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A Note From Your Mayor


May 20

Mayor's Update - May 17, 2019

Posted on May 20, 2019 at 11:41 AM by Joshua Stecker

Hello Everyone,

The Maritime Gig Festival, the City’s biggest event of the year, is almost here! Our Parks and Public Works staff are busy all over town getting everything ready and cleaning up the last of the winter debris. The festival kicks off with a fun run and the Yo Ho Harbor Grande Parade on June 1st. City staff, councilmembers and myself will be walking right up front in the parade, so be sure to come out and say “hi!”

Speaking of cleaning up, I want to thank all of the citizen volunteers who turned out on Parks Appreciation Day last month to help us clean up our parks all over the City. Working alongside our Parks Division staff, you really accomplished a lot. I’m particularly proud of how nice our new trails at Soundview Forest Park are looking.

I am also happy to announce our newest city employee, Nicole Jones-Vogel. She is our new Park Manager. She comes to us after working in Anchorage as their Lands Manager. She is educated as a planner with parks experience. Welcome Nicole!

To bring our citizens up to date, at the last council meeting many issues were discussed and/or passed. The City Council adopted a formal policy for the annual holiday display at Skansie Park. The policy provides for a holiday tree and up to six other display items (up to 4 feet in size) to be chosen annually by the Mayor with respect given to the City’s holiday tradition. Presently there are five city owned display items which include the traditional Nativity scene, a candy cane, a snowman, a reindeer and sled, and a holiday present. The council also adopted an Ordinance that allows the Mayor to accept donated items from citizens for the holiday display or other uses by the City, provided the items don’t violate any other City policies.

The pet store ordinance had its first reading with a lot of discussion about puppy mills and what is humane. The ordinance is to make sure dogs, cats and bunnies are bred in a humane way. There was enough discussion and needed answers to council questions that we will allow public comment at the second reading on May 28th. This also reminds me to let you know because of the holiday on the 27th the next council meeting will be Tuesday the 28th of May.

Several other items passed. You can listen to the recording or view our minutes of the meeting at the city’s website. One of those topics which I spoke of under mayors’ comments was the need to fund the Ancich float which would be to provide a dock for the human powered boat park. The park is now finished yet there is no access to the water by the public or the kayak team. There is a lease in place to partner with the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak team to build the dock. Because of the fish window by the state we can only build it at certain times of the year. If we partner now with the kayak team and the city, both committing to put funds forward than we could get this built by July 2020. My goal of supporting this solution was to show council where we have $400,000. - to put forward and to have council sit down in a work session, or council meeting and begin the process. I hope this can happen. It is in the council and kayak teams’ hands now to work toward s a solution.

The warmer weather means more people out on the water and our little harbor can get pretty crowded at times. Our Police Department has partnered with the Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard to create a short video called “Go With The Flow” to help educate kayakers and paddleboarders on how to stay safe in the harbor. You can watch the video here: https://bit.ly/2W5PcCd

In March, the federal government established the whole Puget Sound as a National Maritime Heritage Area. This could open up a lot of grant opportunities for the City to work on preservation projects around the harbor. City staff will be exploring these opportunities to see if there are grants we can get to help us out with our parks.

Stinson Avenue is going to be getting a lot of attention this summer. In July work will begin on replacing the watermain along the length of the road, starting at the intersection of Stinson and Grandview. Traffic will be reduced to using one lane at times, so be sure to keep up with project activities on the city’s website. The City Council will also be reviewing options for the intersections at Rosedale and Harborview to increase safety and traffic flow.

Last November the City’s Transportation Benefit District (TBD) put an initiative on the ballot to raise the City’s sales tax two-tenths of a percent (from 8.5 cents to 8.7 cents) in order to fund needed transportation repairs. Still one of the lowest in the Puget Sound area. That ballot measure failed by 41 votes, but the TBD Board voted to try again this year. The City will be making a strong effort over the summer and fall to get the facts out about this proposed tax increase. The sales tax increase would amount to 20 cents per hundred dollars but be paid by everyone that buys anything in the city. This method would mean that the citizens benefit but would be paying only a small portion of the tax but everyone that enters the city will have better roads built to accommodate the growth.

