Gig Harbor considers update to park impact fees after 14 years

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.

It’s been 14 years since the city of Gig Harbor updated the cost and reach of its park impact fees. That might soon change.

On Monday, the City Council voted to hire a Seattle consulting group to create a new park impact fee.

The city charges $1,500 for all new single-family residences to help support parks and recreation areas. The cost was created in 2004 after that year’s Parks, Recreations and Open Space Plan was created.

“It did not apply to multi-family or commercial,” said Katrina Knutson, the city’s parks manager. “The rate does not apply to certain projects with development agreements.”

The city completed another Parks, Recreation and Open Space plan in 2016 but did not update the parks impact fee, which is on of the least expensive in Pierce County.

Knutson presented a proposal Monday to hire BERK Consulting, located in Seattle, for $15,769.

“This is currently unbudgeted for this year,” Knutson said. “However, bringing the impact fees to a more appropriate rate would work towards the council’s priority to have parks pay for themselves.”

Councilman Jim Franich said he didn’t understand how the city staff could let something as important as an impact fee go for so long without being updated.

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“It just isn’t right for the citizens,” Franich said.

Franich suggested the staff should have been more forceful with the past City Council and that the parks workers could perform the impact fee study instead of paying an outside consultant firm.

Mayor Kit Kuhn stepped into the conversation, saying the city staff is already inundated with a list of projects.

“I appreciate the frustrations that Franich is having,” Kuhn said. “But I lay blame on the political direction of the city, not staff. I believe it is incumbent on us to follow up on the funding mechanism. We are the keepers of the finances and budget.”

Kuhn said no impact fees would be collected next year if a study was not done before the final budget was approved by council.

Councilman Ken Malich suggested changing the current ordinance to force multi-family residential developments and possibly commercial developments to pay impact fees.

City staff advised Malich a change to the current ordinance would be a separate proposal for the council to consider.

The council voted 6-1 to approve the mayor to sign the contract with BERK Consulting. Councilman Spencer Hutchins voted no.

Business license changes?

A proposal from City Clerk Molly Townslee to update the business license language in the city code to comply with state regulations raised some eyebrows.

Townslee presented Ordinance 1394, which would change wording in Chapter 5 of the city code to follow the state’s definition of “doing business” in regards to who would be required to purchase a business license from the city.

“They would like a level playing field for business owners all across the state,” Townslee said. “So one of the things we’ve been asked to do is adopt the state’s definition. The other thing we’ve been asked to do is to do our business licensing through the state. The third thing is they wanted to give a break to the small business owners who make less than $2,000 a year.”

Townslee said the state’s requirement is anyone making $2,000 a year or less from a business in the city’s jurisdiction would still be required to apply for a license but would not have to pay the $35 fee.

Council members became wary after asking questions about how businesses would be vetted.

“The $2,000 benchmark, what is the mechanism for reporting that or for the city taking action?” Hutchins asked.

“We just have to take (the business owner) at their word,” Townslee said.

“So ... it’s a self-reporting process,” Hutchins said.

Townslee said the city has used the state process for its business licenses for 10 years, but if the city does not comply with Ordinance 1394, the city could be dropped from the state’s free service.

Councilman Michael Perrow asked how the city is enforcing licenses.

“The state has no trigger to notify us if they need a business license?” Perrow asked.

Townslee said enforcement is “complaint based”, meaning the city has no way of knowing if someone is performing business without a license until someone alerts the city or unless someone reports sales tax from within the city and the state sees they have no city business license.

“I don’t know how the state plans on tracking this,” Townslee said. “Right now, I think it’s going to be on a trust basis.”

The lack of enforcement and control over the business licenses frustrated some council members.

”When you start reading this ... this is an overreach of government,” Franich said. “By us adopting this we are marching to the band of the state, coming up with crazy ideas like this. It just perpetuates the state getting away with crazy regulations. This whole ordinance is riddled with asinine regulations.”

No action was taken on the ordinance. The council will have a second reading and a vote on the ordinance during a future council meeting.

In other news

The mayor was confronted by a Gig Harbor resident regarding a 911 call the mayor made while visiting Kitsap County.

Sandra Trout said she is a “concerned citizen” who saw a report from Aug. 18 that listed the mayor as a reporting party.

According to Trout, Kitsap County Sheriff deputies were pursuing a suspect from a string of motorcycle thefts through Kitsap County towards the Mason County line. Towards the end of the pursuit the suspect assaulted a police officer.

Kit Kuhn discusses action items on the agenda Monday during his first Gig Harbor City Council meeting as mayor. Danielle Chastaine

The suspect was on a motorcycle at the time of the pursuit. Kuhn allegedly called Kitsap County sheriff’s dispatch and expressed concerns about the pursuit.

“There was a certain tone of criticism for their decision to pursue,” Trout said. “The (suspect) is still out there … my primary concern is the level of empathy for this person who made a big-boy decision to run from the cops, and it gave me concern that there is some negativity towards police enforcement.”

Trout said Kuhn identified himself in the call as the Gig Harbor mayor and was concerned he was using his power outside of his jurisdiction.

“If you’ll do that in Seabeck, what will you do here?” Trout said. “I hope I am wrong, and I hope it was a mistake.”

Kuhn responded to Trout and said he was on Seabeck Holly Road, south of Seabeck, and saw the motorcycle pass him in the opposite direction at 90 mph.

“He nearly hit us,” Kuhn said. “And that could of killed him and injured our vehicle.”

Kuhn said he then witnessed the police pursuing the motorcyclist at the same rate of speed. In his experience, the mayor was under the belief police would not perform a pursuit if it endangered residents.

“I have talked with the police in Gig Harbor where they would choose not to pursue at a high speed,” Kuhn said. “I have seen people, bystanders, killed. I didn’t think it was worth someone’s life. And they were headed into a dead-end community.”

Councilman Malich halted the conversation saying the comment did not address any council business.

”I felt like we were intruding on a conversation between this lady and you,” Malich said. “We don’t need this type of situation, right? She was complaining about you directly, but this is outside the business of the council.”

The council voted to approve a change order in a contract between the city and Quigg Brothers Inc. to have the company place “grass-crete” instead of concrete slabs in a 2,100-square-foot area in Ancich Park.

The “grass-crete” was described as concrete strips placed in a waffle pattern that allows grass to grow through the concrete. According to city documents, the cost of the change would be $10,839. The area of “grass-crete” would be located between the park’s boat storage building and the water’s edge.

The council voted 4-3 to approve the change order, with Councilwoman Jeni Woock, Malich and Franich voting no.

Kuhn formally announced the resignation of planning director Jennifer Kester, who was offered a position with the city of SeaTac.

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Kuhn also announced parks manager Knutson would step in as interim planning director until the city found a permanent replacement in December.

Danielle Chastaine: 253-358-4155, @gateway_danie