Where Are The Rules of Procedure?

July 4, 2017

 
 

Madam Mayor and Council Members,

I am a little confused on why we are wasting more time and money on the One Harbor Point Development agreement when it cannot be approved with 3 council members opposing it. By the way, I applaud those council members who listened to their constituents and voted accordingly. However, this highlights a huge problem that exists with the process. Where are the rules of procedure?

I can read GHMC 19.02, and know exactly how every type of project permit is processed. It is very detailed on what is required and when. It follows the WA state RCW 36.70B requirements very closely. When it comes to Development Agreements, there is no information about how to proceed. Do I need a development agreement as opposed to a standard project application? GHMC 19.08 on Development Agreements is very vague on procedure. It goes directly against WA state code which states the following:

  • Development agreements shall be consistent with applicable development regulations
  • They do not provide means of waiving or amending development regulations that otherwise would apply
  • Development agreements may not be used to bypass any procedural requirements that would otherwise apply

Gig Harbor code, however, allows deviations from development standards if it demonstrates “consistency” with

  1. The adopted “vision” for the Harbor
  2. Preserves significant historic structures or enhancement of the existing character
  3. Provide Public amenities
  4. Superior Design solution
  5. Zoning deviations are consistent with Public convenience and welfare

GHMC 19.08.020(B)(1) states: “Any approved development standards that differ from those in the code shall not require any further rezone, variance from city standards or other city approval apart from development agreement approval.”

This conflicts with WA state law saying DA’s may not be used to bypass any procedural requirement.

Ok. So Gig Harbor ordinances go against WA state code, but it has the right as a code city to do so. Well, maybe. But do you follow your own rules? GHMC 19.08.020(A) states: “A development agreement shall be consistent with the applicable policies and goals of the city of Gig Harbor comprehensive plan.” No exceptions were given. One Harbor Point loses on all points. 

GHMC 19.08.020(C)(2)(b) states: “All land use permits for projects developed utilizing this subsection shall be processed as a type III permit or higher …. The design review application for a project utilizing this subsection shall be reviewed by the city’s design review board for consistency with the general requirements of Chapter 17.99 GHMC Design Manual. The design review board’s recommendation on the project shall be forwarded to hearing examiner for consideration as part of the underlying project permit.”

Nowhere does it state the design review board considers “superior design solution”.  It is forwarded to the hearing examiner, which is an open record hearing. 

These are Gig Harbor rules concerning downtown. I did not hear any of this mentioned in what was to follow in the One Harbor Point proceedings. Why? Is there no underlying project permit? Is it included in the DA? Why? Where is it written? Who made the decision? What is the procedure????

The thing that puzzles me the most is, “Why was this ordinance written specifically targeting the downtown area?” This should be the absolute last place you would want to mess with. I am sure I am not the only citizen contemplating this one.

Again, I thank the council members that voted against proceeding with the One Harbor Point Development agreement. The rest of the council should consider the points I have highlighted in this letter. You may argue the legality of the Gig Harbor Ordinances, but you can’t argue the fact you are not abiding by them. The entire Development Agreement Ordinance is poorly written and should be thrown out. This is not an area in which the city leader’s should “wing it”.

David Barker | Gig Harbor Citizen


Response | Resident Jeffrey Katke

July 6, 2017

Thank you for sharing the letter from Dave Barker. He is 100% correct. The
mayor and city council are not only violating state law but they violate
their own city code on development agreements. A government that does not
have to follow the law is dangerous to all citizens and their right to the
rule of law.

Our founding fathers documented grievances such as this in the Declaration
of Independence. At that time the King of England ignored laws that were
written for the good of the people in order to serve his own arbitrary
purposes - tyranny. Not to be over-dramatic, but the mayor and city
council take similar license with our state law and city code and it is a
form of tyranny. How is it tyranny you may ask? One of the definitions of
tyranny is the"cruel, unreasonable or arbitrary use of power."

Have the mayor and 3 city council members that voted in favor of the
development agreement been arbitrary? They certainly have! David Barker
documents their arbitrary behavior in detail.

Have the mayor and 3 city council members been unreasonable? They
certainly have! In spite of overwhelming testimony by the citizens against
the One Harbor Point development agreement, they voted in favor of it.  As a
further act of unreasonableness, they justified their vote because "they
received many e-mails in favor of the development agreement"
even though
they knew or suspected these emails came from individuals, with special
interests, that did not live in Gig Harbor. That is unreasonable. The
mayor and city council do not represent any special interest group other
than Gig Harbor citizens.

