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City hearing examiner denies developer’s controversial Northshore housing application

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Jan. 8, 2010 at 10:25 am with 9 Comments »
January 8, 2010 1:44 pm


A city hearing examiner yesterday denied a developer’s controversial application for a rezone in Northeast Tacoma that would have allowed hundreds of homes to be built over the Northshore Golf Course.

The matter will next go to the City Council, which will have final say on the project.

Some interesting findings in hearing examiner pro tem Wick Dufford’s opinion:

The effect of approving the subject plat would be to eliminate the designated open space in adjacent plats. It is contrary to the public interest to allow any applicant to achieve such a result unilaterally. The interests of too many others are left out of the decisional equation. The Examiner concludes that the Preliminary Plat should be denied because the public interest will not be served by the platting of the subdivision applied for. … Ultimately this may mean that requests to alter the adjacent plats need to be made and approved before the subject application can be approved.

As to public opinion, there has been an unusually large outpouring of it here. It is all emphatically in opposition to getting rid of the golf course. So public opinion has not changed at all. If anything, it has hardened. The applicants quote cases saying that “community displeasure” should not be the basis for denial. But in rezone cases it is a recognized factor to be considered. The public sentiment expressed in this case is primarily from people who have a genuine and substantial interest in the outcome. There is little point in having public hearings, if such interested public sentiment counts for nothing.

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The applicants here have labored mightily to create a development that would mitigate all environmental impacts to below the level of significance. Despite all efforts, there is really no way to hide the insertion of over 800 new homes into an area where they do not now exist. And there is really no artfulness of design that can make such a development a less than significant change in the perception of open space by those living in the adjacent plats. The proposed development is well and thoughtfully designed, but given the history and physical context of this particular PRD, it is in the wrong place.

You can find the decision on the citizen opposition group Save Northeast Tacoma’s Web site. Check back here later for more details and reaction.

Leave a comment Comments → 9
  1. ldozy1234 says:

    Finally some common sense on this subject. Now we just have to hope that the City Council supports this.

  2. lefty_coast says:

    Finally, YES.

    A decision that takes the “best” interests of the people into consideration.

    Let’s hope the City does the right thing, and actually continues to put citizens first. For a change.

  3. the3rdpigshouse says:

    Great!!!! Now if the City Council will only consider the community versus the additional tax dollars they would collect by virtue of approving the project – recommend everyone contact the City Council and express your preference for no more high density housing developments in that area!!!!

  4. Great news. Now we just have to figure out what to do with a golf course that is losing money. It may be as simple as doing a better job of maintaining the current infrastructure.

  5. tacomajoe says:

    Thank you to the TNT for correctly noting that this is NorthEAST Tacoma, and not North Tacoma. Though many from NE Tacoma wish to obscure their roots, this neighborhood is most emphatically not NORTH Tacoma, and should be lumped in with the South End, South Tacoma, East Tacoma, Spanaway, Parkland, etc. Note also that Northshore is a PUBLIC golf course, and not an exclusive country club, where most North Tacomans prefer to golf.

  6. kcbranaghsgirl says:

    @the3rdpigshouse: Actually, you should not contact Tacoma City Council members. Those of us in the NE Tacoma area who have been involved in this process have been advised (repeatedly) that the council will be acting in a “quasi-judicial” capacity, and should therefore not be contacted outside of appropriate channels (an appropriate channel being at the upcoming council meeting).

    @dlb: Unless you’re the owner of the golf course, the fact that a private business is losing money is not your problem to solve. Unless, of course, you’re in favor of bailouts for golf course owners.

    @tacomajoe: I’ve been to North Tacoma and I’ve been to NE Tacoma, and I don’t see what you think is so special about the former.

  7. kcbranaghsgirl

    But it is our problem. Do you think the current owners can continue operate the course at a loss? I can think of “open space” uses for the course that we would find just as objectionable as the proposed development. If we want to keep it the way it is, we need to have a plan in place to buy the course and then operate it in a way that it doesn’t drain the new owners dry.

    Without a long term solution we that we control we will be constantly fighting this battle.

  8. norse1943 says:

    The people who built the golf course signed an agreement that the property would be a golf course in perpetuity. Not until they decided they didn’t want to operate it any more. The hearing examiner made the right decision.

  9. kcbranaghsgirl says:

    Dlb, no I do not believe they can continue to operate the golf course at a loss.

    However, I do not believe that the golf course needs to continue to operate at a loss. With some efforts at upgrading – or at least maintaining – the golf course more effectively than they have in decades, maybe even a nominal attempt at marketing (oh, what a concept!), this course might operate at a profit.

    As I understand it, the current owners have no interest in making such efforts. It is therefore their right to sell the course…with the open space restriction still in place. This is, after all, the stipulation to which they agreed to obtain the 1981 rezone, which allowed them to build an extra 350 homes in Divisions 2, 3 and 4.

    It is not unreasonable to expect them to honor the commitment they voluntarily made.

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