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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