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City council has lengthy discussion about development agreements

The Gig Harbor City Council, not including councilmember Ken Malich, during the first council meeting of 2018.
The Gig Harbor City Council, not including councilmember Ken Malich, during the first council meeting of 2018. dchastaine@gateline.com

Discussions about development agreements between the Gig Harbor City Council became heated during Monday night’s regular meeting before a motion to repeal “development agreements” from city code failed with a 2-4 vote, with only council members Jeni Woock and Jim Franich voting for the repeal.

The motion to repeal was presented by Woock during a discussion to start amending the code in Chapter 19.08, based on recommendations brought by Franich during the Jan. 22 city council meeting.

“When I was doorbelling and polling during my campaign my voters said they wanted everyone, including developers, to be treated fairly,” Woock said. “This chapter does not treat everyone fairly.”

Chapter 19.08 outlines the bylaws and ordinances surrounding development agreements, which are presented by developers to the council when they wish to construct a project that might not fit within the development sites city zoning or strictly follow city code. Developers and the council may enter a development agreement as a way of compromise.

During the Jan. 22 meeting, Franich brought a copy of Chapter 19.08 to the meeting with his own changes. Some of those changes included;

▪  Adding the word “standards” to 19.08.20, subsection B, after the word applicable in the sentence “... except as provided in subsection C of this section, a development agreement shall be consistent with applicable development regulations…”

▪  In subsection “B,” under point “2” of the code, where deviations from the development agreement is allowed as long as deviations are consistent with certain requirements towards public health and safety, Franich requested to add wording that would also require consistency with any previous studies on traffic demands.

▪  To completely remove point “2,” under subsection “C,” in the code that refers to allowable deviations from agreements to developments in the downtown area of Gig Harbor.

▪  In section 19.08.50, under subsection “C,” item “1” says a development agreement may be approved for a maximum period of up to 20 years. Franich would ideally like to see a maximum period of five years but “would settle” for a maximum period of 10 years.

Before Woock’s motion, a discussion to start the process of amending the chapter was underway. The official amendments were to not allow any development agreements for the downtown waterfront area that would allow deviations from the city’s development standards and to reduce the max term of development agreement from 20 years to 10 years.

After Woock motioned to repeal the entire chapter from city code, Franich seconded the movement, stating he would rather see no deviations from the city’s development standards for any development agreement.

“I support repealing this and then having work sessions to rewrite the chapter,” Franich said.

Repealing 19.08 would require me to have unmitigated faith in our planners that the codes are perfect for all development. I do not want to tie our hands.

Gig Harbor City Council member Spencer Hutchins

The rest of the council — not including Ken Malich who did not attend Monday’s meeting — had reservations about completely repealing the chapter.

“It’s rare, but a development agreement can be beneficial for the city,” Councilmember Bob Himes said. “There are good things that will be eliminated it we completely eliminate development agreements.”

Councilmember Michael Perrow also took a stance against repealing Chapter 19.08, stating he would like to see some discussions and work sessions take place first.

“How would we grandfather in previous projects and agreements?” Perrow asked. “I don’t see agreements as bad but I do think we need to hold them accountable.”

Councilmember Spencer Hutchins, who was a member of the planning commission before being appointed to his seat on the council, said Chapter 19.08 protects the city from imperfect wording in the city code and zoning.

“Repealing 19.08 would require me to have unmitigated faith in our planners that the codes are perfect for all development,” Hutchins said. “I do not want to tie our hands.”

Mayor Kit Kuhn also said he would like to see more work and discussion done before repealing the chapter.

Franich then argued that repealing and rewriting the chapter could bring back predictability to residents.

“It used to be you could look at the city’s comprehensive plan and predict what would be built in your neighborhood,” Franich said. “But, with this chapter, that predictability is gone.”

After much more discussion, the motion to repeal chapter 19.08 failed. A motion to proceed with the presented amendments to the chapter passed with a unanimous vote. The next step, according to city staff, is for the Planning and Building Committee to review the amendments before bringing back a final draft of the code to city council in a future meeting.

CITY SUPPORTS SCHOOL BOND

A resolution to have the city officially support the Peninsula School District’s proposed $220-million bond passed with a 5-1 vote during Monday’s meeting. Councilmember Spencer Abersold voted against the resolution.

Peninsula School District Superintendent Rob Manahan attended the previous city council meeting to present the bond to the city and discuss what the bond monies will be used for.

During Monday’s meeting when the resolution to officially support the bond was brought up, Himes said he wanted to amend the resolution to say “the bond issue contains a provision for a new elementary school likely to be constructed in Gig Harbor North on Harbor Hill Drive.”

“For years people have been expecting to see a school built there,” Himes said.

The resolution was amended with a 3-2 vote, with Abersold and Hutchins voting against the amendment.

When the resolution was brought up to be passed again, Franich said he felt the city should choose to stay neutral, even though he will be supporting the resolution.

Perrow said, as the only member of the council with school-age children, he was in complete support of the resolution, but felt that even though Gig Harbor North does have a need for a new elementary school, he feels the need is equal throughout the entire school district.

“I support this and thank you for bringing this forward,” Perrow said. “But I hope everyone votes yes in April when it matters.”

EXPECT FINE IF WRONG CAR PARKED AT ELECTRIC CHARGING STATION

A second reading of ordinance No. 1384 was given and the ordinance passed by the city council unanimously.

The ordinance will fine $20 to any gas-powered vehicles that park in the city’s new electric car charging stations at the Civic Center, in accordance with city code chapter 10.06, “parking regulations.”

The new charging stations were installed at the end of last year to support residents who are choosing a greener way of traveling throughout the city.

Stations are at 3003 Harborview Drive in the Maritime Pier parking lot and in the Finholm District at 8824 North Harborview Drive. The stations include two ports, allowing two vehicle access simultaneously. The ChargePoint CT 4000 Charging Stations were chosen due to the ease of use, superior reliability and durability. Parking spaces are reserved for electric vehicles and there is no charge to use the public stations.

The city of Gig Harbor Public Works crew has been working on this project from some time. Construction was completed in late December. The EV stations occupy large parking stalls and are easily identifiable with clear signage and easy access.

The charging locations were chosen due to the proximity to amenities available in the area. The Skansie Visitor and Interpretive Center is centrally located between these two destinations at 3207 Harborview Drive. It is estimated to take approximately four hours to charge most cars.

Washington state has 24,624 registered EV drivers, according to the Washington State Department of Licensing. Pierce County has the third largest EV population in the state — behind King and Snohomish counties.

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