Gateway: Opinion

Commentary: Property rights are at heart of One Harbor Point process

The One Harbor Point proposed development in Gig Harbor has been a controversial issue in the community.
The One Harbor Point proposed development in Gig Harbor has been a controversial issue in the community. jbessex@gateline.com

People have been asking about the proposed project called One Harbor Point at the corner of Harborview and Soundview drives. If you lived here during the 1960s you may recall that at one time the property owner considered developing the property into a “boatel,” with moorage for visiting boaters and lodging accommodations on the uphill portion where the trees are located.

This property is now owned by the Haub family, and has been for a number of years. The family has decided to sell the property and has entered into an agreement with the Cheney Foundation for purchase and development of the property. Last year Cheney Foundation representatives contacted the city and discussed the concept of townhouses. We let them know that the project would require a development agreement, as well as approvals by the Hearing Examiner and other city boards and commissions. The development agreement process is a two-step process, requiring 1) initiation and 2) approval by the Council. In general, initiation takes place at the beginning of the process and approval later in the process.

Late last year the Cheney Foundation started the process by submitting a proposed development agreement and requested that the Council initiate it. On June 26, the Council held a public hearing and voted to initiate the proposal.

Many have asked what initiation means.

First and foremost, initiation does not mean that the project has been approved. Initiation means that the proposal will be processed and reviewed by city boards and commissions, the Hearing Examiner, the City Council and the public through several public hearings. There is no guarantee that the city boards and commissions, the Hearing Examiner, and the City Council will grant the necessary approvals. It may well be that as the proposal goes through the process; some approvals are granted and others are denied.

After the process has been completed the landowner will decide whether to continue with the project.

People have asked why members of the City Council and I voted in favor of initiation of the development agreement. My answer is simple. I believe strongly in property rights, and I believe that a property owner has the right to have his proposal reviewed and processed even if the proposal is unpopular, and even if it might not be approved.

Let me give you an example. Imagine that you own a parcel of real property that is vacant and located in the middle of what started as a residential area. Over time the area changed and today the zoning allows residential and commercial, or a mixture of both. You want to build a commercial building in this formerly-residential area. Some people like your proposal and some do not. Should you be allowed to go through the process of approval even though some people dislike your proposal? I believe you should be able to go through the process. It may not be approved, but I think you have a right to go through the process.

Getting back to One Harbor Point and the vote to initiate the process, our vote to initiate the process was not our endorsement of the project as proposed, but rather a statement that the property owner should be allowed to go through the process provided, and not be tabled because some oppose the project.

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