Gig Harbor Planning Director Ray Gilmore has joined with a local developer in denying accusations that the proposed 149-lot Harbor West housing project violates city ordinances.

Gilmore and Harbor West developer Don Huber say they have been inaccurately portrayed as ignoring the City’s comprehensive plan and environmental requirements for wetlands and a creek running through the 42-acre site. The allegations have come from members of the Peninsula Neighborhood Association (PNA).

The most vociferous has been retired businessman Nicholas Natiello, who is far less critical of Huber than of Gilmore. He contends that Gilmore approved the construction of 10 homes per acre in violation of City rules; allowed Huber’s construction company to fill a portion of Wollochet Creek, destroying salmon habitat; approved rezoning of the property to clear the way for development; failed to require a 25-foot wooded green belt around the perimeter; and allowed Wollochet Creek to be diverted into a man-made, three-acre pond.

Gilmore calls the accusations nonsense.

“He mentions a lot of approvals I made,” says Gilmore, “but the truth is I don’t approve anything. I can’t approve a rezone or a subdivision. I don’t approve preliminary plats. We make recommendations to the hearings examiner, who makes the eventual decision.”

Gilmore says he’s not clear where Natiello came up with his figure of 10 home per acre. Huber’s plans call for no more than 3.5 dwellings per acre, he says.

It’s a matter of semantics, Natiello says.

“They have 10 homes on every buildable acre, he says. “They can’t build on the wetlands and they can’t build in the stream. They can only build on what’s left—and that leaves 10 homes per acre.”

Huber flatly denies that his company dumped sandy fill into the creek or installed a culvert on the property.

“I’ve been a developer for 35 years,” Huber says. “I’m not dumb enough to try doing this without the proper permits.”

He points out that when the Army Corps of Engineers subsequently ordered him to remove the culvert, he did so at his own expense. He concedes, however, that the sandy fill continues to block the creek.

“The pond Mr. Natiello refers to is, I believe, an issue with Pierce County,” says Gilmore. “It’s not on the Huber’s property—it’s on property to the north of it. Somebody else altered the flow of Wollochet Creek.”

He says he hopes to begin developing the Harbor West acreage by June. The plat will have a 100-foot-wide buffer around the wetlands, twice as much as the City requires, he says. Huber also has stated publicly that the development will adhere to strict environmental standards.

“This plan meets the intent of the Gig Harbor Comprehensive Plan to a T,” he says. “It could be a model for their comprehensive plan.”

By Richard Sypher, Business Examiner staff