Point Ruston: The Plot Thickens…

The plot thickens at Point Ruston... On January 22 the Point Ruston Developers submitted to the City of Tacoma a letter of intent to petition for the annexation of the portion of its property that falls on the Ruston side of the city line. A public hearing on that proposed annexation is on the agenda for tonight's Tacoma City Council meeting. It will be a topic at tonight's Ruston Council meeting as well.

As development has progressed on the Tacoma side of the waterfront development in recent months, trouble has been brewing on the Ruston side. In August of last year the developer threatened to sue the town for $150 million for not holding up its end of the deal on Superfund site cleanup.  The movie theater, originally planned for the Ruston side moved over to the Tacoma side. 

Then last week things really heated up when the Point Ruston developers announced their intent to ask the City of Tacoma to annex the Ruston portion of their property.

Now the other shoe has dropped, as The News Tribune reports that not only do Ruston officials have their own side of the story, but the Environmental Protection Agency has concerns as well.

It's turning into quite the tangled plot. Point Ruston says Ruston Mayor Bruce Hopkins and others haven't shown up for meetings and the town has dragged its feet on the permitting process, forcing them to find other avenues to move forward, including an EPA exception that allows some work to go ahead without local permits when it is related to capping a superfund site.

Mayor Hopkins says Point Ruston developers are the ones missing meetings, and that they have submitted incomplete or unacceptable permit requests, not built to code, and ignored stop work orders.

Then there's the Environmental Protection Agency. According to the TNT, the EPA disagrees with Point Ruston's liberal interpretation of the rule allowing un-permitted work to cap superfund sites. The agency is also expressing concerns over some of the other work going on at the site.

The storyline here seems to be getting murkier by the minute. The TNT article today has a more in depth account of the various grievances and concerns. Mayor Hopkins has posted a letter to the Ruston council expressing his side of the story with other documents for their meeting tonight.

On the Tacoma side, from what we can tell, the Point Ruston developers have been working well with the City - forming an LID to fund infrastructure, and getting a Mixed-Use Center designation, as well as significant financial commitment from Tacoma. These new revelations (new to us, at least) complicate things, however. Even if the developer and the City have had a productive relationship so far, the EPA's concerns can't go unaddressed. And even if Tacoma does want to annex the area, Ruston would have to sign off on it - which seems unlikely.

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My impression is that the developer is looking to annex to Tacoma because they know that, for a price, the politicians in Tacoma will let them get away with anything.

February 3, 2015 at 1:01 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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It’s not easy to develop a site that straddles a city line, particularly when one city is used to larger commercial development (Tacoma) and one city is inexperienced with little staff.  I understand the desire to be governed by one jurisdiction that is used to commercial development. It will be interesting to see what the EPA’s concerns are.

February 3, 2015 at 1:08 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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If you can’t get a permit for 4 years there is something wrong and it typically falls on the jurisdiction, in this case the City of Ruston, to deliver or face charges.  Cities that delay, change the zoning/building code rules, issue interrim bans on certain types of development don’t have a good case for abiding by development/property owner rules.  The City of Tacoma is unfortunately notorius for delaying permits, all within the bounds I guess, so for the City of Ruston to not produce permits it must be very negligent.  I see all of the Tacoma side capped and covered by black vinyl, the Ruston side is full of contaiminated dirt being constaintly sprayed down.  Point Ruston has spent millions in off-site improvements and a beautiful waterfront walk.  I think annexation makes perfect sense.  If the City of Ruston can’t act like a city, it shouldn’t be one.

February 3, 2015 at 1:40 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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If you can’t get a permit for 4 years there is something wrong and it typically falls on the jurisdiction, in this case the City of Ruston, to deliver or face charges.  [snip] .

You would serve yourself well to read the Mayor of Ruston’s memo regarding before determining right & wrong.  Point Ruston behaving as big developers often behave, claiming victimhood when following the rules intrudes on profits.

February 3, 2015 at 3:27 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I’d only believe this narrative if, you know, the City of Tacoma was unable to handle the exact same beast with little problem.  How the City of Ruston somehow has been targeted by the big bad corporation composed of a local family that wanted to clean up its back yard for profit seems almost laughable. 

Going through Mayor Hopkin’s memo, I love how the EPA being portrayed as the scapegoat here as well.  The EPA’s letter outlines both the Tacoma and the Ruston side of the development.  Ruston seems to be crying wolf when the EPA has identified FEIS violations on the Tacoma side.  How has Tacoma reacted?  Open arms and the ability to work with the developer.  Don’t think they issued stop work orders either.  What does Ruston do?  Issue stop work orders and create an impasse over view corridors and the inability to get a permit for the propane utility without going through an entire Master Planning amendment process. 

I would have typically deferred to Ruston on this if Tacoma didn’t figure out how to not make this rocket science.  It absolutely astounds me how Ruston stares a gift horse in the mouth to bring it to this level.  It must be all that arsenic and hexavalent chromium in the air.  The decisions Ruston is taking are literally hazardous to your health. 

February 3, 2015 at 8:56 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Zeno and all: I encourage you to attend the Ruston City Council meeting tonight at the Joyce Community Center at 5219 N. Shirley St. at 7 PM. This is a change to be enlightened and to hear Ruston’s side of the story.

February 3, 2015 at 4:28 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Ruston’s side of the story:
Let’s take an administrative and bureaucratic failure, and turn it into a political issue -  the plight of a do-gooder small town.

This story isn’t about good intentions, or intentions at all. What we have is a small municipality unable or unwilling to perform their regulatory duty. The Town of Ruston isn’t capable of executing professional disciplines of planning, engineering, regulatory governance and construction observation. They’ve managed to direct their hired consultants to fail in their obligations as well. I wish that these issues were unique to the small town of Ruston, but experience tells me otherwise. And that’s coming from someone who has tremendous respect for the role of government. Large construction projects have simply reached a level of complexity where small municipalities don’t have the collective intelligence or resources to properly manage. Ruston should have accepted Tacoma’s gracious offer to oversee the project, years ago.

February 4, 2015 at 10:52 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Ah, I’m going to withhold judgement until the EPA looks at this. I hope the good tax payers of Tacoma and Ruston don’t have to pay a lot more money to fix this mess.

February 4, 2015 at 9:25 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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