I’m happy to report that the Senior Center has found a new temporary home at Harbor Covenant Church after they lost their space at the Boys and Girls Club (which is being converted to a new grade school). And in other good news, the Boys and Girls Club has agreed to refund the City a certain amount of the City’s contribution to build the building that was supposed to house the Senior Center. Once complete this amount will be disclosed. That money will be set aside to help the Senior Center find a new permanent home. The City is working with PenMet Parks and the county “where most of these seniors are coming from” to find a long-term solution.

The Gig Harbor Arts Commission was given a budget of $20,000 this year to award grants to local artists. The application for people looking to receive grants is now live and can be found here: The Arts Commission will review all the applications and try to get funding to as many artists as possible. You can read more about the process on the Arts Commission's webpage here: http://www.cityofgigharbor.net/361/Arts-Commission

I look forward to seeing you at the parade on June 1st and the Blessing of the Fleet the following day. Please look at our new Visitors Guide that has just come out. It has our summer calendar in it and list the summer free concerts, movies and so much more.

Until next time. Cheers,

Kit




Apr 08

Mayor's Update - April 8, 2019

Posted on April 8, 2019 at 4:27 PM by Joshua Stecker

Hello everyone,

We’ve had some great warm days lately which reminds us that Summer is right around the corner. The City will be busy with many fun events scheduled. The Maritime Gig Festival & Parade is on June 1st. Summer Sounds at Skansie returns on Tuesday nights starting June 25th. I like adding some new bands while keeping several staple ones as well. I am excited about our line-up. We also have 5 Movies in the Park soon which will be back with a brand-new screen. We have added another movie night to our schedule. Thursday Waterfront Farmers Market starts up on June 6th. Mimi Jansen has done a great job putting all of this together for us. Visit gigharborguide.com for more details on all the upcoming events.

When you’re down at Skansie Brothers Park you will notice some big changes. We’ve removed the tall hedges along the front of the house and added beautiful new flower beds and landscaping. The side walk there is also 2 feet wider with a decorative stamped red brick and is now ADA compliant with the driveway into the pavilion. The driveway is narrower now but also has the decorative brick on each side. The feedback has been very positive and Harbor Wildwatch and our visitor volunteers there have already reported more people dropping in. Go take a look at it yourself. Many thanks are due to our Public Works Operation crew.

Parks Appreciation Day is April 27th from 9am - noon. Please lend a hand at your favorite park for a few hours and help get them ready for the summer. When we all pitch in and work together we help keep our parks special. For a list of parks that will be having work parties, please visit: www.cityofgigharbor.net/639/Parks-Appreciation-Day

Our Community Development Department is happy to announce the promotion of Carl de Simas to Senior Long-Range Planner. Carl has a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning and 8 years of experience in public outreach, code development, code enforcement and Growth Management. We’re looking forward to his help in tackling some of the bigger issues facing the City, including updating our sign code, developing minimum lot size regulations, and revising our Development Agreement code.

Across the country, cities are dealing with the coming of small cell (5G) installations.

There is a lot of uncertainty and confusion on what small cell is and how it works. Because of this, we are forming a Small Cell Advisory Board to give recommendations to staff and Council on how to keep citizens aware of what’s going on. This board will be made up of a few concerned citizens, city staff, and three councilmembers. In time we may include representatives from the health care and cellular industry. This is an important issue and we want to make sure everyone has all the facts before Council makes decisions.

In hiring news, we have just started interviewing candidates for the City Attorney position. We are also starting to bring on seasonal help for our park’s crews. These seasonal workers are very important to keeping our parks looking beautiful the whole summer.

St. Anthony’s Hospital celebrated its 10-year anniversary on March 17th. The hospital has been great for economic development in the Gig Harbor. It is one of the largest employers in the city and a large contributor to our revenue. They also bring stability and reassurance to people who may feel that if they have an emergency it can be taken care of right away and locally. I’ve lived in communities where people moved away because medical help was not nearby.

