Government > Mayor's Page > Mayor Jill Guernsey

  

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Jill Guernsey

MAYOR
(253) 853-7611

Term Ends  |  December 2017


A note from your Mayor:

August 14, 2017

People have been asking about the proposed project called One Harbor Point at the corner of Harborview and Soundview.  If you lived here during the 1960s you may recall that at one time the property owner considered developing the property into a “boatel,” with moorage for visiting boaters and lodging accommodations on the uphill portion where the trees are located.

This property is now owned by the Haub family, and has been for a number of years. The family has decided to sell the property and has entered into an agreement with the Cheney Foundation for purchase and development of the property.  Last year, Cheney Foundation representatives contacted the City and discussed the concept of townhouses.  We let them know that the project would require a development agreement, as well as approvals by the Hearing Examiner and other City boards and commissions.  The development agreement process is a two-step process, requiring 1) initiation and 2) approval by the Council.  In general, initiation takes place at the beginning of the process and approval later in the process.

Late last year the Cheney Foundation started the process by submitting a proposed development agreement and requested that the Council initiate it.  On June 26, 2017, the Council held a public hearing and voted to initiate the proposal.  Many have asked what initiation means? 

First and foremost, initiation does not mean that the project has been approved.  Initiation means that the proposal will be processed and reviewed by City boards and commissions, the Hearing Examiner, the City Council and the public through several public hearings.  There is no guarantee that the City boards and commissions, the Hearing Examiner, and the City Council will grant the necessary approvals.  It may well be that as the proposal goes through the process, some approvals are granted and others are denied.  After the process has been completed the landowner will decide whether to continue with the project. 

People have asked why members of the City Council and I voted in favor of initiation of the development agreement.  My answer is simple.  I believe strongly in property rights, and I believe that a property owner has the right to have his proposal reviewed and processed even if the proposal is unpopular, and even if it might not be approved.

Let me give you an example.  Imagine that you own a parcel of real property that is vacant and located in the middle of what started as a residential area.  Over time the area changed and today the zoning allows residential and commercial, or a mixture of both.  You want to build a commercial building in this formerly- residential area.  Some people like your proposal and some do not.  Should you be allowed to go through the process of approval even though some people dislike your proposal?  I believe you should be able to go through the process.  It may not be approved, but I think you have a right to go through the process. 

Getting back to One Harbor Point and the vote to initiate the process, our vote to initiate the process was not our endorsement of the project as proposed, but rather a statement that the property owner should be allowed to go through the process provided, and not be tabled because some oppose the project. 

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July 25, 2017

Traffic!   Everyone talks about it and wishes it would improve.  I want to share with you what we are doing both short-term and long-term to address City traffic issues.
Short Term Traffic Improvements:

1.  Olympic Drive overpass 2nd left turn lane. You may have noticed that an additional left turn lane was added this month (July) on the Olympic Drive overpass at State Route 16.  This came after I led a team of city engineers and officials to Olympia to meet with WSDOT officials to address the backups we were seeing from the cars trying to get on SR 16 towards Bremerton.  After some discussion, WSDOT officials agreed to add a second left turn lane to help clear up the back up.  If you haven’t been through that area since the improvement, please consider giving it a try.

2. Olympic Drive new right turn lane at Pt. Fosdick.  Construction has begun on adding a dedicated right turn lane on Olympic Drive eastbound at Pt. Fosdick by the Chevron station.   This should help address congestion currently experienced at this intersection.  This is being funded in part by the new Olympic Towne Center redevelopment.

3. New entrance to Olympic Towne Center (Fred Meyer) development at 32nd Avenue/ 50th Street.  Another element of the traffic mitigation requirements by the new Olympic Towne Center development is the construction of a new road off Olympic Drive at 50th Street near Heritage Bank.  This will take some pressure off the Olympic/ Pt. Fosdick intersection from the additional traffic generated by the new Olympic Towne Center development.

