Port Townsend to begin comprehensive plan update next month

City seeks robust public engagement

PORT TOWNSEND — Port Townsend is set to begin updating its comprehensive plan next month with a kickoff event to try to boost public engagement.

“We’re inviting our community to learn more about our comprehensive plan and what it means and how we as a community paint our future through this plan,” said Emma Bolin, the city’s planning and community development director. “We’re going to brainstorm our vision for our future identity and how that manifests in our built and social environments.”

The kickoff event will begin at 6 p.m. May 9 at the American Legion Marvin G. Shields Memorial Post 26 on Monroe Street. Bolin said the city hopes to design activities in which residents of all ages can participate.

Under the state’s Growth Management Act, cities are required to update their comprehensive plans every eight to 10 years, and capital spending decisions are meant to conform with the plan. Comprehensive plan updates require cities to adopt plans for things like land use, housing, transportation and utilities among others.

There are also several new requirements for the next update including:

• Specific rules to make housing more affordable, including requirements to enable housing development that serves all income levels.

• A requirement to permit accessory dwelling units in all residential zones — something Port Townsend did last year.

• New rules to prevent displacement of disadvantaged populations and end zoning-based discrimination, requiring a close look at capital facilities planning and local decision making.

• Requirements to evaluate land capacity and demonstrate land scarcity before proposing expansion of urban growth areas.

• Mandates to invite federally recognized Native American tribes into the process, ensuring an effective opportunity to include tribal interests in local policy.

Comprehensive plans are a framework for the city from which zoning and development regulations come, Bolin said, and they include a capital facilities plan that gets updated every other year. When staff are asked to update regulations, they reference the comprehensive plan, said Adrian Smith, Port Townsend’s long-range planner.

“It’s a vision statement for the community, what’s working, what we want the future to look like and how do we get there,” Smith said.

City Manager John Mauro said at the State of the City address last month that comprehensive plans can often go unused, but staff hope this update will be something future city governments reference.

The comprehensive plan update is due to the state Department of Commerce on June 30, 2025, with the drafting of the plan to begin this fall. Both the city council and the planning commission are required to approve the final plan, and both bodies will hold special meetings dealing specifically with the update.

The city has hired SCJ Alliance as a consultant to help with the comprehensive plan update process, as well as updates to the transportation plan and middle housing policies. The contract to hire SCJ was about $376,000, Bolin said, with about $213,000 covering the comprehensive plan update.

Over the next year, there will be many opportunities for public engagement, Bolin said, including options to volunteer for boards and committees to help draft portions of the plan updates.

“It’s going to be kind of like a city theme for the next year at least,” Bolin said.

More information on the update can be found at the city’s project website, pt2045planning.org.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached by email at peter.segall@peninsulanews.us.

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