Chuck West is frustrated with his efforts to get much-needed services and road safety improvements funded and implemented on the Key Peninsula. Many residents on the KP know West as the division chief for Pierce County Fire District 16 and, recently, as the 2008 recipient of the Citizen of the Year award. Now, West wears a new hat as he lobbies for more local representation and recognition on the Key Peninsula by the Pierce County Council and the Washington State Legislature in order to bring new services and keep existing basic services and their funding local to the Key Peninsula area.

An aerial view of Vaughn Bay. The entire Key Pen would become part of a township under a proposal that is being discussed. Photo courtesy of Mike Baum, Vantage Point Photography

After West realized the Key Peninsula was generating enough tax revenue to make the needed safety improvements to KP highways and congested intersections, he addressed county council members and tried to influence them to allocate the necessary funding. West said, “[I] got very little attention from the county regarding my safety concerns and found that council members were reluctant to deliver.”

Once an area has been designated as an urban growth area, it can incorporate into a city. He explained that, “because the Key Peninsula is not a designated urban growth area under the Washington State Growth Management Act, the Pierce County Council can allocate funds generated from the KP’s assessed tax evaluation of $2 billion to other incorporated areas of Pierce County that meet urban growth area criteria.”

“The Key Peninsula does not have a voice at the county level or much local control over the tax revenue it generates,” West said. “I would like to see more Key Peninsula Community Council members attending Pierce County Council meetings to promote local funding and provide local representation.”

He noted the county council is ignoring the basic safety needs of Key Peninsula residents while approving a new $6.5 million expansion of the Cushman Trail in Gig Harbor and allocating funding for a new golf course at University Place. “I can’t even get them to fund a crosswalk at Key Center,” he said, and asserts that the main intersection at Key Center needs a traffic signal too.

A view of Key Center, one of KP’s commercial rural centers. The entire Key Pen would become part of a township under a proposal that is being discussed. Archive photo by Mindi LaRose

Realizing that most residents on the Key Peninsula would like to keep the KP rural and don’t want to incorporate as a city or become part of an UGA, West started to research the possibility of creating a new type of entity based on the township models found on the East Coast. “We are in the early stages of researching the feasibility of a township model that would allow KP residents to have more local control with respect to the allocation of funds on the Key Peninsula in order to get the services they need and deserve and that they are already paying for,” he said.

The Key Peninsula Township would start at Purdy and extend to the end of the Peninsula at Longbranch. West recently approached the Key Peninsula Business Association and the Key Peninsula Community Council with his proposal to keep tax revenue locally; his idea has been well received by both organizations.

“KP business owners and residents would like to see their tax dollars put to use locally in order to fund road improvements and fix dangerous intersections,” he said. In addition, he believes if the tax revenue stays local, it could be used to build new schools, a new library near Lake Kathryn, and to create a park-and-ride that would help ease up congestion at the Purdy Bridge. He would also like to see outreach programs offered on the KP through the new Gig Harbor Boys and Girls Club at the Vaughn Civic Center for local area youth.

West contacted State Rep. Larry Seaquist, who has embraced the idea with enthusiasm. Seaquist said in an interview he would like to see the Key Peninsula “grow modern and stay rural.” “The township would build on the existing master community plan approved by the Pierce County Council last year,” he said, adding that if the citizens want to proceed in that direction, he would be happy to sponsor the legislation necessary at the state level. “It is really all about what the residents of the KP want,” he said.

According to West, a township would create revenue to support services for an area identified as a geographically isolated region or belt. He believes the Key Peninsula meets this criteria and would like the community’s input.

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