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City promises museum will have redevelopment input

The city of Port Orchard will make an effort to accommodate the needs and desires of the Sidney Museum in its downtown redevelopment plan and the construction of a parking garage, according to Development Director James Weaver.

“We have no definite plans at this time,” Weaver said at a meeting of the museum board on Thursday night. “We want to partner with you on this project, and the museum is an important part of the overall plan.”

The city is now in the second stage of planning the construction of an underground parking garage, which is expected to be the key to downtown redevelopment.

The preferred location borders Prospect and Sidney streets, which is the corner where the museum is currently located.

The matter is due for discussion at the Port Orchard City Council’s work study session at 7 p.m. on Feb, 17, which all museum board members are expected to attend.

Weaver took the extra time to visit the board in advance of that meeting, in response to Museum Board President Jud Turner’s presentation during a December public comment session.

Turner and other board members were disturbed by reports that a decision had been made, and that Mayor Lary Coppola had discussed the matter with property owners and other stakeholders.

Weaver said he was not privvy to any of Coppola’s conversations, but that the mayor was gathering information and no decisions had been made.

“We had heard the mayor had talked with other property owners and not with us,” said Board Member Mary Peterson. “This is unacceptable, and smacks of back-room politics.”

Coppola later said there have been no back room deals, citing " a lengthy public process about this that goes back to the previous mayor and the previous council.

"The part about me talking to all the other property owners but the museum people is flat out wrong," Coppola said. "I have personally assured Mr. Turner that we will keep his group in the loop, and as things progress, we will make sure they, as well as all the other stakeholders, have all the information the City has, as the City gets it."

Weaver shared one new bit of data — recent drilling test results report the designated land is stable enough to support a parking structure.

The underground parking garage will house from 724 to 1,172 cars. Weaver said some of these spaces will be private, but those spaces will provide a revenue stream that will help pay for construction and upkeep.

The relocated Port Orchard Library will most likely anchor the new facility, which could connect directly to the museum.

The latest plan calls for an entrance to the underground on Frederick Street and would allow access to Bay Street merchants through the garage.

Due to the standard truck heights, deliveries will still be made from Bay Street, as they are today.

Since the project will most likely require the demolition and removal of several of the current buildings, the museum management has become concerned about the disposition of their building, a house that was built in 1908 and has functioned as a museum since 1971.

Weaver told the museum board that a variety of options exist for the structure, including moving the house to another location for the construction period and moving it back afterwards, or moving to a permanent location nearby.

While Weaver would not absolutely rule out any plan, there are two options that all parties seek to avoid — permanent destruction of the house or acquiring the land through eminent domain.

Weaver said the city will look at all available alternatives and do a cost analysis for each.

He said that maintaining the building could have a financial as well as a historical advantage: If they seek to move and restore the building, it may qualify for preservation-related grants.

Weaver apologized to the board members for any past miscommunication from the city, and encouraged them to attend the study session.

“You need to make sure that the city council hears what you have to say,” Weaver said. “They are the decision-makers.”

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