Dec 28

Mayor's Update - December 28, 2021

Posted on December 28, 2021 at 11:53 AM by Joshua Stecker

I hope everyone was able to enjoy the holiday with family and loved ones.


The snow has been beautiful, but there still is some severe weather outside so please be cautious and stay safe from the wind and cold. 


This is my last Blog as Mayor of the City of Gig Harbor. It has been an honor and privilege to serve you. Thank you for electing me and trusting me. I have worked diligently to keep the unique character of our wonderful town intact as it goes through the next phases of growth.   Maintaining our heritage through a period of rapid growth, development, and this very challenging times has not been easy. I have given my best efforts to represent all citizens that have provided input.


As Mayor, I provided a Vision with goals and objectives that made a positive impact in ways both large and small. We have accomplished quite a lot, and I encourage you to read through previous blogs as a measure of just how much we’ve done in the past four years.


Not everything we wanted or needed has been accomplished, but the City is in a better place. 


A City’s work is never done and we all must contribute in order to be successful. I am pleased that Councilmember Markley has stepped forward and has been elected to serve as our new Mayor come January.


She has been working with both me and our City Administrator to be up to speed on the City’s issues and needs and I have great trust that she will continue to move the City forward in a positive direction. 


I have been fortunate to work with so many wonderful people in so many types of organizations. From private businesses, various government’s, property owner’s community members and non-profits all who care about our community.


Thank you, Gig Harbor, for the opportunity to represent you, the people, as your City Mayor.


Mayor Kit Kuhn, City of Gig Harbor                                                                  

Nov 22

Mayor's Update - November 22, 2021

Posted on November 22, 2021 at 8:59 AM by Joshua Stecker

Good Day Gig Harbor,

 

Our trees have shed their leaves, and we are experiencing those stormy, blustery days where it feels great to be outside, but even better to get back indoors. Be careful on slick roads, and remember, if there is water over the roadway, turn around, don’t drown. 

 

I am pleased with how our city handled the latest storm. We have seen some terrible destruction in this state, neighboring states and B.C. related to flooding, yet we were spared most of it here in our city. I would like to thank our Public Works crew that have kept up on the road and park maintenance that I feel helped us through this.

 

Locally, the COVID case rate has slowed to 240 new cases here in Gig Harbor in the last month, but we’ve also added in four new deaths, bringing the total to 40 members of our community lost. 

The case rate in Pierce County also continues to drop, at 351 cases per 100,000 down from 492 in October 2021. Over 1.1 million doses of the vaccine have been provided to Pierce County residents, and 522,944 are fully vaccinated. That means 57% of Pierce County is fully vaccinated. 

 

Last week, vaccines were approved for the 5 to 11-year-old age range as well, meaning our young people may start to see a return to normal. The numbers may be slightly higher given that some people have been vaccinated in other counties or states, not reflected in this number. You can see Gig Harbor’s specific metrics at www.tpchd.org

 

In City Council meetings over the past month, we heard an update on the marine railway project underway at the Gig Harbor Boat Shop from John McMillan. The City has invested over $3 million in grants and $3.3 million in city funds to restore the boat shop and reconstruct these functional marine railways in order to preserve our maritime heritage and keep this a functioning part of our working waterfront since we purchased the boat shop in 2013. We also heard a report from another pillar of the Gig Harbor community, the Mary Bridge Thrift Store, which has been active in the city since 1949. 

 

Along with our Finance Director and Interim City Administrator, I presented the City’s preliminary 2022 budget in late October and presented edits Council made in study session in November for public comment. The City’s 2022 budget is slated for a second reading, and to be approved at the November 22 Council Meeting. We have accomplished a good amount in these last four years, while always focusing on fiscal responsibility.

 

Also from Finance, Director Dave Rodenbach presented the resolutions which establish no changes to the city’s property tax levies for 2022. 

 

In a report from our Interim City Administrator, we heard that Pierce County’s Planning Department has notified the City that they intend to comply with SEPA requirements when approving developments in the City’s Urban Growth Area. This is a big win, as it means new projects will properly contribute to traffic impacts, new roadways, impacts to wastewater and align more closely with setbacks and retention of trees and foliage. I commend our Community Development Department for working on this with me to get Pierce County to conform. 