4. Olympic/Pt. Fosdick intersection re-phasing.  Before the new Olympic Towne Center development opens, the Pt. Fosdick/Olympic intersection will be re-phased or re-timed to more efficiently move traffic through this busy intersection.

5. Harbor Hill Drive Extension.  This week we had a groundbreaking ceremony for a new road extending Harbor Hill Drive past the YMCA and down to Burnham Drive near the Cushman Trail crossing. We anticipate that construction will take 18 months.  This new road will provide an additional way to and from downtown without going through the roundabout at Borgen Blvd and SR 16.

6. Connect The Gig – Transportation Planning.   -  The City is developing a city-wide Transportation Plan update that recommends improvements for both vehicle and pedestrian traffic.   Perhaps you have joined in on the walks and open houses that were recently conducted.  You still have time to participate! Please visit the project website at www.ConnectTheGig.com. Once the study is completed we hope the Council will include the cost of the recommended improvements in the next budget.

7. New Roundabouts on Stinson Avenue at Rosedale and at Harborview Drive.  The City Public Works Department is currently drawing up plans to add two roundabouts on Stinson Avenue, one at Rosedale and the other at Harborview Drive.   These roundabouts will move traffic through these often backed up intersections more efficiently than the stop signs which currently control these intersections.

Long Term Traffic Improvements:

1. State Route 16.  For years the City has asked WSDOT and the legislature to improve SR 16 through Gig Harbor.  Each time the City was told that the state had not yet done a comprehensive traffic study to justify those improvements.  Furthermore, we were always one little city competing with other larger cities and counties for limited funding.   In the summer of 2014 the City of Gig Harbor joined forces with other cities and counties on this side of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and formed the “West Sound Alliance”.  Together we went to Olympia and jointly lobbied the state for traffic improvements.   We were successful this time in getting funding for a $3 million comprehensive SR 16 corridor congestion relief study due in February of 2018. 

The City not only took an active role in working with the state on this study, we also went to Olympia, met with WSDOT officials, and gave them a detailed list of improvements we want them to study.  This list included:
a.  Extending the carpool lanes further north past Olympic Drive offramp;
b. Stabilizing the Narrows bridge tolls;
c. Widening and improving the Olympic Drive overpass;
d. Adding a new off-ramp eastbound just before Olympic onto 56th Street;
e. Widening and improving the Wollochet Dr. overpass;
f. Adding a new overpass (without exits) at Hunt Street;
g. Adding a new overpass (without exits) at 96th Street;
h. Improving the Borgen Blvd. exits and overpass; and
i. Improving the SR 302 off-ramps and the Purdy Bridge.

Once we see the study we will work to get funding from the State for the necessary improvements.

2. 38th Avenue road and sidewalk improvements.    The City obtained funding for these needed road improvements from the state a few years ago but then the legislature eliminated this funding source and our project was delayed.  We have continued to ask for this funding from the state but have yet to be successful in obtaining funding.  We will keep working on this project.

3. Harborview Drive sidewalk improvements.   The City obtained a grant to fund new sidewalks near Donkey Creek and north on Harborview Drive but it was determined by the council that a more complete option needed to be pursued and the grant was returned.

4. Vernhardson Street sidewalk and road improvements.   The City is pursuing grants to widen the bridge over Crescent Creek on Vernhardson Street.  Once we obtain sufficient grant funding, we intend to add sidewalks and do road improvements for much of Vernhardson Street.

We welcome your input on traffic ideas and solutions.  I know it may seem like nothing is being done to address traffic congestion, but I assure you it is one of our highest priorities.  We are pursuing multiple avenues (pardon the pun) to find solutions to our traffic issues and we are making progress. To voice your traffic concerns, please visit www.ConnectTheGig.com to communicate directly with the City’s transportation planning consultant and please consider attending our upcoming transportation workshops in September and October!

