I’ve been meaning to get back to this but I’ve been swamped with work. Hopefully nobody depends on my blog for notice, but in case you do, there is an open house and public hearing tonight on the proposed zoning changes for the downtown waterfront.
This is your opportunity to learn more, ask questions, and give testimony on the proposed ordinance. The open house is from 3:30-5pm and the public hearing will be near the start of our regular Council meeting at 5:30pm. Visit gigharborplanning.com for more details.
One thing you should not expect tonight is a vote by the Council. Although the issue was a part of a previous ordinance and carved out after we received demands for more public comment, this is the first reading. Under standard Council procedure, votes are cast at the 2nd or 3rd reading.
Jeni Woock, who runs the Facebook page for Citizens for Preservation of the Gig Harbor Waterfront, had posted that we will vote tonight. I decided to clarify that this isn’t the case, which has clearly upset her. She seems to think it’s an effort to hide our votes, which will be cast at a public meeting like every other. In an email she wrote:
This is not the time for you to make changes to this amendment, kick on down the road, in hopes that you can pass this with no one watching.
Citizens of Gig Harbor want no changes to the amendment to put off this vote, no side stepping maneuver to put off this vote.
Gig Harbor residents know that you are planning to side step and not make a vote on Oct 14. We also know that it is well within your ability to vote on this amendment Oct 14.
The demand that there be no amendments is puzzling. That’s the sort of thing the public process is all about. In fact we already made changes to the previous ordinance based on testimony that we received.
But the implication that there is some sort of plan to dodge the public is simply false. Ms. Woock has been a part of this process from the beginning. There have been several meetings and open houses already at both the Planning Commission and Council level. If we’re trying to hide, we’re the worst at it.
In an effort to prove her point she quotes some code that is intended for emergencies or issues that have a timeline imposed on us. In those cases we can, with a supermajority, pass ordinances on the first reading. But this method is rarely used and only when absolutely necessary.
This is my 16th year on the Council and I can tell you that even the most uncontroversial and routine bills come back for a 2nd reading. It’s so standard that when she suggests there’s a “plan” in place, I was just citing our normal procedure. There has never been a discussion either way nor would there have to be.
If the idea is actually to listen to the public, shouldn’t we take time to digest the testimony and respond to it? Of course, if the idea is to put on a spectacle rather than change any minds, then I can see how demanding a snap vote makes sense.
I’ve written about this previously, but unfortunately the drawings being shown by this group are growing increasingly misleading.
Here’s an example of what I mean. It’s supposedly a depiction of what you can expect on Harborview facing south just past the Tides.
Keep in mind, the height limit is 27 feet (two stories) under both current and proposed rules. There is also a 6,000 square foot buildings size limitation and each of these appears to be several times over that cap. Nevermind all the building design regulations that make these ugly forms impossible.
So how to justify the images? With the wave of the hand:
When 2 story buildings are allowed anywhere on the waterside of Harborview Dr. the only choice the folks on uphill Harborview Dr to see their view is to go BIG and UP. Yep, it is already in the code!!!
It is true, through a contract called a development agreement, a supermajority of the City Council can approve deviation from the code. However, this provision is designed for an occasion when the project would provide superior public benefit than strict adherence to the code would allow. Key word… superior. Giving yourself a view over a neighboring property is not a justification allowed under the code. The notion that it would be their “only choice” is simply untrue.
Here is the list of requirements that must be met to qualify:
i. The project is consistent with the adopted vision for the Harbor; and
ii. The project preserves significant historic structures or demonstrates preservation and enhancement of the existing downtown character; and
iii. The project will provide public amenities above that required by the existing zoning standards, including but not limited to parks, shoreline access, plazas, and/or pedestrian connections; and
iv. The project will result in a superior design solution to what would otherwise be achieved by applying the specific requirements of Chapter 17.99 GHMC, Design Manual; and
In other words, if a developer had an idea that would actually provide a greater view or access to the waterfront as this group seems to desire, this makes it possible for the Council to negotiate that benefit. Nothing in this or any proposed code would allow the picture above.
If you can’t make it to the meeting, but would like to know more, staff has put together a great presentation to show you what the Planning Commission has actually proposed. I encourage you to take a look and email us your comments. If you’d like to discuss it personally, I’m available by phone or I can meet in person.