 

We reviewed an ordinance to repeal the City’s ban on single-use plastic shopping bags, which had been put on hold for COVID concerns. The City’s ban is now redundant with the State’s bag ban in effect as of October 1.

 

Our Public Works Director, Jeff Langhelm, presented an ordinance updating the City’s Shoreline Master Program to comply with applicable laws and amendments provided by the Department of Ecology and in order ensure consistency with the City’s Comp Plan. 

 

Council also took action to change the requirements for the Design Review Board, changing from requiring an architect in two positions, opening one seat to an interested community member. This change was recommended by the Board & Commission Candidate Review Board.

 

We were also pleased to introduce an ordinance to allow the City to use $500,000 from ARPA (the American Rescue Plan Act) to support FISH Food Bank’s construction of a new facility. We feel FISH gives a great deal back to our community, and this initiative supports strengthening those most in need. 


One of the pillars of my campaign and my time as Mayor has been the preservation of our city’s character, which is made up of several components, including our pristine environment and green spaces. I am proud of several land acquisitions made for conservation, including the acreage now known as Soundview Forest Park; an 11.5 acre spread north of Donkey Creek Park (the North Creek Salmon Heritage Site) which we’ve worked in partnership with the Pierce County Conservation Futures program and the Puyallup Tribe to conserve as a culturally significant parcel for the Tribe, as well as an environmentally significant opportunity to have salmon return to Donkey Creek. 

 

Recently, the landowners of properties adjacent to the North Creek site (backing up to Burnham Drive and connecting to Cushman Trail) approached the City to see if we wanted to buy their land. This brings us a rare opportunity to purchase an additional 23 acres of forested land and salmon habitat only a couple blocks from the bay. The land is part of the original sx???babs?* village, includes the salmon-bearing North Creek/Donkey Creek running right through the property. The property has never been built on, so large natural cedars, maples, firs, and pines are unaltered, there is an existing primitive road/trail. This property is composed of six separate parcels and unless we conserve it, work is currently underway on the process of acquiring permits needed to develop over 40 homes on this land.

 

We have made an offer on the property and signed a purchase and sale agreement with the owners to try to purchase the property, to save “as is” and close before the end of this year. Our due diligence period of sixty days began on November 1st.  We also are getting a Complete Survey, Title Report and Environmental Phase 1 to complete our due diligence process. Closing by the 28th of December is a big challenge, but these opportunities do not come by often -- and once developed, this forested land is gone forever.

 

This open space would be for everyone to enjoy. I’ve had the opportunity to walk this land and believe it would be a wonderful parcel to retain trees and green spaces as development continues in this area of Gig Harbor North. City Council and I are very supportive of this rare opportunity, but we also want the public to have their chance to comment and hear about it. 

 

So, Monday night, tonight at our November 22 Council Meeting, I will give a presentation and show a video of the land. Public Comment on Non-Agenda Items will follow - this is when we hope to hear from the community. The public will also be able to comment at the December 13 Council Meeting as well.  We hope the community is as excited as we are about this opportunity. I encourage you to listen in on Zoom or attend in person with a mask. 

 

In another accomplishment in our city’s parks, I was able to oversee the final installation of the pylon panels at Austin Park at tx?aalq?l* Estuary, which outline the history of our first peoples, better known as a band of the Puyallup Tribe called sx???babs?.* 

 

This is part of the honorary designation for educational and awareness where the City recognizes and honors the fact that Gig Harbor is built upon the homelands and villages of these Peoples.  We have installed five ¼-inch thick stainless-steel panels that are 40” x 15” and are installed on five concrete pylons that were repurposed from the original foundation supporting the bridge in this area. The panels are titled as follows: “Before Gig Harbor;” “sx???babs?*- the swift water people;” “The Puyallup Tribe;” “After Medicine Creek;” and “The Daylighting of Donkey Creek.” 

 

The panels also tell the story of the Lutshootseed language of the Puyallup Tribe. tx?aalq?l* means "place where game exists.” I hope each of you have a chance to find your way down to the park to take a peaceful walk through our park and hopefully, learn more about the context and history of the land we enjoy every day. Soon, the directional signs and others will be reinstalled there as well.