Have the mayor and 3 city council members been cruel? To those citizens who
are most affected by their decisions it is cruel. How about our neighbor
that invested in a home in a residential neighborhood and now finds a large
Post office planned for right next door. Remember if it can happen to them
it can happen to you.

As citizens of Gig Harbor, we must insist that our elected officials follow
the law. Gig Harbor is not their personal kingdom. They must follow the
same laws the citizens are required to follow. If they refuse we must vote
them out of office.

Jeff Katke | Gig Harbor Resident


Response | Real Estate Agent LV Richardson

July 6, 2017

From: "LV Richardson" <louisevrichardson@gmail.com>
To: "Jeffrey Katke" <jeffreykatke@gmail.com>
Cc: "George Pollitt" (and all neighbors)
Sent: Thursday, July 6, 2017 11:29:34 AM
Subject: Re: Letter to the City Leaders

Dear Mr. Katke,

It is incorrect to claim that the council's emails are only from "special interests who don't live in the city."  I have submitted emails to the city endorsing this project because I think it will benefit our community.  I am not a "special interest" any more than you are--actually much less so.   I do own property in the city, but even if I didn't, I have a right to make my voice heard to the council. There are many others who agree with me who have shared their views with the council by email.

In my opinion, it's unreasonable to expect a developer to be held to the same exact building regulations as a private individual building his private home, as you claim OHP should be. Regulations should affect individual home builders differently than they do a developer building for many people at once and affecting an entire community. This only makes sense. 

It is also my opinion that your primary objection to the OHP development is not that they can build to a different standard than you were held to when you built your Soundview Dr. mansion, but that OHP will change your home's surroundings.  Since you already have your protected water views and private setting, you don't have to be concerned about other people's access and enjoyment of the city's view corridors.

I believe the harbor and its amenities should be for many, not just the lucky few, and OHP will allow for that.  (Cutting down most of the trees and making a park would allow for that too, but pie-in-the-sky is not part of the debate.)

Respectfully,

Louise Richardson | Owner, 2806-A Harborview Drive


Response | Resident Melinda Stuart 

July 7, 2017

Ms. Richardson,

I beg to differ with your comments above and strongly believe that zoning and other specific code is put in place for EVERYONE to follow. To allow deviation to this code through a development agreement is wrong.  It is illegal for a city to not follow their own development regulations through the use of a development agreement.

Mr. Barker made excellent points about this in his original letter to which Mr. Katke added his thoughtful comments above. Zoning code provides MEASURABLE limitations like height restriction, maximum density, setback requirements etc. that are clear for everyone to follow and keep development within established guidelines.

The Development agreement for OHP was allowed to be considered on very SUBJECTIVE measures such as a "superior" design, or "fulfilling"  our vision statement. These are not sufficiently structured to ensure that development is appropriately controlled. There is the provision of variances to guidelines that is in place to protect adjacent properties when minor changes are being considered, however, the zoning code needs to be the bottom line for everyone, developers and individuals alike when building takes place. 

Melinda Stuart | Gig Harbor Resident


Response | Resident Jeffrey Katke

July 10, 2017

Louise:

I think you may have misunderstood my email.

I did not say that “the council’s e mails are only from special interests”. Rather I stated the following; “they justified their vote because ‘they received many emails in favor of the development agreement' even though they knew or suspected these emails came from individuals, with special interests, that did not live in Gig Harbor.’" 

It is a fact that when a citizen testifies at a public meeting they must give their address as proof they are city residents or property owners. When an email is acceptedas a public comment there is no requirement for an address. It is not appropriate for the mayor or city council to take pro or con comments by email without some method of verifying that they are from Gig Harbor residents.  Email messages in favor of One Harbor Point from developers, developer’s attorneys, architects, real estate professionals and other special interest outsiders that live in Tacoma, Seattle or any community other than Gig Harbor should notbe used to justify any vote.The Mayor and city council have a legal and ethical responsibility to represent the citizens and property owners of Gig Harbor.Of course, if a Gig harbor resident sends an email and verifies that they are a resident or property owner of Gig Harbor the email should count.

The public testimony was 81% against One Harbor Point and 19% pro.What was the email count?Who sent the emails?We need a better system for submitting emails.

I am surprised by your statement “Regulations should affect individual home builders differently than they do a developer building for many people at once and affecting an entire community.”State law specifically does not allow this.The RCW (Revised Code of Washington) 36. 708.170(1) provides: "A development agreement shall be consistent with the applicable development regulations adopted by a local government planning under chapter 36.70A RCW." You have a right to your opinion but it doesn’t change the state’s laws. The arbitrary application of laws to apply selectively to different groups of people by the King of England was one of the major reasons for the Revolutionary War which resulted in our United States of America. The key principal of the order of law is that everyone should be governed fairly by the same laws.

