Victoria apartment building could be barged to Port Townsend

PORT TOWNSEND — An apartment complex that had been scheduled for demolition in Victoria is expected to be moved across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to serve as affordable housing in Port Townsend.

The Port Townsend City Council approved a loan for the project Monday night by a 6-0 vote, with Councilwoman Catharine Robinson absent.

The two-story, four-unit apartment complex would be floated from Victoria to Port Townsend on a barge in early May and set up on city-owned property on the corner of Cherry and Van Ness streets, City Manager David Timmons said.

The Olympic Housing Trust is now in negotiations with the property owner and has a tentative contract for moving the building at a total cost of $265,000, according to the staff memo. The trust had asked the city to provide a loan while it secures funding.

Because the complex is on land that is under redevelopment and had been scheduled for demolition later this week — and to provide time for obtaining permits — the council was urged on Monday to move quickly.

“I’m sorry we have to fast-track this,” Timmons said during Monday’s meeting, “but the circumstances are kind of forcing us into this situation.”

Timmons said officials hope to have zoning and other details in place by the beginning of May because the apartment building could be heading to Port Townsend on a barge as early as May 10 or May 11.

According to the city’s plan handed out during Monday’s meeting, the property and the recycled complex could allow for four studio apartments to be built on the basement level — potentially expanding the complex from four to eight units.

The two-bedroom, one-bath apartments would be available to households earning no more than 80 percent of the median income in the area, which ranges from $36,000 to $52,000 annually, according to city officials.

The units, which are roughly 900 square feet, would be rented for no more than $900 to $1,100 per month, including utilities.

The apartment building would be sited on property across the street from the Port Townsend Golf Club and the Mountain View complex.

“A number of years ago, when we were going through a lot of the city’s properties, we had identified a number of properties the city has acquired over the years and identified those that were potentially properties that could be considered for surplus for affordable purposes to create a housing supply,” Timmons told the council.

This property, a 100-foot-by-600-foot strip of land, was acquired originally as part of the golf course, but is separated from the course by Cherry Street. The land also has not been zoned, allowing the city to easily re-zone it for residential use.

“It’s part of the affordable housing initiative so in return basically this property will remain as affordable housing,” Timmons said.

The land would be transferred to the Olympic Housing Trust, Timmons said.

A contract will say that, should the Housing Trust dissolve or the project fall apart, the property will be returned to the city with the complex on site. This allows the city to protect its interest in the property, Timmons said.

According to Timmons, the project was inspired by local contractors Johnson Family Properties, which floated four recycled homes on barges from Canada to Port Townsend in October.

Joe Johnson, the owner of Johnson Family Properties, told city officials about the apartment complex, Timmons said.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at [email protected]peninsuladailynews.com.

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