Clarification: Port Orchard Council Sympathetic to Museum’s Angst

If you read the headline and subhead for today’s story on the Sidney Museum and Art Gallery in the paper version of the Kitsap Sun, you might get the impression that the Port Orchard City Council is taking a rigid stance on its plans for a parking garage/community center that shows encroachment on the museum’s property. Both are literally true. The headline reads, “An Uncertain Future For an Icon of the Past.” The subhead is “City community center plans may hurt a bid to put Sidney Museum on the national historic register.”

But if you read farther down in the story, you’ll hear Councilman Rob Putaansuu say the plans, drafted by Art Anderson and Associates, are far from set in stone and can be changed. Councilwoman Carolyn Powers said it is unlikely the city would use eminent domain to acquire the property, even as a last resort.

In fact, the council, through verbal consensus, responded to museum spokesman Jud Turner’s plea for formal protection by asking Development Director James Weaver to draft a resolution to be posted on the Web site explaining that the council supports the museum’s right to remain where it is. The resolution will come before the council at its Feb. 9 meeting.

Turner was asking for written assurance from the council in part because the museum board has applied to the National Register of Historic Places. The city has tried to negotiate with the museum board on options for saving the building, either temporarily or permanently. While the talks were cordial, Turner said, neither of those solutions is acceptable to the board. Moving the building would definitely nix its chances for historic status. Making the national register is not just a nicety, according to board member Mary Peterson. It will put the museum in better position to receive grants and corporate sponsorships.

Now, a caveat: even if the council does pass the resolution protecting the status of the museum, a new council could, at some future date, override that resolution if they determined that the original plans better meet the city’s needs. Based on conversations I’ve had with City Engineer Mark Dorsey and others, Art Anderson included the museum property in its plans because that provided the most favorable layout for the garage, giving the maximum number of parking spaces, while protecting views from uphill homes.

Don’t look for any movement on the parking garage/community center this year; there’s just no funding for it. We’ll hear whether the museum made the national register in February. Stay tuned.

One thought on “Clarification: Port Orchard Council Sympathetic to Museum’s Angst

  1. The museum has been envisioned from the beginning as being a part of the Towne Center Revitalization Project. It is the land underneath the building that was needed, not the building itself or the above-ground land it sits on.

    Currently, we are parking on the City’s best and most desirable waterfront. Plans call for turning that into a park — not commercial development. The parking garage, which was originally proposed almost 10 years ago, will replace that parking, and add spaces, making other downtown revitalization possible.

    Sitting atop the underground garage structure at the Prospect Street level will be a new building housing the Library, and a campus style community center. The Library brings over 22,000 people a month to downtown — people who also shop and eat in the restaurants there. Although the current Library building (which is owned by the City) is too small to accommodate future needs, the Library has made it clear that it wants to remain downtown, and the downtown merchants see it as a desirable neighbor.

    The City has tried to work with the museum board, making numerous proposals to include it as part of the project. Those include leasing the land underneath the museum building, which would create an ongoing revenue stream for the museum, and be paid from parking revenues; moving the building during construction and then moving it back on to a new foundation (it currently sits on pier blocks — not a concrete foundation); moving it to an entirely new location altogether; and housing the museum in a new building as part of the new complex.

    All of these proposals have been rejected by the museum board. The City has made it abundantly clear — numerous times — that since the museum desires to not be a part of the project, it has every intention of respecting its wishes. The City see this as a win-win, since it will save approximately $3.5 million in construction costs by doing so.

    Lary Coppola

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