substantial development permit application submitted in July.

It was unclear Monday how the design change, lowered from a previously planned 60 feet tall, was accomplished.

“It appears the stories they have are not as high as they were before,” Community Development Manager Emma Bolin said Monday.

“We are not doing a building review at this point. We do have elevations, and we’ve got some basic floor plans as well. We’re just looking at the shoreline bulk and dimensions.”

Project manager Michael Peters would not comment on details of the revised application or when work on the 1.16-acre parcel would resume.

“I am not in a position to comment yet,” he said in a text message.

The Department of Community and Economic Development determined the shoreline development permit application complete Aug. 10 and expects to issue a determination of nonsignificance for environmental impacts.

“It is a major step in the right direction,” Peters said last week in a text message.

Tribal Council Chair Frances Charles did not return calls for comment Friday and Monday.

“The shoreline process is simplified because they reduced the height,” Bolin said last week. “There’s no decision from the Department of Ecology. It’s a city administrative decision.”

A shoreline permit is required because 45 feet of the planned 80,494-square-foot hotel, which includes a parking lot, lies within 200 feet of the shoreline as measured from the ordinary high water mark, subjecting it to shoreline development regulations.

“The analysis of climate sea level rise (and ongoing land mass rise) is provided in the [State Environmental Policy Act], and is not expected to impact the property over the next 100 years,” according to the revised application.

“The project will not have any impact on the floodplain.”

The tribe could submit a building permit for the project but may wait for the shoreline permit to be finalized, Bolin said.

Preparation for construction has included the removal of 8,000 tons of contaminated soil. Fill would raise the site to its previous elevation.

“Shoreline function is enhanced by the removal of contaminate soils from the site which could migrate into the shoreline environment,” according to the updated shoreline permit application.

The hotel would include a restaurant and kitchen totalling 3,060 feet, a swimming pool and off-street parking for 36 vehicles.

The southwest corner, which faces Front and Laurel streets, would include a public area with landscaping, seating and a pathway built to Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Public seating and planter boxes also would be located on the northwest corner of the property fronting Railroad Avenue, facing the shoreline and offering views of Port Angeles Harbor.

Outdoor restaurant dining is planned for the same public seating area that faces Railroad Avenue.

The building would be built between Railroad Avenue to the north, Front Street to the south, Laurel Street to the west and the Gateway Transit Center to the east.

“The hotel development improves public access and enjoyment by providing attractive landscaping and pathways between Front Street and Railroad Avenue, along with opening shoreline views between the two streets,” the permit application says.

“Public shoreline and view seating is provided,” it says.

“The site use as a hotel matches that of the Red Lion Hotel just feet from the shoreline.”

The tribe purchased the central downtown parcel as surplus from the city in December 2018.

Necessities & Temptations gift shop, the Cornerhouse Restaurant & Lounge, the Downtown Hotel, Harbor Art Gallery, Budget Rent a Car and Winters Garage, which housed an oil and gas company, were demolished in fall 2019 to make way for the project.

A delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic extended to November 2020, when Peters predicted construction would begin by this summer and be completed by the end of 2022 or beginning of 2023.

Peters said in June that permitting and electrical-switch issues had to be overcome.

Land and shoreline use permit applications were submitted in early 2021.

According to the updated permit application, the electrical switch will be relocated, an issue that Peters said in an earlier interview was holding up project design.

City Public Works Director Thomas Hunter said Monday a tribal contractor will be relocating the switch, a small, standard ground-level switch box, in late September.

“No major service interruptions are planned at this time,” Hunter said.

“The only reason it had to be relocated is that their design necessitated that it be moved,” he said. “It sounds like everything is on track, and we are excited to see them move forward.”

A 30-day environmental impact-related public comment period on the shoreline permit and state Environmental Policy Act checklist begins today.

Written comments on the project may be submitted no later than Sept. 23 to the DCED at [email protected]

To review project materials, contact Assistant Planner Kevin Bagwell at 360-417-4750 or [email protected]

The project will not be subject to a public hearing, Bolin said.

________

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

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