The Nisqually Indian Tribe is planning to do business in Lakewood, pending an agreement with the city.
In May, the tribe paid more than $900,000 for a 0.71-acre parcel of land that houses an abandoned gas station in Lakewood. The Nisquallys intend to open a new gas station and convenience store as part of their ongoing economic expansion efforts.
The property is at 11741 Pacific Highway Southwest.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs has preliminarily approved a “land-to-trust” acquisition of the parcel, which grants land ownership to the federal government but gives the tribe control of the property.
However, before the Nisqually Indian Tribe can start pumping gas in Lakewood, it must reach a memorandum of agreement with the City of Lakewood to address concerns from the city. The two parties are having preliminary discussions on the memorandum.
“The Nisquallys are basically going to agree with whatever the City of Lakewood requires, as long as it’s reasonable,” said David Bugher, Lakewood’s assistant city manager for development.
The main concern from the city, according to Bugher, is public safety, specifically who will handle police and fire calls to the property.
Once the land is held in trust, it will be considered part of a sovereign Indian nation and will not be under the jurisdiction of local authorities. Bugher said the tribe hopes to use Lakewood’s public services, but the details will be addressed in the memorandum.
Another concern from Lakewood is the loss of potential tax dollars on the property. Because this land would be held in trust by the federal government, the property and improvements made on the property cannot be taxed.
According to a letter from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Nisqually Tribe estimates annual sales at the gas station and convenience store will be more than $14.5 million, with more than $12 million coming directly from gas and cigarette sales. The tribe also plans to make $1 million to $2 million in improvements on the property.
Bugher said mitigation payments in lieu of taxes will be worked out in the memorandum, and he does not foresee the city losing money on this partnership.
“We’re not getting anything now (from the abandoned site),” Bugher said. “I don’t see it being a net loss for the City of Lakewood at this time.”
During a study session with the Lakewood City Council last month, the tribe, which also operates Red Wind Casino outside Yelm, said it has no intention of using the Lakewood property for gambling and is not in favor of selling liquor at the email@example.com