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Public Q&A on Port Gamble development is June 27

Olympic Property Group’s plans for Port Gamble Village will be unveiled in a public meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Kingston Middle School Commons.

Site plans will be on display. OPG staff members will be on hand to answer questions. At 6:30 p.m., OPG President Jon Rose will make a presentation of 30-40 minutes, followed by question-and-answer session with the audience.

“We will keep the doors open as long as people want,” Rose said. He said OPG will submit a master plan application to the county by the end of the year.

“It’s all the things we’ve talked about for 10 years but have never done,” Rose said. “We’re zoned for it. The environmental cleanup is now in its final stages. We have been fixing up the town and getting it revved up for this, and it looks better now than at any time in its history. It’s ready to go out and shine on its own.”

The plan — conceptual at this point — includes the selling of existing homes and development of 300 more homes, as well as a farmers market, a marine science center, a horticulture and landscape center, a working orchard and vineyard, restaurants, trails and nature viewing areas, and a waterfront boardwalk.

Among the plans for the mill site: Construction of a lodge or inn, facing north, next to a new dock; moorage for tall ships; and, on the east side of the mill site, warehouses and manufacturing.

The village’s wastewater treatment plant will be closed and all commercial and residential buildings will be connected to septic systems. Closure of the treatment plant and its outfall is expected to improve the health of a geoduck bed, which has been closed to harvest in conflict with the three S’Klallam bands’ treaty reserved harvesting rights.

Rose said the mill site will be healthier and more attractive than it is now. “In its current condition, there is almost no vegetation on the site. We will install updated stormwater treatment that is as good or better than what’s there today. We will plant a vegetation buffer. A jillion creosoted piles on the mill site will be gone. We will have dredged wood waste from around the bay. That’s better than it is today.”

Port Gamble village was established in 1853 as a mill town by San Francisco lumbermen William Talbot and Andrew Pope; they patterned the village after their hometown of East Machias, Maine. The mill operated until 1995. Pope Resources owns Port Gamble, which is managed by Olympic Property Group, Pope’s real estate arm.

Rose said Pope Resources subsidizes Port Gamble to the tune of about $250,000 a year. Pope is trying to sell 7,000 acres of North Kitsap land — a coalition of land conservationists is trying to raise the money to buy it for open space and public recreational use — and wants to make Port Gamble profitable.

First, OPG and the state Department of Natural Resources must work out an agreement for the cleanup of the waters adjacent to the mill site; they disagree on how the costs should be shared. On hold by the state is $7 million for the acquisition of two miles of shoreline targeted for conservation, and $2 million for the abandonment of the wastewater treatment plant that threatens the geoduck bed. Tim Nord, the Department of Ecology’s manager of land and aquatic lands cleanup, said the money won’t be released there’s a mill site cleanup agreement. A cleanup agreement is expected this summer.

Second, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe would like to acquire the mill site and return it to a natural state, with beaches and clam beds. In an earlier interview, Port Gamble S’Klallam Chairman Jeromy Sullivan said the site could be a park-like place where people could learn about indigenous history, native plants and their uses, and how people lived here before contact.

“It would be complementary to the national historic town site (of Port Gamble),” Sullivan said then. “I don’t think it would be in the best interest of Port Gamble and the Tribe to not have them both complement each other. There’s an opportunity to do that. I don’t know if it’s attainable or not. I hope it is.”

S’Klallam leaders have long expressed their interest in having the mill site returned to their people; S’Klallam people were moved from what is now Port Gamble to Point Julia in the 1850s to make way for the mill and town.

Rose said in April that if OPG and Port Gamble S’Klallam can agree on OPG’s plans to build a dock on a portion of the mill site — and can find funding to buy the mill site — it could happen.

“Whether you are buying it or conserving it, there are some pieces we’d like to retain for development,” Rose said. “We still want to put a dock down there. But we’re really open (to discussion).”

Sullivan said he would support a dock. But, “It depends on what kind of dock it is. ... If you can tie up 10 vessels, it’s no longer a dock,” he said in the earlier interview. “We don’t write that kind of code, the Department of Health does.”

Sullivan fears pollution from a marina would cause shellfish closures, like in Port Ludlow, where the S’Klallam have a treaty right to shellfish harvesting that they can’t exercise.

 

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