All posts by Derek Sheppard

S’Klallam Scaling Back Plans For Casino Expansion

Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe Chairman Jeromy Sullivan hears it all the time.
“I get asked on a weekly basis,” he said.
What’s on peoples’ minds? The Point Casino. More specifically, the tribe’s plans for casino expansion.
The plan that people remember was a big one. A huge casino expansion, with a hotel, business park, retail and housing. That was in 2007, and the world – along with leadership of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe – has changed a lot.
“I thought it was pretty aggressive to put something like that out there,” said Sullivan, the 36-year-old chairman elected in July. Sullivan and other tribal leaders and staff members met with the Kitsap Sun Friday afternoon.
As recent as two years ago, the tribe was pursuing looking at 100,000 square feet of gaming, retail, restaurants, meeting space and bars, with 400 additional slots and adding 200 more employees. A hotel was seen as a second phase.
But in recent years, there’s been some movement in top leadership positions at the tribe, and the economy is much different now.
“The ideas have changed,” Sullivan said. “The thought processes have changed.”
Given today’s economic reality, the tribe is now looking at more modest changes to The Point Casino, starting with a remodel.
The tribe’s Chief Executive Officer, Marjorie Zarate, said they’re currently doing marketing studies to see how their casino, which provides the bulk of the revenue the tribe uses to fund its programs, can differentiate itself.
A face lift for the current casino, built in the mid-90s as a bingo hall, new signs and upgraded dining and beverage areas are in the cards.
“It’s going to be aggressive,” she said of the project timing. But it’s a far cry from the previous plans. Exact plans and timing aren’t yet determined.
While the casino plans are likely what most of the public is interested in, Sullivan took some time to explain the tribe’s position on a critically important issue for itself – Port Gamble Bay.
There wasn’t much new, but Sullivan stressed that he hopes the tribe is included early as their across-the-bay neighbors, Olympic Property Group and its town site at Port Gamble, begin planning for more development.
“Even if we don’t agree on things, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about them,” he said.
As issue is the status of the tribe’s generations-long practice, and treaty rights, to harvest fish and shellfish from the bay. There’s also a cleanup effort underway, with OPG and the Department of Natural Resources on the hook, so to speak. For 142 years a sawmill occupied land across the bay that was the original home for the Port Gamble S’Klallam. The mill closed in 1995.
As OPG works on plans for more development, the tribe worries that it could threaten the ability of its members to harvest seafood from the bay.
The dispute already strained relations between the entities when the tribe opposed an OPG plan for a dock in Port Gamble Bay, worrying that the boats and their effluent would result in shellfish bed closures.
From Sullivan’s perspective, there needs to be conversation, and he has to work to protect his tribal member’s rights to shellfishing, and the health of the bay.
“Something that could directly affect the tribe, we’ve got to discuss it,” he said.

– Derek Sheppard

What To Do With Poulsbo City Hall…

Wednesday night the Poulsbo City Council will vote on whether to issue the last phase of bonds to help pay for the new city hall. Assuming the vote is in the affirmative and the project continues forward, it might be high time to start thinking about another aspect of this project that has largely been off the radar.

What to do with Poulsbo City Hall? No, I don’t mean the new one. The old one. Also on Wednesday, the council will address that issue. Part of the financing package for the new building includes selling the land where the current city hall resides.

I’ve floated this idea to a few folks and haven’t gotten any crazy looks, so I’ll take that as a sign I’m on the right track. Bear with me:

Almost all of the discussion thus far has been about cost and location of the new building. But I think the back end of this project will have a much greater effect on the average Poulsbo resident or downtown visitor. This isn’t me discounting the importance of the fact that it’s the most expensive municipal building project in the city’s history, but I think people will experience the change more profoundly when something new goes in the current city hall pad.

It’s a large piece of property, right smack dab in the middle of downtown. Combine that with an entire block for sale just a stone’s throw away (Not city owned), and you’ve got major potential to dramatically change the way downtown Poulsbo looks, feels and functions. Condos? New retail? Tall buildings? Hotels? Conference centers? Who knows?

As for the city’s land, it brings up the question of how much it can or wants to direct the sale. Because the city has prime land in the heart of downtown, I can see how some might want to guide the sale toward an element the city feels will benefit downtown. But constricting the uses to what you might desire could, in theory, lead to a lower sale price. What happens if the city sells the land without any caveats, and someone buys and develops something that doesn’t necessarily conform to what politicians and/or locals want to see downtown?

Interesting questions, I think.

What would you like to see happen with the current city hall property on Jensen? Discuss.

– Derek Sheppard

Poulsbo City Hole

Picket signs are so 1995. It seems when folks want to voice objection or poke fun at big government projects, the t-shirt is en vogue.

Seattlites have the “South Lake Union Trolley” aka SLUT. Bremerton has the Bremerton Underground Transit Tunnel, aka BUTT.Now Poulsbo’s got a hole. In this case it’s not really an acronym, just a take off on what the “hole” is. The foundation for Poulsbo City Hall.

Ed and Sandy Habecker wore the shirts during a city council meeting in which they expressed their discontent for the now $15.9 million project. I missed the meeting, but talked with Ed. In a nutshell, he’s not pleased with the moving target that has been the budget, and the fact that it’ll be more expensive than a plan that voters turned down to build on 10th Avenue.

On Wednesday the council is expected to vote on whether to issue another series of bonds, which will get the ball rolling (or not, depending on the vote.) on building the actual building. Right now, there’s a big hole in the ground at 3rd and Moe.

I just find it interesting how the t-shirt has become a canvas for political discourse.

– Derek Sheppard