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Growth Management Hearings Board finds no issues with Gig Harbor’s use of development agreements

One Harbor Point is a proposed residential development located on three sites east of Soundview Drive.
One Harbor Point is a proposed residential development located on three sites east of Soundview Drive. jbessex@gateline.com

Earlier this year, Gig Harbor resident Jeffrey Katke sent a petition to the Growth Management Hearings Board arguing the city of Gig Harbor’s development agreement process was in violation of the Growth Management Act.

The development agreement surrounding the proposed One Harbor Point project at the corner of Soundview Drive and Harborview Drive was at the heart of the complaint.

The board ruled Oct. 23 that it found no evidence that the city’s passage of Resolutions 1068 and 1075 on Feb. 27 and April 10, respectively, were noncompliant with provisions of the Growth Management Act.

The board dismissed Katke’s petitions because it concluded decision on the action was outside its jurisdiction.

“We always felt like our procedures and codes were compliant with the GMA, or weren’t subject to the GMA, and that’s what we presented in February and early March in early development of resolutions (1068 and 1075), so it was good to have a decision from the GMA that supported what the city was doing,” said Jennifer Kester, Gig Harbor’s planning director. “It confirmed we were following the right laws and procedures pertaining to the GMA and these two resolutions.”

The passage of Resolution 1068 on Feb. 27 by the City Council was in response to Katke’s municipal code text amendment application to modify regulations relating to development agreements set forth in chapter 19.08 of the Gig Harbor Municipal Code. Resolution 1068 effectively ceased Council’s processing of the text amendment and set forth deliberations for Resolution 1075.

Subsequently, Resolution 1075 passed by Council on April 10 put in place a voluntary process for development agreement applicants to increase public notice and outreach opportunities to the public.

“This is voluntary, but all development agreements that were processed before April are going into this process,” Kester said.

Katke argued in his petition that passage of Resolution 1075 effectively became “a de facto amendment to Gig Harbor’s GMA regulations and, as such, violated various requirements of the GMA,” according to the final decision and order synopsis presented by the board.

But the board stated a ruling on this petition was out of its jurisdiction according to rules established in RCW 36.70A.280 (1).

Carol Morris, Katke’s attorney, said the city adopted amendments to its code on the subject of development agreements that violated the GMA, as well as other state laws and administrative regulations.

Had the city adopted Katke’s text amendment, then it would have been compliant with the laws and regulations, Morris said.

“The board’s decision is limited to its erroneous finding that the city’s actions did not violate the Growth Management Act,” Morris said. “The board could not, and did not, make any decision whether the city’s actions violated other state laws and administrative regulations. The Washington courts have jurisdiction over these issues, which can be decided in conjunction with an appeal of an approved development agreement.”

The City Council has approved the initiation phase of the Ben B. Cheney Foundation’s development agreement, which has included a significant amount of public comment, City Administrator Ron Williams said.

But no approval of the actual development agreement has been made by Council.

“Since initiation, the developer has not gone forward with more plans, and there has been no active review of the agreement at the moment,” Williams explained.

Morris said it will be up to Katke if he wants to file an appeal to the Washington courts once a development agreement has been approved.

 
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