The City of Lakewood and the Nisqually Indian Tribe have agreed to a deal that will let the tribe build a convenience store and gas station in the city and obligate the tribe to pay nearly $19,000 a year for public services.
The 20-year agreement ensures the city will not lose tax revenue even though the property is off-reservation trust land that is not subject to property and sales taxes.
It also makes clear the tribe will not build a casino on the property it acquired on the 11700 block of Pacific Highway.
The City Council approved the agreement with a unanimous vote Monday night. Council members asked some brief questions, but there was no discussion prior to the vote.
The tribal council signed off on it Sept. 18.
Richard Rinehart, chief executive of the Nisqually Board of Economic Development, said after the vote that he was satisfied with the agreement and that construction would start as soon as a building permit is secured. Community Development Director David Bugher said the city would issue permits today.
Rinehart said the tribe might be interested in acquiring more property in Lakewood in the future.
In May, the tribe paid more than $900,000 for a 0.71-acre parcel of land that holds an abandoned gas station in Lakewood. The tribe intends to open a new gas station and convenience store as part of its economic expansion effort.
The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs has preliminarily approved a “land-to-trust” acquisition of the parcel. This means the federal government would own the land but give control of the property to the tribe.
According to a letter from the BIA, the 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 gasoline and cigarette sales. The tribe also plans to make $1 million to $2 million in improvements on the property.
The tribe committed to pay the city $18,000 annually for police and fire protection and $754 a year for stormwater collection. The city will sign an agreement with West Pierce Fire and Rescue, which provides emergency services to Lakewood, to collect the money from the tribe and pass it on to the fire agency.
Without the agreement, the tribe wasn’t required to pay taxes, but the city also wasn’t on the hook to provide public services.
The agreement states the tribe “will not be developing this or any property as a gambling establishment in the City as such is contrary to the City’s long term vision for South Tacoma Way.”
The agreement does have teeth. The tribe waived its immunity to sue or be sued – an immunity it holds as a sovereign government. As a result, either the city or the tribe could sue the other party over a violation of the agreement.
In recent years, the tribe has made inroads to expand its economy beyond its gambling establishment, the Red Wind Casino, outside Yelm. The tribe announced last week that it joined with a Bellevue developer to buy more than 200 acres in Lacey and restart efforts to develop it into a mixed-use center. It also has started its own diving business and construction company.christian.hill@ thenewstribune.com 253-274-7390