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Ruston Development Moratorium

City of Ruston: Official Zoning Map
City of Ruston: Official Zoning Map

There’s an interesting drama playing out for our neighbors over in Ruston: the town council there has put an emergency moratorium on any new commercial development.

On March 19 the Ruston town council passed an ordinance putting an immediate six-month stop to applications for new or re-development within the town’s commercial zones “until such time as the city finishes the process of code review and amendment relating to uses and development permitted” in those zones.  No permits.  No new businesses.  No development.  Sounds drastic.

Apparently a recent “visioning meeting” with five people in attendance revealed a disconnect between what current code would allow in terms of commercial development, and visions of Ruston’s future as primarily a bedroom community.  The argument is that the interests of the town, its residents, and its businesses are better protected by preventing the (slight) possibility that an “undesirable” business might try to set up shop there.  

Despite concerns from business and property owners, the council has said it will keep the ban until it can make updates to its zoning code.  The town will pursue an expedited process, but until the moratorium is lifted, there will be no new business in those empty storefronts along Pearl Street.  Ruston’s planner expects a June 18 passage of the code revisions, which would then go to the Department of Commerce for filing.  When all that’s done, the moratorium would likely be lifted.

Our friends over at Ruston Home describe the intent of the moratorium as an effort to keep the residential nature of Ruston intact.  In an opinion piece, they share further details of the moratorium, along with some thoughts on the decision.  

Available online is a draft of the proposed design standards intended to implement the goals and policies of established in Ruston’s Comprehensive Plan - and address the concerns that prompted the moratorium.  It goes on for a while, but here’s a sample.  (View relevant documents here.)

25.06.030 Building Design – Commercial Zones.

Building facades upon buildings located within a commercial zone which are closer than 20 feet to the front property line must meet the following requirements:

(A) Facades over 25 feet wide must provide a five foot yard setback for 50% of the total facade length. The five foot wide area must include street furniture available to the public such as benches and trash receptacles.

(B) At least 60% of the first floor facade must be glass.

(C) The remaining percentage of the first floor facade material must be brick, copper, or natural stone.

(D) Awnings must be provided for over 50% of the depth and length of sidewalk area but no greater than seven feet in depth or closer than 4 feet to the curb.

(E) Buildings over one story must provide retail or commercial space for the entire first floor open to the public on the ground floor fronting Pearl Street or 51st Street.

(F) Lights must be provided capable of lighting the sidewalk in front of the property. Building wall mounted lights must provide soft “pedestrian friendly” character and environment illumination.




The use of an emergency moratorium to address inconsistencies between a town’s master plan and zoning code changes seems a bit heavy-handed, but Tacoma is no stranger to emergency moratoria; we’ve reactively put a halt to digital signage, big box stores…  

If you’re from Ruston, there’s a public hearing scheduled for 7p.m. tomorrow.  

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A drastic move, especially since I question its legality since the town has expressed no development hardship to warrant the moratorium in the staff report.  Development moratoriums typically can only be in place if actual constraints development constraints exist and if they target projects they are subject to huge legal scrutiny.  Looks like it won’t affect Point Ruston’s western wing but perhaps after several of the businesses fled Ruston within the past couple years these standards are in place to address the problems?  In any case tread carefully Ruston, or face the possibility of being sued into oblivion ala the City of Pacific.

May 21, 2013 at 1:36 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Erik BRegistered

A bizarre, misguided and harmful action to the future of Ruston and to the Point Ruston project. It is true that Tacoma passed a few moratoriums, but never anything this broad.

Btw,, many of Ruston’s proposed new regulations would do more harm than good.

Facades over 25 feet wide must provide a five foot yard setback for 50% of the total facade length.

Require a setback on a mainstreet?  That makes everything a strip mall.  There are no setback in Tacoma’s historical mainstreets such as the Joy Building.  Instead, Ruston should require that the buildings be built right up next to the sidewalk.

In order to save themselves time and money, Ruston should just adopt the urban design standards that the City of Tacoma placed in a few years ago for it’s 17 mixed use centers.

Finally, unless Ruston wants to turn itself into Westgate or be a string of suburban 7-11s, they need to remove the off-street parking lots or the entire city will be nothing more than a few disjoined, and perhaps vacant strip malls.

Ruston is in worse shape in more ways that one can count than they have been for years, seeing them implode in vacancy, abandonment and now self destruction is disheartening.

May 21, 2013 at 2:30 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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May 21, 2013 at 6:59 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Published Author RR AndersonRegistered

the entire town of ruston may be closed for business,  but The Tacomic is fired up! http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=171045105144

May 22, 2013 at 9:58 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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