During the Nov. 13 Gig Harbor City Council meeting, a supporter of Mayor-elect Kit Kuhn addressed the Council with a letter asking the current Council members to hold off on approving several high-profile projects that will be presented to the Council over the final two meetings of the year.
It’s likely the first of many shots the new regime will deploy to echo the voice of its constituents when it comes to development in Gig Harbor and how the city will respond to the area’s growth.
A lot of promises were made during the campaign season when it comes to managing “responsible” growth, stopping all growth dead in its tracks, and putting a stop to traffic “gridlock.” Many were based on outcry from residents to simply turn off the faucet and tell developers to start packing their bags.
But residents should be weary of such promises. The two development agreements the letter was referring to are already deep in the multiple-step process the city requires to get a project approved. The plan to bring the Town and Country Market to the Gig Harbor North has been in the works since 2015, and was part of a bigger plan even farther back when Costco was built in the region.
And the ink has already dried on the construction contract plans surrounding the development of Ancich Waterfront Park.
The development of the Town and Country Market brings a chance for residents to have another shopping option in Gig Harbor North. The roads in the region were designed to handle the traffic, and chances are those same trips to Gig Harbor North would likely already be in the cards for people because they’re either heading home or bundling a visit to the YMCA or Costco. It’s a win in that it brings jobs to Gig Harbor as well.
While the Ancich project is sure to cause some kind of stir about views being blocked with the construction of the storage facility on the upland area for human-powered watercraft, some of the same issues were brought up throughout the campaign to rebuild the lift station in Skansie Brothers Park. The new building that houses the lift station is now a welcome beacon to those in the park, and it provides arguably one of the best view spots in the city on the rooftop viewing area.
The current Council members have a duty to residents to finish out their terms while making decisions on what they think is best to finish out their tenure — not punting the issue to the next group of Council members. These are all projects the current administration has overseen through all the steps of the process.
While the new regime is intent on carrying out a message that a majority of community members are fed up with development projects and what some perceive as a destruction of the small-town feel that the city exudes, it’s not going to be as simple as turning off the faucet. Voters heard a lot about what’s wrong with the city during the campaign, but not a whole lot of specifics when it comes to solving those issues.
There are likely more development projects that are already deep in the process, and the city could risk legal action against it if they were abruptly halted for no reason other than a new Council wanting to put its foot down to make a statement.
Even for seasoned publicly-elected officials who are accustomed to the rules and regulations regarding how a city is run, making big promises without any solutions is a risky proposition. For those brand new to public service — like many who will start in January — broken promises have the potential to leave residents feeling dejected.