The bright lights and loud engine noises coming from the two military ships docked along Schuster Parkway have become part of Patti Rietmann’s daily reality.
She and other Stadium Way residents have gotten used to hosing soot from the vessels off their patios and closing their windows to block out the noise.
That’s why they’re worried about a plan to make room for two more ships at the same dock on the Commencement Bay waterfront.
The city is reviewing a proposal from the owner of Sperry Ocean Dock to tear down and rebuild the decaying pier system at 616 North Schuster Parkway and create a berth there for two additional vessels.
The two vessels docked there now, the Cape Island and the Cape Intrepid, are cargo ships in the U.S. Maritime Association’s reserve fleet. Each is about 600 feet long.
The North End Neighborhood Council has yet to discuss the matter at an official meeting, but individual council leaders said they have some misgivings about how adding vessels could affect nearby homes.
“The stuff that belches out of those stacks is incredible,” said Jonathan Phillips, chair of the North End Neighborhood Council. “It sounds like an enormous train going by, except it doesn’t pass by, it just stays right there.”
Neighborhood council secretary Jerry Burch, who lives on Stadium Way, said that the boats’ engines are run at full throttle on a weekly basis for as long as two days at a time.
“The sound travels quite a ways – and that’s with what we’ve got now,” Burch said. “Imagine doubling that.”
Additionally, the security lights surrounding the boats stay on most of the night, spreading artificial light onto nearby properties, he said.
“It’s like being next to a baseball field,” Burch said. “It’s basically 24/7.”
Sperry Ocean Dock owner Gary Coy says he doesn’t have plans yet for what kind of ships would be docked at the new berth or whether or not they will be military vessels.
He said his primary motive in rebuilding the dock system is to clean up the property, which includes creosote-soaked pilings and one dock so dilapidated it can’t be used.
He added that the reserve fleet ships are equipped with their own boilers and power generators, which could be helpful during a major earthquake or other emergency.
“I think the majority of the people on the hill don’t understand the positive side of having those boats there,” Coy said.
The city will hold a public meeting about the dock Nov. 14.
Karie Hayashi, an urban planner with the City of Tacoma’s Building and Land Use division, said concerns about noise, pollution and lighting associated with the building proposal will be considered in the city’s environmental review of the project.
Rietmann said she thinks the land use administrator’s decision whether or not to grant a permit for the dock project will say a great deal about where the Tacoma waterfront is headed.
“Our issue today is should this be an industrial area, or is it a residential neighborhood?” Rietmann said. “Tacoma keeps talking about wanting to beautify neighborhoods, but simultaneously we are talking about adding these gigantic vessels.”
What: A public meeting on the Sperry Ocean Dock proposal
When: 6-8 p.m. Nov. 14
Where: City Council Chambers in the Tacoma Municipal Building, 747 Market St.
Melissa Santos: 253-552-7058