The Gig Harbor City Council met Monday for a lengthy session in a council chamber packed with residents in attendance for two public hearings.
Most of those in attendance set their focus on the 2016 Comprehensive Plan Amendment, which was presented to the council by Senior Planner Lindsey Sehmel and contained proposed land use amendments for three properties in Gig Harbor.
The purpose of the presentation was to ask the council to approve or deny the proposals moving on to further consideration by the city’s Planning Department.
The properties discussed were the Smith Gravel Mine located at 6301 112 street, Apogee Capital LLC located along Canterwood Blvd across from St. Anthony Hospital and a mixed use property along Burnham Drive.
The Smith Gravel Mine property has a current land designation for low density and employment, used for commercial business, and is proposing that its designation be changed to residential high transition with a development agreement for multi-family housing.
Sehmel said that the staff recommendation was to move the project forward to the Planning Department as the designation is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan’s goals.
City staff also approved an amendment for the Mixed Use District along Burnham Drive, removing the mixed use designation on recommendation from the commission.
The Apogee Capital LLC property, which has a current land use designation as medium residential, was seeking a commercial/business designation with a development agreement for multi-family housing. City staff didn’t recommend the project be moved forward because the land use designation is inconsistent, Sehmel said.
Public comment was vocal against the Smith Gravel Mine and Apogee Capital properties’ land use designation changes.
Gig Harbor Mayor Jill Guernsey had to remind those in attendance that those speaking must remain civil and respectful of differing viewpoints, and that applause would not be allowed following speakers.
Council member Michael Perrow spoke during the public hearing about the removal of the mixed land use designation, expressing concerns that this land use change might have on projects and development already in place in the area. The council discussed each land use designation at length before voting, clarifying with Sehmel that they were voting to move the projects on to the Planning Commission for further review.
The council voted 4-1 to approve the Smith Mining’s land use designation change to the Planning Commission; Councilmember Malich voted against.
A unanimous vote denied the Apogee Capital land use designation change.
Perrow abstained from voting on the change to the Mixed Use District; the council voted to deny the land use change for the district.
The Arts Commission requested an amendment to the Parks Element goal, which would add a new policy for an existing goal and changes to introductory text. Staff recommended the text amendment, and the council voted unanimously to move forward the text amendment.
Catholic School Week
Guernsey read a proclamation recognizing the positive contributions and influence of St. Nicholas Catholic School on the city of Gig Harbor. She presented the proclamation to Amy Unruh, principal of St. Nicholas, in recognition for National Catholic Schools Week, which runs Jan. 31 to Feb. 6.
Impacts of Growth: Fire Department
Chief John Burgess from Fire District #5 — Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One — spoke to the council about the impacts of growth on the fire department.
Burgess presented a history of the department and growth over the years.
The department was started in 1945 with a staff of all volunteers; the first paid, full-time employee was hired in 1978. Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One now has 96 full-time employees and 35 volunteers.
Burgess said that the department’s resources are deployed from nine fire stations. Four stations are staffed full time and around the clock with “career firefighters” who are EMTs and paramedics, four stations are staffed with volunteers and a fifth station is staffed full time when staffing allows.
Fire & Medic One received 5,586 alarms or calls last year, a 25-percent increase from 2011, when the department received 4,458 alarms.
Eighty percent of the calls are medical or rescue calls — which make up the bulk of the department’s responses — with the remaining 20 percent of calls made up of service calls, fire calls, false or good intent reports and “other” calls such as reports of hazardous materials, Burgess said.
Only three percent of the total calls received by the fire department are for fires, according to Burgess, who said that the department sees about 12 to 18 significant fires a year.
The department is working to meet the increased number of calls it receives, and to meet the needs of the increase in population and demographics that Gig Harbor is seeing.
“When we survey our communities we find that people want service quickly and want caring, competent people to show up — that’s what we’re driven to do,” he said.
Council member Tim Payne thanked the chief and department for their dedication and service to Gig Harbor.
“(There is) exceptional leadership in our fire district,” Payne said. “To your department, your district, your firefighters, fortunately or unfortunately you’ve been to my home a number of times and I have absolute confidence in the firefighters and EMTs that show up.”