In February, the school bond passed which allows the school district to move forward with building new elementary schools and purchase the Boys & Girls Club building for a future school. But the Senior Center, which had been operating there since 2010 will be without a facility in June. We are working closely with the Boys and Girls Club, PenMet Parks and people from the Senior Center to try to find a new home (temporary or permanent) for this important group. The City is committed to making sure our senior citizens have a safe place to meet.

One city building that often gets recommended to be used for things like the Senior Center is the old Masonic Hall up by the sand volleyball courts. The City owns this building, but it currently has several limitations. Soon Council will be asked to authorize the City to hire an architect to give us a breakdown of costs for this building. Then we can decide whether it is cost effective to restore or include it in our Crescent Creek Park Master plan coming this summer.

Our Public Works Department will be hosting an Open House on April 8th at 4:30 p.m. to talk about potential revisions to Stinson Avenue intersections at Harborview and Rosedale. This could include installing roundabouts, a traffic light or a hybrid of what is there to improve safety and traffic flow. Please come and see what ideas the City is exploring and provide your input.

I have received many questions about development occurring within the City and folks being concerned about how development can still occur even though City Council and I passed a Development Moratorium in 2018.  The truth is, by Washington State Law, once an application for a plat has been deemed complete, that project becomes “vested” to the law and regulations at the time of application, not at the time of development. 

“Vested rights” are the legal protections that a property owner can rely on when developing real property to ensure that a subsequently enacted regulation will not impair the project they initially applied to build.  What this means, is citizens are seeing development occurring now that was “vested” many years ago.  By law, these projects are legally allowed to move forward under the Municipal Code of the time of application.  This means that subdivisions currently under construction were approved during the previous three City Administrations!

Currently, approved plats are only legally allowed to vest for a period of five years. However, between 2008-2014, plats were able to vest for seven years and prior to 2007, plats vested for ten years by state law!

Below are examples of current development projects occurring in the City that we receive many calls about and their “vesting” dates:

  • Courtyards at Skansie (Hunt Street and Skansie Ave): Vested March 2006.
  • North Creek Plat (HWY 16 and 96th Street): Vested January 2008.
  • McCormick Creek Plat (McCormick Creek Drive / Burnham Drive): Vested October 2016
  • Harbor Hill (GH North): November 2010
  • Harbor Winds (HWY 16 and south of 96th Street): Vested December 2009
  • Latitude 47 Industrial Complex: (Bujacich Rd across from Women’s Prison): Vested September 2016
  • Harbor Reach Storage: (54th Ave NW across from Hemley’s Septic): Vested May 2006
  • Heritage Point (Austin Street and Harborview): Vested August 2016
  • Edwards Plat (Edwards Drive): Vested October 2016
  • Pioneer Duplexes: (Pioneer and Edwards Street): Vested July 2017

City Council and I have made many changes to the City’s Development Regulations within the past year that will require more trees to be saved, lowered density and increased environmental protections. The effects of our work will be seen on development projects vested after summer 2018. 

If you ever have questions regarding development occurring within the City, our Community Development and Public Works staff are wonderful and will give you the information you need.  You can reach them at 253-851-6170. Additionally, to be placed on the Community Development’s Planning Division weekly e-notice, please call 253-851-6170 and asked to be placed on that list!

That is all for now. Stay tuned.

Cheers, Kit


Apr 01

Mayor's Update - March 8, 2019

Posted on April 1, 2019 at 10:31 AM by Molly Towslee

Greetings fellow Gig Harbor residents! I hope you all stayed safe and warm through our record cold February and all the snow storms. I’d like to thank our Public Works staff and Police officers for all their extra hard work keeping us safe and functioning through all of the bad weather. They really went above and beyond to help us out.

The record snowfall had us close the Civic Center and for the first time we cancelled a Council Meeting due to the weather. Putting the safety of our employees and customers must always come first.

