Bridge Industrial gets land use permits to develop warehouse in South Tacoma
The City of Tacoma approved land use permits to develop a warehouse in South Tacoma.
The decision came April 21 after over a year of feedback from residents and public agencies expressing environmental equity concerns over the development.
The city approved a Critical Areas Development permit, with conditions, for modification of the wetlands and stream on the property. Those include having to account for impacts to the buffer area of the wetlands, adding more buffer area to compensate, and moving part of the stream to an area that will not be impacted by traffic.
The State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Environmental Determination is a “Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance,” which means the review of the project concluded it will not have a significant adverse impact on the elements of the environment reviewed, as long as certain mitigation measures are met. Mitigation measures include no idling rules on the site, establishing 30% tree canopy coverage on portions of the site, and traffic monitoring during building.
The full decision can be found on the city’s website.
Erin Dilworth, deputy director for Communities for a Healthy Bay, a nonprofit advocating for the protection of Puget Sound and the surrounding ecosystem, said her organization was disappointed with the decision.
“They’re saying that the impacts that this project is going to cause, they can be mitigated,” Dilworth said. “We disagree, especially when it comes to thinking about health equity, especially in that area.”
The neighborhood is listed as having the highest ranking for health disparities, a 10, on the Washington Environmental Health Disparities Map.
Bridge Industrial still has to procure all development and building permits, including requirements for civil and mechanical engineering. The company also will have to satisfy all conditions from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Ecology. The proposed warehouse would sit on top of the Commencement Bay, the South Tacoma Channel superfund site.
The EPA, the Washington State Department of Health, the Tacoma-Pierce County Department of Health, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, all recommended the city require a Health Impact Assessment for the development given the poor health outcomes that are already seen in this neighborhood. The city did not have the applicant complete one.
“I think that’s really unfortunate,” Dilworth said. “It’s the city’s job to protect the health and wellbeing of the residents, and they do have discretion to require additional analyses, and they just decided not to use it.”
In response to health equity concerns, Shirley Shultz, principal planner for the city, said, “South Tacoma as a whole is a community of concern for both the health department and in terms of when we look at the city’s equity index.”
Residents also have expressed concern over increases in traffic and the subsequent air and noise pollutants. Schultz said the city will monitor traffic to ensure the development keeps to the estimates the city analyzed.
“That’s one of the conditions on the environmental review is this monitoring of build out and the tenants that go through,” Schultz said.
In response to whether monitoring efforts would be enough, Dilworth said enforcement usually comes only after there has been a violation.
Residents can file an appeal of the decision until 5 p.m. May 5. The fee to file an appeal is $1,200.
Schultz is anticipating that will happen.
“My guess is that the project will be appealed,” Schultz said.
If that is the case, the city’s hearing examiner will handle the appeal. The examiner could decide whether the permit conditions need to changed or be remanded. That decision could be further appealed to a superior court, Schultz said.
The property, which was owned for years by the Burlington Northern Railroad, has been vacant since the 1970s. The property is some of the last undeveloped landscape in South Tacoma, and residents have voiced their disapproval about the development. The history of the property from the city’s perspective has been as a space for industry.
“The long range plan, the comprehensive plan for it, the zoning, has always been heavy industrial,” Schultz said.
Bridge Industrial is a developer, and there is no indication yet of what type of tenants would use the warehouse space.
“I’ve seen other large warehouses get built without tenants,” Schultz said.