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April 21, 2015

The city has received a letter from the USPS stating they have made a determination on the future location of the Gig Harbor Post Office.  Updates will continue be posted as we learn more.  USPS LETTER

April 5, 2017
THANK YOU TO THE GIG HARBOR “VILLAGE”

Most of us are familiar with the proverb “it takes a village to raise a child,” meaning a child has a good opportunity to become a healthy adult if the entire community takes an active role in contributing to his or her rearing. That rang true for me when my sons grew up in Gig Harbor. I knew they were getting a good education, both academically and socially. I credit the Peninsula School District and the community with helping them to become responsible, successful, caring adults.

I often think of the proverb in a different context:  the Gig Harbor community is a “village” of caring and involved people who help each other. Doing so makes us healthier in our own way. 

Let me explain:  My husband of 32 years, Corbett Platt, was diagnosed with tongue cancer in October 2014. For the next 2 ½ years, he endured countless treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation and several clinical trials. Despite everything, the tumor grew and grew, and it took control of his body. He passed away on March 28. As hard as it was to lose him, I know he is in a better place and that he is no longer suffering.

Throughout his illness, our close friends spent countless hours helping in every way possible. They often took time out of their day to drive him to and from Seattle for radiation treatment at the University of Washington Medical Center. Despite weather and traffic, they never complained. 

Friends picked our sons and their wives up at the airport at all times of day and night, and they even let them stay in their homes when things got crowded at our house. They fielded inquiries about his health throughout the community so I did not have to, and I think they even let him cheat at silly games like Chicken Foot.

And it wasn’t just our close friends who helped. People who hardly knew him brought the most delicious homemade soups and meals. A friend invited him to Tuesday morning breakfast at the Hy-Iu-Hee-Hee.  He quickly made a new group of friends, and I discovered he knew more people in my Rotary Club than I did.

When he expressed an interest in mentoring high school students, the phone rang immediately, and he became a mentor in the Peninsula High School AVID program. The students there taught him more than he taught them, and he was devastated when his health necessitated that he step away from the program.

Most of us know we are fortunate to live in such a beautiful place. Perhaps because Gig Harbor is so beautiful we sometimes lose sight of the fact that a large part of what makes this area so special is the people. If you were born here or just recently moved, it doesn’t matter. This community provides an opportunity to be involved, and to be the person you want to be. Unlike other small communities, it doesn’t matter who you know or how much money you have; what matters is what you do for this community.

I want to thank everyone in the Gig Harbor “village” for making the last few years of Corbett’s life so special. His relationships were stronger and more meaningful because of the caring and involved people here, and for that I am truly grateful. 

At his request, there will not be a service. However, Corbett would be honored if you recognize the special things people here do for others in Gig Harbor.

February 21, 2017

Our United States Senators and Congressman wrote a letter to the Postmaster General in support of keeping the retail portion of the Post Office Downtown.  Read their letter here.

February 7, 2017

Mayor Guernsey sent a letter to the USPS confirming the City's position to keep the relocation of the Gig Harbor Post Office near downtown.

January 25, 2017

The United States Postal Service issued a response to their November 30, 2016 Public Hearing regarding the relocation of the Gig Harbor Post Office:  USPS Letter

We will continue to keep you informed.


January 9, 2017

Today, I wrote to the USPS Postmaster General, emphasizing the importance of keeping the retail portion of the Gig Harbor Post Office in the downtown area.  Below is the letter.

Dear Postmaster General Brennan:

We are writing to you regarding the proposed move of the Post Office in downtown Gig Harbor, WA. Our primary concern is that the retail aspects of the Post Office may be displaced from the scenic and historic downtown area, which would remove the communal and economic benefits the current location provides to the City and the region.

The City of Gig Harbor is a relatively small community (9,065 population), but due in part to its historic maritime heritage and scenic position on the Puget Sound, it is has a vibrant downtown corridor and is a major tourist destination. The Post Office located in this important downtown area has been a long-time community gathering place and is a significant economic driver that compliments other retail businesses.

On November 30, 2016 the United States Postal Service (USPS) held a public meeting in Gig Harbor to discuss possible new locations for the Post Office. The City participated in the meeting along with other community leaders. In that meeting, USPS indicated a preference to keep both your carrier annex and your retail storefront together, but also remained open to options that would separate those two components. There does not appear to be any viable sites downtown that would keep both functions together, given parking and other requirements. Therefore, we are concerned that you may move the retail element outside of downtown.

