Gig Harbor Struggling to Find a Legal Way to Increase Minimum Lot Sizes

In the midst of an affordable housing crisis where Pierce County finds itself short of 10,000 units, Gig Harbor City Council is devising ways to decrease density. Gig Harbor notably has the highest average rent as well as the highest average home cost in the entire County. Nevertheless, some Gig Harbor Councilmembers are committed to limiting growth and establishing a de facto moratorium on residential development at any cost.

The latest attempt to make housing unaffordable in Gig Harbor is through increasing minimum lot sizes. Led by Councilmembers Bob Himes and Jeni Woock, Council is seeking to increase their minimum lot sizes and effectively decrease density in R1, R2, and R3 zones. In R1, the City is looking to require a minimum lot area of 7,200 sf per building site and a maximum of 4 units per acre; in R2, a minimum lot area of 7,000 sf per building site and a maximum of 6 units per acre; in R3, a minimum lot area of 5,400 sf per building site and a maximum of 8 units per acre.

This very approach is contrary to the Gig Harbor Comprehensive Plan Policy outlined in 2.3.4c which explicitly states that the City should “Implement a zoning plan which allocates residential development based upon a maximum density as opposed to a minimum lot size in order to encourage optimum design techniques suitable to the land and its natural features.” City Staff as well as Washington State’s Department of Commerce has particularly cited this policy back to Council with regards to minimum lot sizes. The response from Council to these warnings was “bring the lawsuits forward, let’s see what we’ve got.”

At the City Council meeting last Monday, Council finally decided to start heeding city staff’s advice. A last second amendment radically changed the nature of the ordinance, so it is tabled and will be brought back to Council in new form on November 25th.