(Regarding Sept. 1, Gateway “From the Helm: More of same ‘ole song with proposed downtown Gig Harbor development plan”)
I read your column regarding the proposed development of property in downtown Gig Harbor with great interest. The tone of your column seems to support the developers, with disdain for the citizens of this city, and as a longtime resident of Gig Harbor, I feel it is important to present an opposing view to your facts and opinions.
You mention the fact that you have been talking to various developers and business owners during the two years you have been here and they have expressed frustration with the challenges of developing in the city. During this time, have you spoken with the residents to understand their frustration with the proposed developments and the city leadership? From my view, there is profound evidence that development has not been hampered in Gig Harbor. What I believe concerns the residents is the desire by the city and the developers to strip away the trees to maximize housing density with no apparent regard for infrastructure, aesthetics of the development, or the environment. I believe the citizens of Gig Harbor have grown weary of the city and the developers’ obsession with spoiling what has made this area so desirable. What the Cheney Foundation proposes is to once again strip away the trees and build high-density rental properties in an area currently zoned RB1. If the property zoning has been established as RB1, why is it suddenly OK to simply change it to satisfy a developer?
I find it laughable that you feel the residents of this new development won’t impact traffic since they will walk to most of their destinations. Walk where? There is no (full-service) grocery store, no pharmacy, no dry cleaner, no hardware store, and few businesses to meet daily living needs in downtown Gig Harbor. They will have to drive. They will have to drive to the stores, to their jobs, to doctor appointments, and to entertainment and recreation. While the apartments are intended for residents 55 and older, they will need to drive! Some may take the bus, some may walk, but most will not.
From the Soundview/Harborview triangle to Pioneer, there is considerable property to be developed in downtown Gig Harbor, and we have one chance to get this right. The leaders in this community must focus on ensuring the efforts of the developers are cohesive across all of these parcels. They must balance the financial rewards to the city and developers with the citizens’ desire to maintain the elements that make this community special. They must ensure the infrastructure is improved to handle the burden of the additional residents and traffic. Contrary to your column, I believe there can be property development downtown but as we move forward it must be thoughtful, well planned, and executed with the greatest care to preserve the soul of this community.