The Citizens for the Preservation of the Gig Harbor Waterfront, a group concerned about a possible zoning change downtown, has raised a number of questions with the city council during the past few weeks. And while the group means well with its push to keep development under control and, above all, to keep views intact, its supporters could use a little perspective.
The group’s concern is that the city is close to approving a modification to the current height restriction to allow buildings with flat roofs to reach 27 feet tall. City code already allows buildings with peaked roofs to reach that height.
The group says the change would allow developers to create a narrow corridor feel that would block views of Gig Harbor Bay, and it could open the door to large-scale changes that would transform downtown Gig Harbor into Kirkland or Bellevue.
Unfortunately, they haven’t done their homework.
Any zoning change wouldn’t stop construction downtown, as long as those plans are within the established rules and regulations. And Gig Harbor keeps a tight lid on development. It asks builders to adhere to guidelines that actually keep buildings within the characteristics that citizens find appealing — namely, the charm and overall vision of the town.
Those are exactly the things the Citizens for the Preservation of the Gig Harbor Waterfront are fighting to keep.
Many of the group’s supporters have written emails to the city council in the past few weeks, and some have earned a response.
“I’m concerned that there has been a great deal of misinformation by well-intentioned citizens on these proposed changes,” City Council member Tim Payne wrote in response to Chuck Thompson’s complaint. “When you take into account the parking requirements for a new building, the Shoreline setbacks under the new rules, required view corridors, building size restrictions, our strict design requirements and then apply that to the Downtown Water Front Zone (a limited area), I think you will see that fears are mitigated about what could be built.”
In short, it’s nothing that would create the kind of tunnel-vision corridor the group is afraid of. And it certainly wouldn’t open up Gig Harbor to multi-story towers or condominiums.
The citizens’ group also has complained about the public process, saying the Planning Commission and city council members discussed the potential building-height change without public comment. That’s simply not true. While the council hasn’t met since July 22 — it took August off and will meet again next Monday — all meetings are published in this newspaper, and agendas and minutes are posted at www.cityofgigharbor.net.
What’s encouraging about all this attention is the grassroots effort from a group of very involved citizens who want their voices to be heard. In a perfect world, more people like them would be involved with their elected officials to provide input and suggestions on the impact of government.
In fact, their voices have been heard.
Representatives from the Citizens for the Preservation of the Gig Harbor Waterfront wanted to see specific examples of how the proposed zoning change would affect certain buildings downtown, and council member Payne has suggested delaying the vote until the Planning Commission can provide the examples. He’s also suggested the city might hold an open house to provide some educational material.
One of the pitfalls is actually the public process the group has claimed was circumnavigated. Since the city council doesn’t meet again until Sept. 9, it can’t sit with a group or individuals to discuss or deliberate a potential decision because it would violate the state Open Public Meetings act.
We expect the topic will be addressed Monday, and we hope the citizens’ group — and other interested residents — will continue to be involved in local government.