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No new fossil-fuel businesses allowed at port, but existing heavy industry still can expand

A marine layer descends over Commencement Bay and the mouth of the Puyallup River earlier this year. The Tacoma City Council approved interim development rules at the Port of Tacoma on Tuesday, Nov. 22, which will prohibit new fossil-fuel businesses from located there but will allow existing heavy industries to expand.
A marine layer descends over Commencement Bay and the mouth of the Puyallup River earlier this year. The Tacoma City Council approved interim development rules at the Port of Tacoma on Tuesday, Nov. 22, which will prohibit new fossil-fuel businesses from located there but will allow existing heavy industries to expand. alynn@thenewstribune.com

The Tacoma City Council passed temporary land-use regulations for the Tideflats on Tuesday night that will prohibit new fossil-fuel and other heavy industries from opening shop there but won’t limit the expansion of existing businesses.

After a four-hour meeting in which 60 people signed up to speak, the council approved the package of land-use rules unanimously, with Councilman Marty Campbell absent. The regulations will have to be reviewed in one year.

Councilman Ryan Mello had proposed an amendment that would have required a conditional use-permit process, seen as a more discretionary, locally-focused permitting process, for any existing heavy industrial businesses that want to expand their operations, but that amendment was voted down.

Last week, the council voted to remove from the regulations a restriction on existing businesses that would have prevented them from expanding by more than 10 percent.

That move was decried by environmental advocates, but several council members at Tuesday’s meeting reminded them that overall, the interim rules are a win for the environment and a step toward a greener future — something that won’t happen overnight, given American dependence on fossil fuels.

A few council members brought up the fact that the vast majority of people probably drove cars to the meeting.

“We know climate change is real. We see it every day. We saw it this summer,” said Mayor Marilyn Strickland just before the council’s vote. “But we have to use common sense and think about the best possible way to transition away from fossil fuels, especially because we’re addicted to it.”

Council members said the real work of defining the future of the Tideflats will begin with the subarea-plan process, a comprehensive and detailed planning process to determine what types of land use should be allowed there. The interim regulations were meant to be a stop-gap while that process is underway, since the subarea plan could take three years to develop.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud

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