The Tacoma Tideflats is on its way to getting a subarea plan — an in-depth planning road map that will take years to develop and include input from the city, the Port of Tacoma and the Puyallup Tribe of Indians.
The Tacoma City Council voted Tuesday night to consolidate several planning requests into the subarea plan. They included a proposal to create a buffer zone between heavy industry east of the Hylebos Waterway and Northeast Tacoma homes, and a request by Councilman Ryan Mello to review heavy industrial uses at the port.
Tired of the noise and smells of Tideflats industries and concerned about fossil fuels, environmentalists and Northeast Tacoma residents have been hoping for a subarea plan for some time.
But because it’s a lengthy process, many who crammed into council chambers Tuesday for a hearing said they were concerned that substituting other planning efforts for a subarea plan would create a huge delay in regulating the heaviest, most unpopular industrial uses at the port.
A compromise was struck when the council added an amendment that directs the city’s planning commission to immediately look at creating interim rules for land use in the Tideflats while the subarea plan is underway.
“I’ve always been clear that dealing with the most dirty and polluting things first will create a better subarea plan process for all. It’ll take a huge distraction from the community away so we can focus on what the subarea plan really needs to be about,” Mello said.
He added that he supported the amendment because it addresses the urgency of looking at the heaviest uses.
The council also voted to use $500,000 from the general fund to pay for its share of the process. The other $500,000 of the roughly $1 million planning effort is expected to come from the Port of Tacoma. That agency’s commission will vote on the funding at its meeting Thursday (May 10).
Mayor Marilyn Strickland credited Northeast Tacoma residents and Mello for spurring the will for a subarea plan when, as early as last summer, there was little appetite for it.
“Last July when we were trying to start some conversations with the Port and other entities about doing a subarea plan, there was reluctance to do it,” Strickland said. “I don’t blame the Northeast neighbors for starting something on your own, because in many ways, you were hoping for a subarea plan and it wasn’t materializing. So you had to take action.”