Gig Harbor's Development Agreement 

Response from Carol Morris | Morris Law, P.C


Good afternoon Ms. Rogers:  

I am writing to you in order to address the misinformation that was included in a document that you are circulating, entitled:  "Retain the Right to Better Manage Growth, Keep Gig Harbor's Ability to Use Development Agreements."  I am Jeff Katke's attorney and he has submitted an application to the City of Gig Harbor, requesting that the City: 

Amend chapter 19.08 of the Gig Harbor Code to conform to state law. 

You have misinterpreted the action that is being proposed by Mr. Katke. He is not asking that the City cease using development agreements. He asks that the City follow state law regarding development agreements and that the City's code be amended to conform to state law. I urge you to get copies of the application documents submitted by Mr. Katke to the City and familiarize yourself with the contents.   

Attached is a copy of the Revised Code of Washington Section 36.70B.170. I have underlined the important sentence, which is: "A development agreement shall be consistent with applicable development regulations adopted by a local government planning under chapter 36.70A RCW." (Chapter 36.70A RCW is the Growth Management Act, and Gig Harbor plans under the Growth Management Act.)

I am also attaching a copy of Washington Administrative Code Section 365-196-845. If you read the highlighted portion on page 15, you will see that the State of Washington has specifically prohibited development agreements that are inconsistent with a city's development regulations. As stated in WAC 365-196-845(17)(a)(ii): "Development Agreements must be consistent with applicable development regulations adopted by a county or city.  Development agreements do not provide a means of waiving or amending development regulations that would otherwise apply to a project."

Attached you will also find chapter 19.08 GHMC. As you can see from Section 19.08.020.B, the Gig Harbor Municipal Code allows development agreements that are inconsistent with the City's development regulations. It allows the City to waive or amend development regulations as part of a "deal" for a particular development and amenities offered by the developer.

For example, in Section 19.08.020.C, there is a list of the many different "deviations" from the City's development regulations that a developer may propose, in exchange for giving the City some amenities. If Section 19.08.020.C of the Gig Harbor Code isn't clear to you, please read subsection 3 on page 3, the portion I have marked. In this section, you will find the following:  "A development agreement cannot authorize deviations from the uses, minimum and maximum densities maximum gross floor area, or maximum structure height allowed in the underlying zoning district unless approved by a majority plus one of the whole council after a minimum of two public hearings on the agreement." In other words, the City specifically allows a bargaining and sale of the City's development regulations, as long as there is a Council super-majority approving the agreement. There is no authority that allows a city to violate state law in this manner.

While you assert that there is a "public process" associated with development agreements, it is extremely limited, if you compare it with the public process that a property owner would have to follow if he/she followed the law and first obtained an amendment to the comprehensive plan and/or development regulations. We will provide the Council with a flow chart at the meeting on 2/13/17 to compare the two processes, but I suggest you either review the code or contact the City to become acquainted with the differences before you send out any additional misleading documentation.  

In conclusion, no one is asking that the City of Gig Harbor stop executing development agreements with property owners. We are asking that the City of Gig Harbor follow the law, and only approve/execute development agreements that are consistent with the City's development regulations. Please read the Katke application and assure yourself that it revises chapter 19.08 to continue to allow development agreements, but only those that are consistent with state law.  If you have any questions, please feel free to let me know.  

Thank you.

Carol Morris | Morris Law, P.C.

Opinion BLOG - Jan 21 MTG Feb 13 Mon @ 5:30pm | Katke Text Amendment