Tacoma City Business Preview for the Week of April 26, 2016

Tacoma Smelter Plume

At this week's city council Study Session, the council will hear a presentation from the Washington Department of Ecology on the progress of the Tacoma Smelter Plume project, including the following:

  • Progress of soil replacement on residential yards and child play areas;
  • The results of soil sampling on 2,261 yards in Tacoma;
  • New timeline and sequence for soil replacement on remaining yards;
  • Performance measures for the Yard Sampling and Cleanup Program; and,
  • Phase Two Supplemental Interim Action Plan - Ecology's efforts to institutionalize soil safety and cleanup.



Proposed changes to how Tacoma deals with marijuana-related uses (production, processing, researching, and retail sale) are back in the conversation this week. A public hearing is scheduled on proposed amendments to Tacoma's Marijuana Use Regulations, Land Use Regulatory Code, and the Nuisance Code as it relates to marijuana uses. The changes being proposed come in two categories: those recommended by City staff, and those from Tacoma's citizen Planning Commission.

The chart below shows current regulations, alongside changes recommended by staff and the Planning Commission. Significant differences are in the number of retail stores allowed, and the distance between stores, or dispersion. Staff recommends stores be capped at 16 total for all of Tacoma, with 500 feet between stores downtown, and 1,000 feet between in other parts of the city. The Planning Commission recommends no local cap or dispersion requirement. 

When it comes to medical endorsement requirements, on the other hand, the Planning Commission has the stricter recommendation, asking that all marijuana stores in Tacoma have the endorsement to sell medical marijuana, while staff recommends requiring it of 50% of stores. There are also differences in how buffers between marijuana uses and so-called "sensitive uses" would be handled.

The hearing to gather public input on these recommendations is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. during this Tuesday's regular council meeting. Ahead of that hearing the council is scheduled to have its own discussion of the proposals at study session earlier in the day Tuesday. The below chart only shows some of the more contentious issues; to learn more and view full Planning Commission recommendations ahead of the hearing, visit the Planning Department marijuana regulations page.


Astound (Wave) Broadband

Remember Wave Broadband? Wave is the company that tried for the long-term lease of Tacoma's publicly-owned Click! network. The deal didn't go through, and Click's future is still being debated, but Wave is back on this week's agenda in a slightly different incarnation, with the first reading of an ordinance that would grant Astound Broadband (doing business as Wave) a 10-year telecommunications franchise agreement to construct, operate, maintain, remove, replace, and repair fiber-optic communications facilities within public right-of-way.

No word on exactly what Astound/Wave's plans are for Tacoma, but there is a note in the agreement that the franchise is limited to telecommunications and internet services, and specifically does not include permission to provide cable service, multichannel video programming, open video systems, or uses other than telecommunications service. We also saw a note in a recent article from The News Tribune that Wave "is forging ahead with its plans for Pierce County and Tacoma." The TNT notes that Wave has won part of a contract to provide fiber speeds to Pierce County libraries, and that they plan to build out to other customers along the lines they build to connect the libraries.

We'll hope to hear more about the Tacoma franchise agreement on Tuesday.


Bring Your Own Carryout Bag

At its meeting on Wednesday, the city council Infrastructure, Planning, & Sustainability Committee will be discussing a model ordinance to reduce use of single-use carryout plastic bags in Tacoma. The draft ordinance being considered at this point would limit the types of carryout bags allowed to either recycled paper or reusable bags. The ordinance would require retail establishments that provide either of those types of bags to charge their customers "a reasonable pass-through charge" of at least five cents. 

Some exceptions are made for in-store bags (think those smaller bags for produce, unpackaged baked goods, etc), and for takeout meal bags. Food banks would be exempt, as would individuals paying with the various public assistance programs (TANF, SNAP, WIC, etc).

This is just in the draft stages, with further discussion to come, so things could change before the proposal makes it to the full council for a vote.


Other Items

A resolution on this week's council meeting consent agenda would authorize an agreement with the Washington State Department of Transportation, accepting a $270,000 grant for the development of trip reduction programs in Tacoma's downtown area over the next two years. The grant comes out of a federal Regional Congestion, Mitigation and Air Quality grant, and will fund work aimed at encouraging and incentivizing walking, biking and transit use through education and outreach programs. The grant is focused on the downtown area, which is identified by the Puget Sound Regional Council as a target area for Transportation Demand Management projects. 

Two ordinances on this week's consent agenda for first readings would vacate City-owned rights-of-way to allow for private development.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 will be proclaimed as Domestic Violence Awareness Day, and May 2016 will be proclaimed as Puget Sound Starts Here Month in the City of Tacoma.

Individuals will be appointed to the Audit Advisory Board and the Board of Ethics.

We are scheduled to hear the final readings of a pair of ordinances related to sewer and solid waste bonds that got their first reading at last week's council meeting. If adopted, the ordinances would allow the City to take advantage of current low interest rates to reduce the overall debt service on the bonds, resulting in a net savings, which would be passed along to ratepayers. 


Get Involved

Aside from the public hearing on proposed amendments to regulations of marijuana uses

And although May is officially Bike Month in Tacoma, the month gets started before the first with a few key events to get you ready for all the two-wheeled fun to come.

  • Blessing of the Bikes - Get your bike blessed, and reflect on cyclists no longer with us. April 29, 7:30 a.m.
  • 8th Annual Bike Swap - This is your chance to find a new bike, a new-to-you bike, or just to tune-up, spiff-up, or dress-up your existing bike. There will be bikes of all kinds and sizes, pluss accessories and learning opportunities at the UPS parking lot this Saturday. April 30, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
  • Bike to a Business: Gigi Pop - April's featured business is Gigi Pop, on St Helens. Ride your bike there in April, and they'll give you 10% off your purchase. 

Find more Bike Month (and pre- and post-Bike Month bike-related) events on the calendar at Bike253.com. You can even post your own bike-related event there. Happy Bike Month!

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