The Cheney Foundation’s offer to trade the waterfront ‘Boat Barn’ property for development concessions is worth exploring but not at the expense of normalizing Gig Harbor’s unsound, and potentially illegal, development agreement process.
Gig Harbor’s Development Agreement code allows a developer to leapfrog local municipal codes; codes put in place to guide development and assure a property owner that the scale and character of their neighborhood or district will remain intact. Gig Harbor’s Development Agreement is a lightning path for out-of-scale development that skirts public review.
Development Agreements are thought to be a useful tool, that when implemented, will provide a public benefit. A sort of horse-trade that theoretically works for the community. Does the public get to provide input on a Development Agreement’s proposed public benefit, or its inevitable up-zone?
Hardly. All Gig Harbor’s Development Agreement code requires is a mayor and a developer to craft a deal. Then, with city council consensus, zoning regulations in place to protect neighbors and a community are neutered. At the final hour token opportunities are provided for citizens to weigh-in. Too late.
Alarmingly, a respected land-use attorney and her client have made the case that Gig Harbor’s Development Agreement code is flat out illegal. The attorney says, “The (existing development agreement) code allows the City to 'sell' it’s zoning to the highest bidder.” Wow! We need to ask Council members to explain how that can be a good thing for their constituents.
The land-use attorney’s “sell to the highest bidder” argument is bolstered by an open letter from McCament & Rogers, a Tacoma based development firm, that calls on the “development industry – architects, construction companies, the Master Builder Association, Association of Realtors, etc. - to provide a calm counterbalance to the rhetoric now being directed at Gig Harbor Council Members.” That the “development industry” would want to protect a streamlined development process that expedites their interests is understandable. However, McCament’s implied assertion that local Gig Harbor citizens are rhetorically off-the-rails as they scramble to find ways to provide input into an unbalanced and private development agreement process is, at least, nearsighted.
Heck, private citizens in the best of circumstances are at a disadvantage when it comes to providing public input, pro or con, on development projects that are working their way through the system.
Teams of paid consultants, architects and attorneys, are typically on the development side. Citizen’s taking time away from work and family are on the other. The playing field isn’t level to begin with. What’s the point of tilting the field even further away from the community? It’s already inherently un-balanced.
Citizens want the assurance that they’ll have a voice. Gig Harbor’s Development Agreement code takes that voice away. The community’s last opportunity to calmly encourage City Council members to rein in Gig Harbor’s Development Agreement code will be at City Hall on Monday February 13th at 5:30 PM.
The next DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENTS meeting is:
Plng & Blg Committee Mon - Mar 20, 2017 - 5:30 pm
Gig Harbor Civic Center | 3510 Grandview Street
The meeting will focus on the Public Input Process for Development Agreements. Public Comment will be allowed. (Committee Councilmembers: Paul Kadzik | Steve Ekberg | Rahna Lovrovich)
Below is the area that can (under current Development Agreement allowances) bypass all zoning regulations and circumvent public input.