A new park, a property transfer, higher impact fees were among Gig Harbor’s accomplishments in 2018

Sheldon Miller of Gig Harbor heads home after picking up groceries at the FISH Food Bank in Gig Harbor on Sept. 26, 2018. The food bank and city subsequently agreed to a property transfer that will allow FISH to expand.
Sheldon Miller of Gig Harbor heads home after picking up groceries at the FISH Food Bank in Gig Harbor on Sept. 26, 2018. The food bank and city subsequently agreed to a property transfer that will allow FISH to expand.

Gig Harbor city government pushed through a number of initiatives in 2018.

They included buying a park, renewing the Municipal Court system, signing off on a new home for FISH Food Bank and, after some fits and starts, agreeing to a transportation fee that now is subject to a legal challenge.

A new park

The City Council voted in March to buy the 2.5-acre Haub property and convert the wooded plot into a park.

The property cost $2.5 million to purchase.

“Buying this park saved a whole forest of 100-year-old trees,” Mayor Kit Kuhn said.

The development of the park is still in the works. The park is a historical site, meaning the city cannot cut down the 300 healthy trees in the area.

As reported in a previous Gateway article, “The Haub property, located on Harborview Drive across from the Tides Tavern, became a hot-button issue in Gig Harbor last spring when the Ben B. Cheney Foundation began work with the previous City Council on a development agreement that would allow for construction of 35 dwelling units in 10 townhouse-style structures on the upland triangular side of the property and three single-family dwellings on the waterfront.

“The second waterfront site, containing the Boat Barn and associated marina, would be conveyed as a gift to the city for public use.”

Many protested against the development agreement as it would mean tearing down the trees, many of which are believed to be a nesting site for great blue herons.

“We are going to work on getting a name for the park. We’ve had over 125 people email their suggestions, and now it will go to the Park Department with some of those names, then go to council,” Kuhn said.

Municipal Court

The City Council unanimously voted to keep the Municipal Court system open following some controversy. The previous judge was found to have over-billed the city for 17 years, and the system was losing money.

The council appointed Zenon Olbertz to replace the previous judge.

“The system needed to be restructured and needed some support and we were in jeopardy of losing it ...,” Kuhn said. “We built up our court system and got council to support it. We got our court system to become very strong.”

FISH Food Bank

On Dec. 10, Gig Harbor’s Peninsula FISH Food Bank was granted a resolution recommending the mayor sign a quit claim deed to transfer a former Pierce County Transit property to FISH for the purpose of building a permanent home for the organization.

The new property is estimated to be twice the size of FISH’s current facility.

FISH Food Bank is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization, working to help the low-income families in the city and push them in the right direction.

“We got property from the federal government that went to Pierce Transit, they gave it to us to give to FISH Food bank,” Kuhn said.

A special committee was established between the food bank and a few council members to work out the logistics on the agreement between FISH and the city. The deed is important to help FISH uphold its mission, “Neighbor helping neighbor in need with food and other assistance as they move towards self-sufficiency.”

Transportation impact fees

Also in December, Kuhn vetoed a City Council decision regarding the city’s transportation impact fee, a cost passed on to developers building in the city to help offset traffic impacts.

It is thought to be the first mayoral veto exercised in Gig Harbor since 1991.

The council initially chose to increase the fee from $2,102 to $2,896 after removing four items from an streets improvement list that the council felt were not needed. They had the capability to increase the amount to $10,379, but chose a much lower number than many expected.

Kuhn felt the increase was too low and vetoed the decision in order to bring the ordinance back to the council.

The council decided to add back two items from the list they had previously removed, resulting in the fee rising to $5,071.44.

A developer of the Village at Harbor Hill project in Gig Harbor has sued the city over the increased fee. The lawsuit says the increase adds $2 million to the project.