Although the Port of Tacoma is generally referred to as the economic engine that drives Pierce County, we are also concerned about being a good neighbor.
We learned many lessons from the prospective methanol plant on the former Kaiser Aluminum site, including the need to create buffer zones between Tideflats businesses and surrounding neighborhoods.
This is something that needs to be considered as the Coski Sand and Gravel mining site is now moving through the city of Tacoma permitting process.
We don’t object to the gravel mine pit off Marine View Drive, but the project developer is silent on redevelopment objectives after the mining is done. The site is partially zoned for residential development, and its proximity begs for a more strategic vision of how this parcel fits within a broader urban planning concept.
Building more houses so close to the port invites problems. Experience clearly demonstrates that residential expectations can and will impact how our active port waterfront and private businesses compete in a global economy. Homes too close to a working waterfront are subject to noise, air quality and traffic impacts.
We have heard these concerns from the community, especially the Point Woodworth homeowners who worked with us in the methanol plant permitting process before the developer stopped that project. Let us not make the same mistakes as the Coski gravel mine moves forward.
What needs to happen is a strategic vision for how this parcel fits within a broader urban planning concept. The Port of Tacoma needs room to grow, and we need buffers to separate the industrial zones from residential areas.
The area surrounding Marine View Drive from the Cliff House restaurant to the port’s mitigation area, known as the Place of Circling Waters, deserves consideration as a buffer zone.
Good buffers make good neighbors. They provide needed space between the residential tranquility we long for and the noise and disruption that job-creating port businesses make.
The Port of Tacoma and the city of Tacoma need to work together to identify and assign a permanent use for the parcels in this area. That way the residents and the businesses have a shared vision, and most importantly, the certainty of future expectations and plans.
Recently the city and port announced they will explore moving toward a sub-area zone. While this has the potential to give better direction for the long-term planning of the port, let’s not have this parcel and others slip through the cracks and be grandfathered into a bad plan as the sub-area process moves forward.
The greatest lesson from the proposed methanol plant was the proximity of our neighbors and the potential impact to their quality of life. The port and city need to work with all stakeholders to forge a shared vision and avoid another mistake.
Our port is an integral part of the economic vitality of Pierce County and the entire region, providing jobs locally while being the gateway for imports and exports that employ thousands.
This subject is too important not to have a broader conversation about how zoning, buffers and land-use designation impacts our neighbors, the Port of Tacoma and private Tideflats businesses.
Todd Iverson is a member of the Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU Local 23) and the union’s Puget Sound Council. Don Meyer is a member of the elected Port of Tacoma Commission.