 

We also have good news on two items – our Parks, Recreation and Open Space survey has closed, and our staff will be implementing long-term vision and desires shared by our citizens. We are also looking forward to welcoming Parks Manager Matthew Keough to the City of Gig Harbor, he’ll be starting with us as soon as possible.

 

Our Intergovernmental Affairs Committee has reviewed goals of our 2022 Legislative Agenda with our lobbyists, Gordon Thomas Honeywell, and Council adopted the resolution accepting these. Our top goals will be to pursue legislation on the state and federal levels that works to relieve congestion on State Route 16; funding for our Sports Complex; and modification of changes in state law adopted in the last Legislative session regarding police use of force and pursuit policies.

 

I want to congratulate Councilmember Tracie Markley on her election as Gig Harbor’s next Mayor. It is a job that comes along with challenges and rewards, and I know she’ll do a great job. I am committed to a smooth transition, and through the end of my term, I welcome her involvement and seek her input on decisions I am making now that will affect the City after I leave office. 

 

Congratulations to our new Councilmembers as well, Seth Storset, Brenda Lykins and Roger Henderson; and a sincere thank you to Councilmembers Bob Himes, Jim Franich and Spencer Abersold for their service to our community as their terms end.  

 

Coming up in our next City Council Meeting tonight, Monday November 22, we will also be swearing in our new Municipal Court Judge, Sandy Allen. I am thrilled she was selected, and we are honored to have her preside over our City of Gig Harbor Court. We are also hoping to pass our Cultural Arts elements which would add goals and policies pertaining to arts and culture to our City’s Comprehensive Plan; and Council will review potential rate for storing kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards at the new Ancich Park storage facility. If these are items of interest, you can find details on how to log in and attend the Council meeting virtually or in person. 

 

A word of caution as we head into the holiday season – this week, an alcohol-impaired driver crossed a roadway centerline and struck one of our Gig Harbor Police Department vehicles.  Thankfully, neither the officer nor the impaired driver was seriously injured.  The patrol car is a total loss and must be replaced. This is a vivid reminder to not drink and drive. With the holiday party season approaching, I ask that you always use a designated driver and never get behind the wheel after drinking.

 

On Sunday, December 5 at 5:30 p.m., I invite you to join me either in person or virtually for our annual Tree Lighting in Skansie Park. Special guest Santa Claus will join me in counting down for a spectacular tree our Public Works crew is working to source from JBLM. We’ll also have local acapella group, the Holiday Soundsations performing holiday music as well. 

 

I invite you to sign up and watch my Live Facebook once a month, my last live Q&A will take place on Friday, December 17 at 10:00a on our City Facebook page. We will be giving a presentation on some of our accomplishments over the last four years. You can always catch it afterwards, ask questions that we can answer or connect with others on the forum. 

 

Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving holiday – we have so much to be grateful for here in the City of Gig Harbor. I hope you enjoy the holiday in good health – and remember to be kind to each other.

 

Cheers,

 

Kit

 

*All Lushootseed language characters are, unfortunately, not translating the correct characters within our web program. To accurately represent their intended spelling and pronunciation, please visit: www.puyalluptriballanguage.org/about/

 

Oct 22

Mayor's Update - October 22, 2021

Posted on October 22, 2021 at 10:30 AM by Joshua Stecker

It has come to our attention that our city website’s blog platform is not able to recognize and correctly display the characters used in the Twulshootseed and Lushootseed Languages. The misspellings in the blog post below are unintentional and, unfortunately, unavoidable. This underscores the need for our efforts to help the Puyallup Tribe bring awareness and recognition to their language.

 

Good Day Gig Harbor,

 

The crisper air has returned to Gig Harbor, and I actually like the cooler weather as opposed to our super-hot days. We are enjoying the beauty of the changing leaves. Late fall also means budget season here at the Civic Center. Council, staff, and I are planning for the year ahead. You can view the preliminary 2022 budget here. We worked very hard to be fiscally responsible and good stewards of public funds.