Our constituents strongly prefer that a retail Post Office remains downtown even if that means placing a carrier annex somewhere else. This would maintain the significant community and economic elements the Post Office currently provides the City and the region.

We appreciate your consideration of this matter. If you have any questions or concerns please contact us.

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January 3, 2017

Happy New Year!  We recently heard from the United States Postal Service regarding the potential relocation of our downtown post office.   Greg Shelton, USPS Real Estate Specialist sent this update, " I have sent the recommendation to the VP of Facilities to move the project forward.  We had looked at several sites and some wouldn’t work for a variety of reason.  We are currently investigating two to see if we can make them work.  One is very near the city offices and the other is further north.  I am waiting on more details and will let you know once we get further down the road." 

The City will continue to keep citizens informed and will share more information as it becomes available.

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December 12, 2016                           

We understand the frustration of many of our citizens that there is no nativity display next to the City's lighted tree in Donkey Creek Park. We would like to clear up a few misunderstandings and let you know our plans.

First, this display has always been put up by a private citizen; it was never a City-sponsored display. Also, the City has never issued a permit for this display. In fact, there is no permitting process for such a display. We have in the past received complaints about this display and this year we received a threatening letter from an out-of-state organization about the City allowing this nativity display in a public park. Our lawyers researched this organization and found that they regularly sue small cities across the country in such circumstances. Our lawyers advised that if we allow such displays we should first adopt a permit system so that all would be aware of what is permitted and that all kinds of displays would be allowed. We plan to have a public meeting after the first of the year and take public input about such displays and to consider a permitting process.


Some have suggested we not be concerned about a possible lawsuit against the City. We agree this is an important issue and we do not like the prospect of having an organization from out of state telling us what we can or cannot do. However, we would likely be spending thousands of taxpayer dollars defending a lawsuit about a private display. We chose not to expose our citizens to this kind of liability and therefore decided that for this year, we would not allow such a display in our public park. Citizens are of course free to put such displays on private property. In fact, we have encouraged the citizen who puts up this display to put it on private property this year.

Thank you, Mayor Guernsey


December 1, 2016

Our hearts reach out to the family of the fallen Tacoma Police Officer killed last night. Chief of Police Kelly Busey says it best in his message below.

Clearly, the loss of the Tacoma Police Department Officer has affected us all within the Gig Harbor Police Department.   I can only imagine the scale of this impact within the City of Tacoma.  This officer was doing what all of the 750,000+ officers in the country have done and will continue to do in the future.

I have reminded our own police officers that what they do is the right thing and a good thing.  We talk about the “thin blue line,” but it couldn’t be more relevant in today’s world.  What they do is important to keep our society as civilized as it can be.


We know that the vast majority of people are behind us.  We talk about that internally.  Even between incidents like last night’s, we receive an outpouring of support from our community.  We value that.


Not surprisingly, several of our officers and office staff have come forward to offer assistance to the Tacoma Police Department in any way possible.  I have no doubt that if asked, any of our personnel would do anything they could to provide assistance.  In fact, many are pulling at the leash in an attempt to help.  This characteristic is at the root of what we do as public servants and I would actually be surprised if this sentiment was not present within our department today.

To that end, I have already reached out to Tacoma PD Chief Ramsdell to extend that offer of support in the coming weeks.  This will certainly include representation from some of our Honor Guard members, but may also include logistics for a memorial service, administrative support, and patrol coverage at any time – including during the memorial.  It will be several days before the details of any future involvement are identified.

Despite the loss in our local law enforcement community, I know that our officers will keep doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons.

Please keep the Tacoma Police Department family in your thoughts.


