The city and the Port of Tacoma will begin negotiations on a yearslong planning process to determine future uses of the Tideflats.
The move, announced Thursday by Mayor Marilyn Strickland and Councilman Robert Thoms, is aimed at producing a subarea plan that will guide land-use decisions.
Planning and Development Services manager Brian Boudet projected that developing the plan will take at least two years and cost around $1 million.
At least one councilman thinks decisions about what kind of industries are allowed at the port need to happen sooner.
Tacoma has embarked on subarea plans for the Dome District, the Hilltop and the Tacoma Mall area, and they serve as detailed road maps for future land use. Several community groups have expressed hope that one would be done for the Tideflats.
Anguish over what activity is and should be allowed on the Tideflats has reached a climax in the past few years, spurred by controversy over a methanol plant that was proposed to be built there (later nixed) and sustained by Puget Sound Energy’s planned liquefied natural gas plant, which has been opposed by environmentalists and Northeast Tacoma residents, among others.
From a planning perspective we recognize this is not going to be an easy or a short conversation, but we’re certainly excited there seems to be a path forward to having that, because the lack of a conversation has left everyone in a difficult position for quite a while.
Brian Boudet, city of Tacoma Planning and Development Services manager
“This kind of a re-evaluation of exactly what the vision is for the port and how that integrates with this growing community long term, there is a conversation to be had there to make sure it’s done well, that we support the port and the economic engine it is, as well as supporting the growing surrounding residential communities,” Boudet said.
“From a planning perspective we recognize this is not going to be an easy or a short conversation, but we’re certainly excited there seems to be a path forward to having that, because the lack of a conversation has left everyone in a difficult position for quite a while.”
Strickland and Port of Tacoma Commission President Dick Marzano have agreed to begin work on an interlocal agreement, which will outline roles for the subarea plan and will need to be approved by the council and the Port Commission. Those conversations have not begun in detail yet, Boudet said, and the “who’s going to pay for what and how much?” hasn’t been hammered out.
According to a Thursday news release from the city, the subarea plan will “offer a streamlined, comprehensive approach for exploring opportunities and addressing concerns raised by community members, businesses, the City Council and the Port of Tacoma about activities and future development in the Tacoma Tideflats.” Along the way, there will be plenty of opportunities for public input, Boudet said.
This community cannot wait five years to do some basic reforms to ensure safety and prevention of pollution in our Tideflats.
Councilman Ryan Mello
But Councilman Ryan Mello said he worries about the timeline, because the subarea plan process can take three to five years, he said.
At last week’s council study session, Mello proposed directing the Planning Commission to do a more limited review, focusing on specific land uses that might be objectionable. Such uses might have made sense for that area several decades ago, but no longer are what the community wants to see there, especially with increased residential density in Northeast Tacoma, he said.
“The process I’m proposing are to do reforms to take the most intensive, highly polluting uses off the table, like coal export facilities, like oil export facilities, like smelters, these sorts of uses that are so polluting and outside of the values of this community and an urban port that we should just take them off the table,” he said Thursday.
Mello said while he thinks the subarea plan process is useful, Tacoma “cannot wait five years to do some basic reforms to ensure safety and the prevention of pollution in our Tideflats.”
He added his proposal wouldn’t change the Tideflats “into a park, cafe or condos. I am all about enhancing these high-paid manufacturing and industrial jobs,” he said.