 

Locally, the COVID-19 Delta spike case rate has dropped a bit since we reported last month, we are at 492 cases per 100,000 in Pierce County, down from 667 in September. We have passed the state deadline for required vaccinations for state, school, health care and childcare employees – to note, this is a state directive, the City of Gig Harbor does not fall under this mandate for state employees. 

 

Over a million doses of the vaccine have been provided to Pierce County residents, and 493,000 are fully vaccinated. That means 54% of Pierce County is fully vaccinated, and 60% are partially vaccinated. The numbers may be slightly higher given that some people have been vaccinated in other counties or states, not reflected in this number. You can see Gig Harbor’s specific metrics at www.tpchd.org. Please be a good example and get vaccinated. 

 

King County’s vaccine requirement for outdoor large events and indoor bars, restaurants, gyms, music venues and other establishments begins on October 25. Pierce County currently does not have vaccine requirements for patrons of these kinds of events or businesses.

 

Our Civic Center is open. We are not requiring our front desk staff to ask citizens proof of vaccination, but masks are required and available at the front door if you do not have one. If you cannot or choose not to wear a mask, we cannot serve you in person, and encourage you to interact via phone or our website for city services. After this coming Monday night’s Council Meeting, we are working to have our study sessions and Council meetings in person, following state guidelines for masking and social distancing. These meetings, of course, are open to the public, both in-person (with masks and distancing required) and streamed live to follow OPMA guidelines if you do not want to attend in person. 

 

On October 8, the City recognized and celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Over the course of the last two years, a group of over 60 people have worked to strengthen the City’s relationship with the Puyallup Tribe, and honor the sx???babs? (“swift water people”) band of the Tribe that first resided in Gig Harbor. We have renamed the former Austin Estuary Park to reflect the traditional Lushootseed name for the estuary, which means the “place where game exists.” New signage was installed last month, recognizing Austin Park at tx?aalq?l Estuary.

 

We passed Resolution 1199, which allowed me to work with entities that support the Tribe. This led to the voice box and five stainless steel panels at Austin Park at tx?aalq?l Estuary, along with the appendix map that shows the details of the historic walk and honoring welcoming statue by Guy Capoeman. This will be installed shortly and dedicated by Tribal Councilmember Anna Bean and Tribal staff. I would also like to thank the honoring committee for their many years of work on the welcoming carving project. 

 

The City will also now recognize the month of November as Native American Heritage Month. In addition, we continue to work with the Puyallup Tribe on land conservation issues, including the upcoming purchase of the North Creek Salmon Heritage site, 11.5 acres north of Donkey Creek, which hold cultural significance for the Tribe as well as our salmon restoration. 

 

In other news, Council adopted two ordinances recommended by the Planning & Building Committee in our October 11 Council meeting. We’ve had quite a few questions and some misunderstanding on our approach to short-term rentals, and our reactive ordinance based on the state’s law to prohibit cities from banning transitional housing. 

 

Council approved an emergency moratorium on accepting new applications for short-term rentals over the next six months, after the Planning Commission directed staff to draft a moratorium and discuss with Council at their September 7 commission meeting. The City has not had a straightforward policy on short-term rentals, and we’ve heard concerns about their impact as well as concerns on the permitting process from people seeking to operate a short-term rental. This is not a ban on short-term rentals, it is a “pause” in accepting new applications.

 

The City’s vision will be informed by the community’s vision for this topic, and the two need to align. The Planning Commission will review how other cities handle short term rentals, consider several options and public testimony, and then prepare a formal recommendation to City Council by their February 28, 2022 meeting. The goal is to craft a smart, future-focused policy for short-term rentals in the city limits and strike the right balance on economic opportunity while preserving the character of our neighborhoods. 

 

We’ve also had a lot of questions on why the City adopted codes specific to transitional housing and emergency shelters. We had a deadline of September 30, 2021 to align with a new state law recently passed (ESSHB 1220) that requires all Washington cities to allow transitional housing and emergency shelters. By passing an ordinance, the City Council adopted stricter regulations and we as a City retain more local control over this requirement. 