Kelly Busey

Chief of Police

Gig Harbor Police Department

October 3rd meeting of Council and Planning Commission

Below is a response by our Planning Director, Jennifer Kester, to recent social media posts regarding what is on the agenda for the October 3rd meeting:

I realize that there are posts on social media that state that at this meeting the City Council will be considering zoning changes for downtown, including changing single-family zoning to multi-family zoning.

Unfortunately, those posts are not true.  The Council will not be considering zoning changes for downtown at that meeting.  In addition, there have been no proposals to change single-family zoning to multi-family zoning.

At the October 3rd meeting, the Council will be briefed on the activities of the Planning Commission as it relates to a project called “Harbor Zones and Uses.”  You can find the agenda and materials for that meeting here: http://www.cityofgigharbor.net/event/city-council-work-study-session-with-planning-commission/

During that project, the Commission sought public comment on a variety of potential zoning amendments to downtown.  Those did not include the single-family to multi-family zoning.  That public comment period ended in May. 

In June, the Planning Commission considered the comments. Based on the overwhelming desire by the public to see improvements to traffic and infrastructure, recommended the Council not move forward with any amendments until infrastructure needs are analyzed.

In August, the Planning and Building Committee of the Council was presented with the Commission’s recommendation and the Committee agreed.  At the October 3rd meeting, the whole Council will be briefed on this decision.

In regards to the potential proposal by a private property owner to develop the “Haub” property, no applications have been submitted.  Since no applications have been submitted, no hearings/comment periods have occurred at City Council meetings.  My department will provide public notice of any scheduled meetings if the application is submitted and once the meeting is scheduled.  If you are interested in being added to the Downtown email notification list, please email andrewsc@cityofgigharbor.net

Jennifer Kester, Planning Director

August 24, 2016

A recent letter to the editor at the Tacoma News Tribune proposed that a new park in Gig Harbor North be named after Jamie Fay, the man who was killed by a falling tree last year on Borgen Blvd.

I want the citizens of Gig Harbor to know that during the Gig Harbor North park naming discussion at the July 6 Parks Commission meeting, the idea of naming the park after Jamie Fay was discussed.  Subsequently, at the August 3 Parks Commission meeting, one of the Parks Commission members noted they had made contact with the Fay family about the idea.  The Fay family was flattered, but not supportive, of the suggestion of naming the park after Jamie Fay. 

While it is a good idea, we intend to honor the wishes of the Fay family.            


June 7, 2016

I want to thank Don Bremmer for last week’s letter suggesting that the public be allowed to comment before the Council takes action on an item that is on the agenda.  I agree, and that is why we have “public hearings” before we pass ordinances.  
 
I also want to take a moment to clarify the terms “public hearing” and “public comment.”  When an ordinance is introduced (first reading) on the Council’s agenda there is, generally speaking, a “public hearing.”  At this hearing anyone who wishes to speak has the opportunity to do so.  
 
Separate from these public  hearings is a section on the agenda titled “public comment.”  Anyone who wishes to speak about something having to do with the City has a few minutes to do so.  Often people use the public comment section to speak about something that is not on the agenda, but is of concern to them.  If you want to speak about something that is on the agenda, we have a signup sheet for public comments on agenda items so that we can know to ask for your comments before the Council takes action.  
 
Regardless of whether you attend a Council meeting and speak at a public hearing or during public comment, we thank you for taking the time to come to a Council meeting.
 

April 26, 2016

As many are aware, the City has been exploring the possibility of applying for a grant from the federal government, known as the B.I.G. grant to enhance boating facilities for residents and visiting boaters in Gig Harbor.  To assist in this effort the City Council approved the hiring of a team of consultants to prepare the grant application.   This grant would have helped to fund enhancements to existing City docks and likely would have helped to support downtown waterfront businesses. 

Based upon citizen feedback, concerns raised by the Council and other organizations within the community we have decided not to pursue the B.I.G grant for these boating improvements.  I have directed our staff to cease  their efforts to prepare an application for this grant.

