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City Council bans some plastics and says yes to a city budget, comp plan and higher impact fee

There were passionate speeches, props, split decisions and a surprise ending.

A movie?

Nope.

Monday night’s Gig Harbor City Council meeting.

Council members discussed reducing the use of plastic, the city’s comprehensive plan, increasing traffic impact fees and the Gig Harbor budget.

The plastics discussion set off some verbal fireworks, but not as much as the two-hour discussion of traffic impact fees.

The details:

Plastics

The council discussed two ordinances: One would eliminate plastic bags in retail shops and restaurants; the other would ban plastic straws and Styrofoam containers at similar establishments.

Councilman Michael Perrow came to the meeting with a lot of questions, and a lot of plastic.

With more than 10 different plastic bags next to him, Perrow began questioning the ordinance regarding banning them from shops and restaurants.

The proposed ordinance would require bags of a certain thickness to be removed. Perrow was skeptical on how the ordinance would be enforced, saying a measuring tool would be needed to determine which bags would be allowed.

“We don’t know how we will enforce the ban, we don’t know the cost associated with the ban, and the list keeps going on,” he said.

Councilwoman Jeni Woock said the ordinance would be enforced based on customer complaints.

During the first year under the ordinance, businesses getting complaints would receive letters explaining how they were not following the city’s rules and regulations.

In the second year, businesses would get a letter and a visit from a code enforcement officer. In the third year, a $250 fine would be added.

Woock said no business in Washington has gotten a $250 fine.

Councilman Jim Franich suggested delaying a vote on the ordinance until the council’s Dec. 10 meeting so he could get more answers.

“My heart is telling me one thing, and my mind is telling me another thing,” he said. “I usually have a pretty good idea of how I will vote on something prior to the meeting because I’ve done a lot of studying and homework and listened to a lot of public comment. This one, up until this moment, I still don’t know how I am going to vote.”

The vote on the plastic bag ordinance was moved to Dec. 10 so the council could discuss the matter further.

The ordinance regarding plastic straws was passed 4-3. It will take effect in 12 months to give business times to adjust.

Perrow and Councilman Spencer Hutchins said the ordinance was a “feel good” instead of a “do good” measure. The majority of council described it as a strong first step in getting rid of plastic in the area.

Traffic impact fees

The council was split over how much to increase traffic impact fees.

Council Bob Himes: “This is crazy. This is the bizarre. It’s haggling. ‘I think this. I think that.’ This is insane. This is total insanity.”

Hutchins: “We are licking out finger and sticking it in the air and asking, ‘What sounds like a reasonable number to you?’ This is arbitrary.”

Perrow: “This is bad government, plain and simple. And we should all be embarrassed.”

The current fee is $2,102. The most the council could raise it to was $10,379. During the debate, numbers were thrown around as to what was a reasonable rate it — $9,000, $6,500 or possibly the maximum.

In the end, the council came up with a number:

$2,896.

Budget and comprehensive plan

With a lot less fireworks, the council passed the comprehensive plan and the 2019 budget.

The only push-back for either came from Woock, who said she believed climate change needed to be explicitly addressed in the comprehensive plan.

“I believe our comprehensive plan needs to let our citizens and business know that we recognize the effects of a changing climate,” she said.

Other council members acknowledged climate change was important, but the majority felt it did not need to be mentioned in the plan.

“I don’t believe our comprehensive plan has any place for this divisive, social justice-type language,” Franich said. “There’s no doubt the climate is changing. Climate change is just a fact of life but it has no place in our comprehensive plan.”

The comprehensive plan passed 6-1 and the city budget passed 6-0, after Councilman Ken Malich left early because he was feeling ill.

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