A lengthy discussion was held Monday night during the regular Gig Harbor city council meeting on a proposed ordinance that would make changes to the city code regarding special events in public parks. After the discussion, it was decided city staff would make changes to the proposed amendments and bring the ordinance back to city council in a future meeting.
The ordinance would amend Chapter 5.28 to make changes in response to complaints the city received about events in local parks.
Mayor Kit Kuhn said, during the discussion, the complaints were in regards to a local business near Skansie Park. Kuhn said the business, which he chose not to name, was profiting off of wedding planning and using the park as a wedding location. During the weddings, residents complained they were being kept out of the park because the events were private.
“The unpermitted events not only disrupted normal park usage but also caused a maintenance increase for the city,” city park manager Katrina Knutson said during the meeting. “During some incidental occasions, alcoholic beverages were used on park property, smoking and vaping were hooked up to the city power and so on.”
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Some of the changes in the ordinance included;
- Changes will limit “for-profit” events to only one permitted a month per park.
- The ordinance will add a definition for “not-for-profit events” meaning any event held by a nonprofit organization.
- The ordinance will change the requirements for event permitting from the city. For-profit events with 25 or more in attendance will have to obtain a permit and not-for-profit events with 40 or more attending will need to obtain a permit.
- Any event that includes tents, sound systems, stages, generators, booths or vendors will have to obtain a special event permit.
- Any event that may affect the traffic patterns near the parks will need a permit.
- A non-refundable application fee was added. City-sponsored events will not need to pay the fee for the permit. City co-sponsored events will pay a fee of $50. Not-for-profit events will pay a fee of $150 and for-profit events will pay a fee of $500.
- The new amendments also extended the permit application filing deadline. All event sponsors would have to file an application for a permit 90 days before the event. It is currently set at 60 days. Any application submitted after the 90 day deadline would not be reviewed or approved.
- The ordinance provided a list of city roads that are never allowed to be closed for special events.
- A portion of the ordinance was amended stating no special event would allow the sale or consumption of alcohol or marijuana. Smoking and vaping tobacco would not be allowed at special events. Alcohol could be consumed and sold at events in buildings leased to a tenant from the city.
- The amendment only allows two weekend events per month at Skansie Park, Eddon Boatyard and Ancich Waterfront Park.
- The pavilion at Skansie Park can only be rented for 90 minutes with a maximum number of guests at 25. Renters would be liable for cleanup.
I am afraid people will have entire events planned and then this will pass and they will find they missed the 90- or 60-day mark. So we need to figure this out soon or we are going to have a big problem.
Gig Harbory Mayor Kit Kuhn
Councilmember Michael Perrow called the ordinance “too rigid” and said the wording and 90-day application window worried him.
“I think this is too rigid and not defined well,” Perrow told the council. “And there should be a special applications clause that if a permit application comes after the 90 days it can come to the council for approval. But I believe this was written hard and fast with no real solutions.”
Councilmember Jim Franich and Perrow also said they would like to see numbers from the Gig Harbor police regarding alcohol issues, and Franich said he has not seen any real issues with cleanup after events in the parks.
Shawna Wise, assistant city clerk, said the city staff has been able to review and approve permit applications within the current 60-day window, saying there is no real need to extend the window to 90 days.
Kuhn also had concerns regarding the backlash the city might face if the current state of the amendments were passed.
“We currently have people calling, asking about weddings at the parks,” Kuhn said. “And they are being told they don’t need reservations to use the public parks. I am afraid people will have entire events planned and then this will pass and they will find they missed the 90- or 60-day mark. So we need to figure this out soon or we are going to have a big problem.”
Discussions on the amendments took almost an hour with some big concerns being the definition of not-for-profit versus for-profit events, the definition of “incidental” events, the enforcement of those drinking or smoking on private boats docked at public parks and more.
The mayor advised the city make proposed changes to the amendments before bringing the ordinance back for a second reading.
PLANNING AND BUILDING COMMITTEE LOOKS AT MAKING BIG CHANGES
Councilmember Bob Himes gave an update on some changes the city’s planning and building committee were hoping to bring in front of the council in the near future. The three main issues the committee faces is the residential development moratorium, amending Gig Harbor City Code Chapter 19.08 “Development Agreements” and restaurants level two and level three in the historic Millville District.
Himes said while the moratorium is still in place, the committee is working on limiting the use of residential building in commercial-zoned areas of the city. The committee also wants to reduce the maximum density limit on residential zoning. July 23 is the last city council meeting before the moratorium expires, and Himes said the committee hopes to have a plan in front of the council on that date or earlier.
“Flexibility is the big discussion,” Himes said. “We don’t want to lock ourselves into a plan that we can’t deliver by then.”
Himes said a work plan is being created by the committee to make appropriate changes to the city code regarding development agreements. Himes said the moratorium is of greater priority so he does not expect the committee to begin drafting amendments until June.
In regards to the controversy around restaurants level two and three, Himes said councilmember Jeni Woock was taking the charge on the issue and has proposed finding a way to retract past city ordinances that allowed level two and three restaurants in the district.
“Woock is modifying the thrust from instead of hard closing time versus a 9:30 p.m. seating time, looking at the possibility of eliminating level two and three restaurants in Millville,” Himes said. “That is expected to come to council on April 23.”
Woock did not comment on the Millville issue.
COUNCIL AND MAYOR RECEIVE SALARY RAISES
Every two years the Gig Harbor City Salary Commission meets to discuss the city council and mayor salary. The commission met Feb. 15 and discussed the workload and time commitment for the council. The council was asked to submit letters regarding what they believe their time commitment was.
It was noted that Kuhn spoke with the commission saying he saved the city $100,000 since he was sworn into office and that he has worked “especially hard” for the city in the past couple of months. Because of this, the commission decided to raise his monthly salary by $100, bringing it to $1,730 per month, beginning April 1.
“I did save the city roughly $100,000,” Kuhn said, “by having David Rodenbach be the interim city administrator and not having someone take his place as the financial director. More than any normal mayor would do.”
The commission also chose to raise the monthly council salaries from $650 a month to $700.
During public comment, resident Karen McDonald chose to spoke for the council’s raises.
“The council was receiving $650 a month and maybe now $700?” McDonald said. “Hello? I know how hard you guy’s work, I am here to stand up for you. I don’t think you are getting paid what you should get paid.”
Councilmember Spencer Hutchins said the salary is not the reason why the members chose to run for office.
“No one comes on this council thinking of the money they will make,” he said. “But it is important to note how much time this takes. And as a younger member who works full-time, I hope the council will keep its work in the hours for us with a regular job and family.”
Himes said he was appreciative of the raise, noting when he was on the council in the ’70s, his monthly salary was only $6 a month.