I appreciate our amazing staff, the many volunteers, the waterfront businesses and the Port of Tacoma who worked on this project and expressed a willingness to partner financially with the City in this project.  I also appreciate the citizens who stepped forward to share their opinions, both pro and con regarding this effort.    I look forward to continue to work with the community to explore balanced ways to preserve the character of our beautiful harbor while also supporting our waterfront businesses and enhancing our boating facilities.

Mayor Jill Guernsey



April 25, 2016

The B.I.G. Grant for Recreational Moorage

Do you like to go boating?  Many people in our area do, as you can tell by the number of sailboats, powerboats, kayaks, and stand-up paddle boards in the harbor on a sunny day.

Today's rumor involves the City’s B.I.G. (Boating infrastructures grant) application that would, if approved, allow the City to add additional moorage for visiting boaters at Jerisich Dock and the Maritime Pier.  Not a lot of moorage, but enough to encourage visitors who come to Gig Harbor to come by boat rather than by car.

At Jerisich Dock, we plan to extend the dock a short distance, approximately 35 feet.  During the boating season we would also place 2 temporary docks as we currently do for the weekend of the Maritime Parade.

At the Maritime Pier we would add a floating dock extending off the existing float at the bottom of the ramp about 60 feet, with a 90 foot “T” on the end.

There will be no minimum boat size as some claim, and visitors may not stay more than 3 days.
Visitors staying overnight will pay for moorage as they do now at Jerisich Dock.

Why are we proposing this?  Visitors to Gig Harbor are a fact of life and they help our local economy.  We have heard for years that we need additional moorage space for visitors and we have seen that Jerisich Dock fills up quickly during boating season. This will help fill that need and will help downtown stores and restaurants.

Will it ruin the view?  No; some even say that they like to look at boats in the water.  Will it increase traffic downtown?  Foot traffic maybe, but walking is healthy.  Will it affect Skansie Park?  It is likely that more people will visit the Visitor Information Center at the Park, and there might be a few more people at the Thursday Waterfront Farmers Market, but other than that there should be no impact. 

Why are some people saying this will be bad for downtown?  At times change is difficult.  We love our waterfront and are afraid of anything that might change downtown.  However, if we want our downtown to continue to have local stores and local restaurants then we must help them, and if we can do that without adding to the number of vehicles downtown, we should do so.

Lastly, you may have noticed that over the last few years the City has added a few docks to our waterfront. The Maritime Pier was built to help our commercial fishing fleet load and unload on a high fixed dock. It has been wonderful to watch the activity that they bring to our waterfront. At Eddon we have a public dock and recently a marine rail system was added for the boat shop.  Kayakers also use the beach at Eddon Park to access the water.  These additions have fit in well downtown and so will additional recreational moorage. 
Here is a link to more information:  http://www.cityofgigharbor.net/parks/


March 22, 2016

In response to recent misplaced allegations of secret meetings, here is the truth.

As some of you may recall, in 2013 the Council adopted a Vision for Downtown Gig Harbor.  In 2014 that Vision was incorporated into the City’s Comprehensive Plan.  The next step in the process is to amend the City’s development regulations to reflect the Vision and Comprehensive Plan (aka Harbor Element implementation). 

Accordingly, the Planning Commission began discussing the scope of this project in 2015.  On May 4, 2015, the City Planning and Building Committee (which is comprised of 3 Council members) discussed ways to involve the community.  They directed staff to brainstorm public outreach options for the Harbor Element implementation.  You may listen to the recording of the Committee’s discussion online at http://media.avcaptureall.com/session.html?sessionid=29bb4436-e16c-407b-8885-d4dd289f10e6.

The Planning Commission (comprised of 7 citizen members) discussed the idea of a subcommittee for the Harbor Element in June and July 2015 as part of their regular meetings and formed a subcommittee of 3 of the Planning Commission members on August 6th, 2015.  The purpose of the subcommittee was to listen and hear from the community in small groups (2-5 people at a time) regarding the current and desired uses and zoning districts in The Harbor. Anyone was welcome and invited, however the groups were kept small to ensure everyone had a fair share of time to speak.

