We are hearing more and more about a large new development planned for the Triangle Property above the Tides Tavern. Nothing official… beyond a Tacoma News Tribune front-page article: Proposal Would Add Rental Housing to Downtown Gig Harbor -- Aug 27, 2016.
Private meetings with the City Administration have fueled interest by the Cheney Foundation to pursue an unfettered slate of opportunities offered under the City’s little known Development Agreement allowance.
What’s a Development Agreement?“
"A Development Agreement is a voluntary contract between a local jurisdiction and a person who owns or controls property within the jurisdiction, detailing the obligations of both parties and specifying the standards and conditions that will govern development of the property.”
In more understandable terms, Gig Harbor's Development Agreement can offer wholesale permitting allowances for radically increased density, use, height, and size. In other words, the zoning regulations that the rest of us must follow, become optional.
The Mayor and City Council. There have been no public meetings during the formative development agreement discussions. By the time the developer has sunk all that dough into designing the project for show & tell, the real horse-trading is already done. Public input will come later and be limited to the same old “3-minute” comment time at the podium. The fact is, this Development Agreement circumvents Gig Harbor Municipal Codes as we know them. The legality of planning approvals are negotiated behind closed doors and City Council is given the power to ratify with little limitation.
Are Development Agreements legal?
Fighting the legitimacy of this process is impractical. The real question is:
Does this community want a 7-member Council using Development Agreements to dramatically alter our downtown neighborhoods?
Currently, the Triangle area allows a density of 8 to 10 homes. The proposal is said to be for 35 to 40. Where will all that traffic go? Why is it necessary? Who benefits? The carrot for this allowance is rumored to be that the City will be given the old Washington Co-Op (aka Boat Barn) Building. While that would be nice, the public benefit is unclear.
More is not always better.
It appears our Mayor believes current zoning for the “Triangle” is inadequate, and that quadrupling zoning density is good for neighbors, citizens and the downtown. If that is true, why negotiate behind closed doors? If added “rental housing” is good for downtown, why then are there no city-facilitated public meetings to discuss increasing density BEFORE developers get their informal approvals? If public ownership of the “Boat Barn” is a good thing, why not allow the public an opportunity to comment and confirm BEFORE the land is cleared and promises are made?
If you agree, the only course of action left is for citizens to ask City Council to step back and uphold existing zoning regulations so that the character and livability of the Ferry Landing Neighborhood can survive. Change is inevitable but should be community-driven. Let City Council know what you think.
Lita Dawn Stanton
The next DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENTS meeting is:
Plng & Blg Committee Mon - Mar 6, 2017 - 5:30 pm
Gig Harbor Civic Center | 3510 Grandview Street
Below is the area that can (under the current Development Agreement allowances) bypass all zoning regulations and circumvent public input.