On February 25th the City Council approved the name of our newest park. We now have an official name for our newest park: Soundview Forest. They discussed all the recommendations from the Parks Commission and our citizens. The park will be a jewel for our City for many years to come as a forest sanctuary right in the heart of our downtown and our waterfront.

Our HR department has been very busy with several key positions open for hiring. We are currently advertising for a full-time in-house City Attorney, something the City has not had for some time after contracting with outside attorney firms in recent years. Having an attorney here at City Hall full time will free up a lot of staff time and give myself and Council better access to the legal advice we need to keep the City running smoothly.

Moving on to our Planning Division, Peter Katich, one of our Senior Planners, was promoted to Principal Planner overseeing the Planning Division of the Community Development Department. We are currently recruiting a Senior Planner to fill out the Planning Division staff. Although understaffed, our Planning Division has been working hard and is doing a great job.

Ancich Waterfront Park is open now. There will be a formal ribbon cutting on Saturday, March 23rd, at noon. Legislators, Representatives and grant funders RCO and Washington State Historical Society have been invited, along with the permitting, design and construction team.

On March 2nd the City Council held their annual Council retreat at the Harbor History Museum to discuss our ideas for the future. Council has a lot of goals to tackle, including finishing up the work items from our moratorium last year and revising the minimum lot size requirements as well as the rules around development agreements. We’ll also be looking at zoning issues around town, particularly around Judson Street and the Post Office and in the Millville area. You can visit our website and read the seven pages of minutes about what we discussed.

You may have read in the paper recently about the school district acquiring the Boys and Girls Club for a future school site. One of the fallouts from that will be the loss of a Senior Center. At our retreat Council agreed that we need to find a new short-term and long-term solution for the Senior Center to make sure that those citizens needs are met. We are forming a committee to look for solutions.

At the March 11th Council Meeting, Mark Hoppen will be making a presentation to Council about the potential for building a new performing arts center. He has a vision for what the City might be able to build in the coming years. I encourage citizens to come and hear his ideas for themselves at the meeting starting at 5:30.

In March the City will be making new appointments to the Arts Commission, Lodging Tax Advisory Committee and the Parks Commission. These citizen advisory boards are very helpful to us and play an important role. We appreciate the citizens that sit on these committees and we encourage people within our community to apply for future openings on our boards and commissions.

In November last year, with the departure of the Tourism & Communications Director, the City Council passed a motion to have a blue-ribbon commission help determine the best path forward for the department. Their goal was to complete this by the first quarter of 2019.  Based on the Council’s decision to do this, I formed an Advisory Committee made up of stakeholders in the community. I invited representatives of organizations and businesses, whose collective expertise, involvement, and extensive knowledge of Gig Harbor, could best help guide the direction of our tourism and marketing department moving forward. We held two very productive and insightful work sessions with the Advisory Committee just this week, along with a few councilmembers who were there to observe. Out of those work sessions, Mimi Jansen, the Interim Director of Tourism & Communications, along with City Administrator Wade Farris and I, were able to take away a strategic vision and direction for the department. In the next month we will focus on their advice and work on a comprehensive plan to present to the council later in April.

Verizon Wireless has approached the City about installing a new cell tower on the Skansie water tank (near the intersection of Skansie and Rosedale). This would be a standard cell tower and not one of the new small cell (5G) installations that the City is currently working on legislation for. We’ll be working with Verizon to see if a lease agreement can be made to use the site.

The city recently completed a study of the speed limits within the city and will be presenting that information to the Public Works Committee on March 12th at 3:00 p.m. The results of this study are used to verify the speed limits the City has in place around town.

On April 8th at 4:30 we’ll have an open house in the Civic Center lobby to address improvements to Stinson Avenue. Public Works staff will be on hand to answer questions about the overlay and intersection improvement projects that the City could undertake. Council will be discussing the potential for adding roundabouts at key intersections at Stinson & Rosedale and Stinson & Harborview. You will have a chance to share your comments with Council at the Council Meeting that follows.

I am proud of our employees. I am honored to serve as Mayor of Gig Harbor. We truly live in a unique area that has such a vibrant community with great people.

Cheers,

Kit