In general, the subcommittee asked the following questions of the participants:
• What is currently missing in The Harbor?
• What does The Harbor currently have too much of?
• Are there uses in The Harbor that do not belong or are out of character?

Once the Subcommittee had the opportunity to meet with the interested parties, they compiled what they heard and will provide a summary to the Planning Commission on April 7th, 2016. The Planning Commission will then decide the necessary steps to begin code amendments related to uses and zoning districts.  Proposed amendments to the City’s regulations will be drafted and public hearings will be held.  The final recommendations of the Planning Commission will come before the City Council and more public hearings will be held.  Ultimately the Council may adopt amendments to the City’s regulations.

Back to the Planning Commission subcommittee.  The interviews of two to five people at a time are what some are claiming were “secret meetings.”  One of the people claiming there were secret meetings participated in one of these subcommittee interviews in January, 2016.  So did anyone else who indicated they wished to be interviewed.  Planning Department staff also discussed the desire to interview people at the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance and asked people to participate and let the subcommittee know their thoughts and concerns. 

Each time the Planning Commission met, the subcommittee gave verbal updates.   

The bottom line is that there were no “secret meetings” as some continue to claim.  Insistence on calling these interviews “secret meetings” is clearly intended to stir up controversy and not to serve the citizens of Gig Harbor.   Ask yourself this question:   How can a set of interviews which are announced in public meetings, discussed in public meetings, reported in public meetings, are not attended by council and to which the public are invited to attend,  possibly be termed “secret meetings” of the city? 

The Planning Commission subcommittee interviewed several people over several months in order to get started.  There was no need to record these interviews, just as there is no need to record a conversation between you and me, or between you and 2 members of the Planning Commission or Council. 


March 14, 2016

Growing Pains Since the 70’s


There's been talk around town lately about the fact that the population of Gig Harbor is growing.  Our current population is 8,555 and is expected to be at 10,000 by 2020.  Some are upset by this increase and want the City to do something to reverse this trend. 

Gig Harbor’s increased growth is not new, nor does it signal the end to the character of the city we love.  In the 1970’s, residents were in an uproar when Mayor Jake Bujacich supported putting in sewer lines and a waste water treatment plant downtown.  Despite the environmental concerns caused by failing septic systems, some objected because it would encourage more people to move here.  It will increase traffic, they said, and more people living here will destroy the character and quaintness of Gig Harbor.

Were they right?  In some ways, yes; the population has increased and there is more traffic.  Was the City therefore wrong to put in sewers?  Should city leaders have ignored the fact that raw sewage was polluting our harbor in order to keep Gig Harbor from growing?  Fortunately, the City put in the sewage treatment plant and prevented sewage from destroying water quality in the harbor. 

In the 1980’s, citizens were again concerned because the City sought to annex the west side commercial area where the new Safeway, Uptown, and Main & Vine are located.  Mayoral candidate Gretchen Wilbert focused her campaign on the need to annex not only the commercial area, but the adjacent residential area as well.  By doing so, the City could ensure that the size of the commercial area would be managed so that it did not grow like Silverdale.  Once the west side was annexed in 1997, the City's population grew to 4,598. 

Gig Harbor wasn't the only place in Washington experiencing population growth.  As a result of growth throughout the state, the Legislature adopted the Growth Management Act in 1990 which required counties, cities, and towns to address growth by adopting comprehensive plans and provide for growth inside cities. Cities were further required to provide for residential development at an urban density, typically 4 dwelling units per acre.

Here are some examples of existing developments and their density.  Subdivisions approved prior to the Growth Management Act include Cedarcrest off of Skansie at 2.9 dwelling units per acre, and Northridge off of Peacock Hill at 2.2 dwelling units per acre. My neighborhood, just downhill from City Hall, would not be approved under the Growth Management Act as the lots are too big. 

After the Growth Management Act became law, Gig Harbor adopted a comprehensive plan in 1994.  The City's plan provided for urban residential density.  Bellesara at the corner of Hunt and Skansie and Jasmine Court at the end of Stanich are both 4 dwelling units per acre.