 

This ordinance does not allow “tent cities” or for those experiencing homelessness to sleep or live on public sidewalks. There are no plans currently for shelters or transitional housing facilities in Gig Harbor. The City will allow only one continuously operating shelter at a time, and the occupancy limit is set at 10 families or 40 people, whichever is fewer. The City has also set limits on transitional housing in residential neighborhoods, with requirements for these to be a minimum of a half-mile apart and follow the same building and safety codes as ordinary residential housing. 

 

The City’s Planning Commission will further consider these regulations and make a recommendation to City Council regarding further restrictions by the February 28, 2022 City Council meeting. 

 

To address the need for affordable/attainable housing in Pierce County, I have been part of the steering committee with other Mayors through the County to developing what is now known as the South Sound Housing Affordability Partnership (SSHAP). The organization is ready to transition to an Executive Board, and I nominated Councilmember Markley for appointment to this crucial board, and Council agreed. 

 

You can also find two full FAQ documents on the topics of short-term rentals and transitional housing on our website for further reference. You can also send comments for the Planning Commission to review at communications@gigharborwa.com

 

In news from our Public Works and Parks Departments, in our September 27 Council meeting, we celebrated the donation of property located adjacent to the Cushman Trail at 96th Street from Jim Chaffeur and the five owners of North Creek Gig Harbor, LLC, for this donation. The City intends to add this land into the parks inventory, with the hope to build out new parking access for the Cushman Trail. Next up is Council approval for this use. 

 

City staff is also currently reviewing information gathered from our recent Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces public poll, and will be instituting suggestions from the comments received. We continue to see a large amount of interest in the Gig Harbor Sports Complex, and work is moving forward. I have spoken recently with Charlie Davis, the CEO and President of the YMCA – they report that the fundraising campaign for the lit turfed fields has begun, and he’s enthusiastic on the donations coming in. The City will be meeting with the Y again soon.

 

I want to congratulate our Wastewater Treatment Plant staff for their 14th consecutive Wastewater Treatment Plant Outstanding Performance Award. In order to achieve this award, round-the-clock monitoring needs to be completed, without a single error. This is a monumental achievement, and our WWTP staff do a remarkable job serving our City. 

 

At our September 27 Council meeting, Public Works Director Jeff Langhelm updated us on the contract approval for Lift Station #12. This will completely rebuild a deteriorating lift station. 

 

Sharing some great news – Council is supportive of allocating $500,000 from the City’s 2021 Budget from ARPA funds received from the federal government to FISH Food Bank’s construction of a new long-term facility. FISH does an incredible amount of good work in our community, and I look forward to Council’s further consideration for approval.  

 

This past week, we also saw the awarding of 2022 lodging tax grants to a record-breaking number 19 events scheduled to draw in tourism for 2022. Council is in the process of budget approval; we will share more details on www.visitgigharborwa.com for the year to come. 

 

We’ve also seen three new Gig Harbor staff join us, we are in the process of signing contracts for a new Judge and Prosecutor for Gig Harbor Municipal Court, we welcomed new GHPD Officer Jody Roberson, and we are in the interview process for a new Parks Manager and Tourism and Communications Assistant. 

 

As a reminder, the City of Gig Harbor’s “bring your own bag” ordinance will be repealed, as the State’s more restrictive law went into effect on October 1. 

 

Our upcoming council meetings include an October 25 presentation from the Gig Harbor Boat Shop on the completion of the Marine Rails project; an October 26 City Council study session on 2024-2044 population targets and special event permits (3:30 p.m.); an October 28 City Council Budget study session; and a November 8 presentation from the Mary Bridge Thrift Store. I encourage you to attend virtually via Zoom if these are important issues to you, you can find streaming details on our City website. 

 

Last but not least – there’s only three more weeks until you vote. I encourage you to fully research the issues and candidates to make informed decisions on the direction of your City of Gig Harbor leadership. 

 

I invite you to sign up and watch my Live Facebook once a month, I’ll be live next on Friday, October 22 at 10:00 a.m. on our City Facebook page. You can always catch it afterwards, ask questions that we can answer or connect with others on the forum. Wishing you good health – and remember to be kind to each other.

 

Cheers,

 

Kit