I am also surprised by your description of my house as “your Soundview Dr. mansion”. You are invited to visit our house any time. You can see for yourself that it is not a mansion. It is a home very similar to the other homes in the neighborhood. Even though it is not a mansion, it is important to my wife and me. It is important to us that the neighborhood we invested in and live in, is not arbitrarily changed to assist a developer to make a greater profit than they would by developing under the existing zoning. When we bought this property we checked to see what the zoning for the undeveloped land was. If it was zoned for 29 multifamily apartments we would not have invested in this property.

I trust you recognize the value of zoning. It protects all of us. I’m sure you would not like to live in a city with no zoning. Would you want to live in a community where they could develop any property they wanted next to your home, such as high rise apartment buildings, a gas station, a Kentucky Fried Chicken Store, or a factory? I think not.

I am also puzzled by your statement “Since you already have your protected water views and private setting, you don't have to be concerned about other people's access and enjoyment of the city's view corridors.  I believe the harbor and its amenities should be for many, not just the lucky few”. Are you saying that the families that bought property with water views protected by the current zoning have done something wrong? Are you opposed to all private property with protected water views? Or are you just opposed to my family owning private property with protected views? What is you point? 

By the way, according to the current zoning, a home built on your lot at 3806 Harborview Drive Would have protected water views as well.    

It appears from your statement regarding “other people's access and enjoyment of the city's view corridors” that you would prefer to cut the trees down to improve the view for those living up the hill from the trees or driving down Soundview.  Once again you are entitled to your opinion. However, 81% of the people that testified against the One Harbor Point development agreement prefer the trees over apartment buildings and asphalt for their view corridor. I agree with them. I think that trees are much more beautiful than apartment buildings and asphalt parking lots.

I’m not sure why you are so aggressively in favor of One Harbor Point? Do you live in Gig Harbor? There is no home on your lot at 3806A Harborview. Since you don’t appear to be a resident of Gig harbor, the decision on One Harbor Point won’t really affect you. Why are you so critical of those residents who will be adversely affected and oppose One Harbor Point? Why are you such an advocate for developers rights over citizens rights?

Sincerely,

Jeff Katke


Response | Real Estate Agent LV Richardson

July 10, 2017

Dear Mr. Katke:

My husband and I own the condominium unit at 2806A Harborview Dr. I have owned homes within the city limits of Gig Harbor since 2000.

I am supporting OHP because I think it will be beneficial for the community. As I've said many times, the fact is that the Haub property will be sold, and sold as one piece. Any developer will have every right to take down every building and tree on every piece that is currently under contract with the Cheney Foundation. The boat barn and Green Turtle buildings will disappear, and large private homes like yours will go up all along the waterfront, which will be lost to us forever.

I understand and appreciate the inherent character of our town, and I understand the city cannot always be relied upon to keep it that way, so rules are important. But fighting OHP, and/or stopping future development, is not the answer. (Nor is it possible, in the case of future development.) The Cheney Foundation cannot build OHP without the variances and they cannot build standard homes to resell due to their foundation status, not because they're just "greedy". If the variances are disallowed, the foundation will withdraw and another developer will take its place. I believe our time and energy can be better spent working with OHP (the "devil" we know) to get the kind of development we can live with and enjoy, than spent blocking OHP and risking another, much more invasive developer (the "devil" we don't know) getting their clutches on the Haub property in the future. 

I do not think that developers should be "above the law." I do think it's reasonable to have somewhat different rules for developers vs private home builders. Developers are already held to different mitigation standards than private builders are, such as having to build sidewalks, parking areas, water retention systems, etc., to much higher tougher standards than a private homeowner has to abide by. If we held private home builders to developer standards, very few people could afford to build, so the idea cuts both ways.

Regarding trees and views: I am all for protected water views, which is why I'm opposed to giant trees growing at random all over the harbor. Yes, I would be completely in favor of a plan to remove trees if it would improve views. I am in favor of managed landscaping, which can be very beautiful. (Your street, Soundview Dr, is a good example of that.) As I'm sure you know, there are undeveloped lots all over the city, so homeowners in the harbor risk losing their privacy and views every day -- either because trees are allowed to grow, or they are cut, or buildings are removed, or they are built. Many of the homes built when the harbor was founded had views due to fact that the entire area was clear-cut. Most of those homes no longer have views. I think the harbor is long overdue for a sensible tree-ordinance which would serve to protect views for as many as possible, not just the lucky few who can afford to buy almost right on the waterfront like you or I. 

Respectfully, 

Louise Richardson | Owner, 2806-A Harborview Drive