The City of Tacoma hopes the state legislature will consider two bills Thursday that could change state law to allow the city to annex a portion of the of the town of Ruston -- without the greenlight of the Ruston town council.
It’s a portion of a new development called Point Ruston. Half of the development sits in Tacoma the other half is in Ruston.
Tacoma City Councilman Ryan Mello said the city spent millions sprucing up the area to allow for the development. Now the owner of the development, Loren Cohen, is stumbling into roadblocks and has told the city he is having a hard time working with Ruston leaders to develop that area.
"We improved the roads, the sewer, the sidewalks, the stormwater drains, the power, the water \, the street lights. We improved everything with $31 million of taxpayers bonds, and those $31 million taxpayer bonds get repaid to the people of Tacoma by the developer as the developer continues his project, and if he can’t get permits, he can’t get revenue to pay back the people of Tacoma," Mello said.
Point Ruston sits on the land of the old Asarco Smelter. The land had to be remediated to develop the area.
“It’s about protecting the public health of the people of Tacoma. It’s essential the city complete the remediation and the development is the final cap of the cleanup of this site,” Mello said.
But Ruston leaders say there is more to the story.
"The project was always supposed to start on the Tacoma side first and work toward the Ruston side,” said Ruston councilmember Bradley Huson, “If they're so anxious to get things built down there, then why don't they finish the phasing as it was originally put forward?"
Beth Torbet, the owner of the Don’s Ruston Market and Deli, has transformed her corner market into an information booth about the battle.
"This is just theft. Black and white," she said. "Yes, I'm passionate. There are processes for annexation. It's the vote of the people and the cooperation of the city. They say, ‘We only want this piece.' This piece is the lifeblood of Ruston."
"We’ve cajoled. We’ve negotiated. We’ve discussed. Tacoma is just done. We need this to move forward to taxpayers to environmental cleanup and to continue the redevelopment,” said Mello.