Tacoma City Council extends discussion on big-box moratorium
Public comment at Tuesday’s Tacoma City Council meeting was overwhelmingly in favor of extending a moratorium on new big-box stores, with some suggesting the ban should be permanent.
The hearing was held so that residents could chime in on the Planning Commission’s recommendations to extend the six-month moratorium to a year and to reduce the scope to a few areas.
After listening to two dozen speakers, Councilman Joe Lonergan made a motion to amend the moratorium to permit boundary line adjustments, a move that would likely allow a proposed Walmart store in Central Tacoma to proceed.
Walmart’s application to build a 150,000-square-foot store on the Tacoma Elks property at Union Avenue and South 23rd Street was put on hold last month after city staff members determined it included a design too big for the parcel. As submitted, the project would require a boundary-line adjustment, city officials have said.
The City Council voted 5-4 Tuesday to table its discussion of the moratorium until next week so council members can do further research and suggest other amendments.
Most of the speakers during public comment supported the moratorium and expressed concern about new big-box stores hurting small businesses and negatively impacting neighborhoods.
“If we are to build a resilient community that will not just survive but thrive
we need to think outside the big box and think inside the circle of community,” resident Patricia Menzies said.
Moratorium supporters also rejected the Planning Commission’s suggestion to shrink the big-box ban to eight mixed-use centers, which include areas around the Tacoma Mall, Westgate, Tacoma Community College, Lower Portland Avenue, East 72nd Street and Portland, South 34th Street and Pacific, South 72nd and Pacific, and Allenmore Hospital.
“You’re a city council, you’re not a neighborhood council,” Sallie Shawl told them.
Only two people spoke against the moratorium: a representative from the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber and a representative from the Masonry Institute of Washington.
The mason pointed out that a moratorium on development takes jobs away from those who need them. David Schroedel of the Chamber said the moratorium should remain at six months and should target only the biggest stores.
The moratorium now bars new retail stores larger than 65,000 square feet. Schroedel suggested only new projects bigger than 100,000 square feet should be included in the ban.
The council will take up the issue again Tuesday.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653