On June 26, after public comment from the One Harbor Point developers that the development agreement would be good for the community — and in spite of overwhelming public comment by the citizens in opposition — Mayor Jill Guernsey cast the deciding vote to process One Harbor Point’s development agreement.
The city posted a copy of the development agreement on its website. A careful study reveals that OHP is requesting 21 deviations from existing zoning, building codes and other development regulations. While all of these deviations are of concern, for the sake of brevity I will discuss only three of their proposed deviations.
▪ A deviation from the requirements to provide retention and treatment of stormwater runoff, allowing the discharge of untreated runoff directly into Puget Sound.
▪ A clearing of vegetation deviation from maximum allowed by the city code of 50 percent to clear cut 100 percent of the trees and vegetation.
▪ A deviation to increase the impervious surfaces (asphalt, concrete, etc.) from maximum allowed by the city code of 50 percent to more than 72 percent.
Impervious surfaces increase stormwater runoff significantly. The Environmental Protection Agency’s research has shown that impervious cover creates five times the runoff of a typical woodland of the same size. According to the Washington Department of Ecology, one inch of rain deposited on a 1-acre parking lot produces 27,000 gallons of runoff. Since the OHP apartment development plans to clear cut the trees and vegetation and cover 72 percent of the 2.3-acre parcel (1.656 acres) with impervious surface, one inch of rain will produce 44,712 gallons of runoff from the site. Gig Harbor receives an average of 57 inches of rain each year.
Therefore, the OHP apartment complex will produce approximately more than 2.5 million gallons of runoff pollution a year.
Will runoff pollution hurt us? According to kingcounty.gov, stormwater runoff is rain that falls on streets, parking areas, sports fields, gravel lots, rooftops or other developed land and flows directly into nearby lakes, rivers and Puget Sound. The drizzling or pounding rain picks up and mixes with what’s on the ground, which could be oil, grease, metals and coolants from vehicles; fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals from gardens and homes; bacteria from pet wastes and failing septic systems and many other contaminants.
The Washington Department of Ecology estimates that one-third of all the polluted waters in the state are polluted by stormwater runoff. Stormwater pollution has contributed to closing thousands of acres of productive shellfish growing beaches. Stormwater runoff can also close swimming beaches and contaminate drinking water supplies.
The effects of runoff pollution are already being experienced in the Puget Sound. According to the Washington Department of Ecology, the percentage of all salmon and steelhead in Puget Sound considered healthy is less than 50 percent.
It is alarming that Mayor Guernsey ignored the overwhelming public comment in opposition to One Harbor Point and voted in favor of processing the development agreement. It is more alarming that Mayor Guernsey voted in favor of processing a development agreement that would allow OHP to annually discharge 2,548,584 gallons of runoff pollution directly into our harbor.