Tacoma-Ruston Interlocal Agreement Could Let Development Move Forward for Point Ruston

Early this year tensions between the City of Ruston and the developers of the Point Ruston waterfront community came to a head when the developers asked the City of Tacoma to annex the portion of their project that falls within the boundaries of Ruston.

While the annexation request was a no-go (it would have required both Tacom and Ruston to sign off) there is some movement now that could change the dynamics, possibly allowing the project to move forward on the Ruston side of the line: a draft of an Interlocal Agreement (ILA) that would coordinate permitting work through the City of Tacoma, while still involving Ruston in the process and ultimate decisions. 

With the annexation request Point Ruston was asking to expand what has been a productive relationship with the City of Tacoma. Things have not gone so smoothly on the Ruston side

On the Tacoma side permits have been acquired, infrastructure built, buildings constructed, and businesses and residents moved in. 

On the Ruston side of the project, with the exception of the single-family homes on Stack Hill, disputes between the developer and the municipality over permits have prevented development from moving forward. Permits were not issued, and at least one portion of the project - the Century movie theater mixed-use building - was moved to the Tacoma side of the line. The developer got frustrated with the lack of movement from Ruston, and did some work anyway, siting an EPA rule that allows work without local permits in some very specific circumstances. The EPA and state legislators got involved, there have been threats of lawsuits on both sides, and of course the request for annexation ... it's been a bit of a mess.

In recent months talks between the parties have sought to find a solution, and ultimately produced a draft of an Interlocal Agreement between the City of Tacoma and the City of Ruston meant to "improve permitting coordination for the Pt. Ruston Development." The latest draft, provided for Tacoma City Council review with last week's City Manager's Report to Council, is summarized by the City Manager as follows:

In summary, the draft ILA, as it is currently proposed, has Pt. Ruston permit applications for development within the City of Ruston submitted to Tacoma with Ruston contract staff conducting coordinated reviews with staff from Tacoma's Planning and Development Services Department. Fees for such applications are to be based on Tacoma's fee schedule with Tacoma staff managing the work flow of the permit review process. The proposed ILA also commits Tacoma to budget up to $50,000 for ongoing collaborative efforts with Ruston to facilitate the success of the development. This includes joint planning to better align land use codes and review processes between the two jurisdictions. I believe that this approach will provide certainty and timeliness to the permit review process and will improve coordination between Tacoma, Ruston and Pt. Ruston.

The draft agreement commits the two cities to

  • share any and all planning, permitting, and inspection information and documentation
  • not take any regulatory or other action related to the development without first contacting each other
  • meet bi-weekly to discuss plans, share progress, and resolve issues
  • draw upon each other's expertise and planning, permitting, inspection, and compliance resources, as needed, to foster efficient and effective regulatory decision-making and avoid unnecessary delays
  • take action on 'complete' permit applications within 30 days
  • no final permits will be issued by Tacoma without Ruston's approval
  • any issues that cannot be resolved between the two municipalities "shall be determined by the municipality within which the disputed Development component is located"

Tacoma would agree to

  • establish and routinely update a web-based, share-filing system accessible to the staff of both municipalities 
  • be the managing party responsible for the intake and processing of all local permit applications for the Development
  • collect fees for all local applications, calculated according to Tacoma's fee schedule

​Ruston would agree to

  • determine substantive compliance with regulatory requirements for development components within Ruston, with Tacoma managing work flow utilizing Ruston contract staff in collaboration with Tacoma staff

On the Tacoma side the draft agreement is tentatively scheduled for discussion at the Tacoma City Council's September 1 study session. Based on that discussion and discussions from the other interested parties, the agreement could move forward for approval by Tacoma in late September.

On the Ruston side the draft agreement is on this week's council meeting agenda for discussion. The council there could choose to approve it as-is, and wait on Tacoma's decision; they could propose alternate terms; or they could reject the agreement outright... 

It's certainly not carved in stone yet, but what would you do? Does this look like a good deal for Tacoma? How about for Ruston?


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