But what about traffic congestion?  Who pays for the additional traffic caused by new development?  When the City adopted its comprehensive plan in 1994, it required that property owners pay for impacts caused by increased traffic from their development.  This applies to new residential as well as commercial development.  I will leave the issue of traffic to another time so that I can return to the topic of growth in general. 

Will Gig Harbor continue to grow?  Some say that the city cannot handle more growth as it will increase traffic and ruin the quaintness of Gig Harbor.   What can we do to maintain the small town character that we treasure so very much? 

I have a few suggestions.  First of all, think about what makes Gig Harbor so special.  Is it just our beautiful harbor and breathtaking view of Mt. Rainier?  Although the natural beauty of Gig Harbor is everywhere we look, for me Gig Harbor is a special place where people live here because they want to, not because they have to.  It's special because neighbors talk with each other and help each other. It's special because people smile and say hi when they are out and about.  People here value the community and work tirelessly to keep it special.

Second, whether we like it or not, Gig Harbor’s population, and the population throughout the state, is going to increase.  People may live in smaller houses on smaller lots, or perhaps in condominiums or apartments. They might even live where they can walk to shops and restaurants instead of driving.  

Third, we must continue to value Gig Harbor as a community.  Stay involved, volunteer, walk the waterfront and be friendly.  Let the City know what you like about Gig Harbor. Smile a lot.  Accept that things do change whether we want them to or not.  And be glad that we have sewers.

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February 16, 2016

I was fortunate to learn a valuable lesson in middle school:  Check your facts and go to the source. 

A recent example comes to mind:  Cottage Housing.  When I opened my email today I had several email messages from people who had read that Gig Harbor was going to allow “high density housing” and describing the concept of cottage housing as a “zoning virus.”  Understandably, people were upset and concerned that Gig Harbor was going to become Seattle. 

Here are the facts about Cottage Housing.  It is based on the idea of “better, not bigger.”  Some describe it as a group of small homes that face and relate to one another around a landscaped common area.  Cottage housing often appeals to empty-nest families looking for smaller houses and less yard, where floor space is traded for higher quality amenities.  Such houses are often more energy efficient than larger homes.  Another benefit of this type of housing is that it helps foster a sense of community, which is something we value here in Gig Harbor.

The Planning Commission is having a hearing on Small Residential Dwellings (aka Cottage Housing) this week, Thursday, February 18th, at 6:00 pm at City Hall.  I encourage you to attend and learn more about it.

Now back to the lesson I learned years ago.  By fact checking and asking questions from the sources, concerns can be addressed. 

I encouraged the people who wrote to me to learn what the Planning Commission is considering by looking on the City’s Website:  www.cityofgigharbor.net/small-residential-dwellings/.  I encourage you to do the same; look at the details of Cottage Housing on the website and decide for yourself.  Whether you end up liking the Cottage Housing concept or not, at least you will know that there is more to it than what you may have heard.

Thank you,
Mayor Jill Guernsey




Mayor Guernsey's Biography:

Education -- Bachelor's Degree, University of California, Irvine; J.D., Loyola University School of Law, Los Angeles.

Occupation -- Retired after 31 years as Attorney, Civil Division, Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

Professional Qualifications -- Member, Board of Trustees, American Inns of Court; Past-President of the Hon. Robert J. Bryan American Inns of Court, Ch. XXV; Past-Chair of the Environmental and Land Use Section of the Washington State Bar Association.

Personal Information -- My husband, Corbett Platt, and I have two grown sons, Colin and Andy, who attended (and graduated from) Discovery Elementary School, Goodman Middle School, and Gig Harbor High School.  We have lived in our home overlooking the Harbor for 30 years.

Community Involvement -- Gig Harbor City Council - 2012 to 2013, Gig Harbor Planning Commission - 2005 to 2011; Peninsula School District Board of Directors - 2000 to 2010, Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance Board of Directors - 2013, Tacoma-Pierce County Economic Development Board of Directors - 2013.