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Controversy still boils over proposed Northshore development
An 860-home residential development to replace the Northshore Golf Course is still in the works — and troublesome to the City of Tacoma and its neighbors.
Northshore Investors LLC is proposing to construct The Point at Northshore. Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Russell Hartman ruled in February that a 1979 draft environmental impact study and a 1981 environmental impact study, both applying to the 116-acre golf course at Federal Way's southwestern boundary, 4101 North Shore Boulevard N.E. and 1611 Browns Point Boulevard N.E., can be used in evaluating the developer's building application.
Earlier this month, Tacoma released a draft supplemental environmental impact study (DSEIS), which is meant to accompany the 30-year-old documents, pointing out areas of concern that have surfaced since 1981. The DSEIS is part of the State Environmental Policy Act, which identifies fields that are going to be impacted by development, but don't have specific state or local codes by which to judge the impacts, said Jennifer Ward, City of Tacoma land use administration supervisor. The DSEIS addresses aesthetics, transportation and schools, among other interests expected to be addressed through Tacoma's municipal code.
The Point at Northshore
The development will include 366 single-family homes and 494 townhomes. Public streets and private access ways, utilities, landscaping, pedestrian paths and open space are included in the plan, according to the DSEIS. Construction will occur in phases — beginning in 2010 and lasting through 2014.
DSEIS areas of concern
Aesthetics near the golf course will be diversely altered. The development, as proposed, will block neighboring residential views of the golf course and Mount Rainier, according to the DSEIS. Many residents near the golf course are upset because they expected their homes would always border the open space.
Additional traffic is another matter. The residents occupying The Point at Northshore are expected to make 5,330 average daily commutes on the surrounding roadways, according to the DSEIS. A 2007 Transportation Concurrency Analysis, prepared by Federal Way, identifies 23 Federal Way Transportation Improvement Plan projects that will be impacted by the development, according to the DSEIS.
Available school space also poses problems. The Tacoma School District identified current capacity and enrollment at schools near the proposed development. The district showed little room to accommodate residents of The Point at Northshore.
"There is insufficient space at the middle and high schools in the project vicinity. In addition, there is limited available space at elementary schools," according to the DSEIS.
The City of Tacoma's DSEIS identifies land use compatibility as another concern. In 1981, when forming the North Shore County Club Estates, a residential development surrounding the golf course, the city rezoned the property, making it a planned residential development district (PRD). The rezone was reliant on the golf course as open space, Ward said.
"The applicant shall submit a legal agreement, which is binding upon all parties and which may be enforced by the City of Tacoma. It should provide that the property in question will maintain and always have the use of the adjacent golf course for its open space and density requirement, which has been relied upon by the applicant in securing approval of this request," according to the March 2, 1981, hearing examiner's ruling.
The agreement is a bit unclear, Ward said. Whether enough open space, minus the golf course, will remain after construction to satisfy the PRD is the question at hand, she said.
The same year, the owners of the golf course, Northshore Golf Associates, signed an Open Space Taxation Agreement, stating the golf course will remain a golf course and open space. Hartman's February ruling has set up the controversy to ultimately be ironed out by the Tacoma City Council, who will be asked to decide whether zoning codes should be altered to allow the construction of The Point at Northshore.
Save NE Tacoma, a grass-roots coalition of several hundred members opposed to the development, feels the city's DSEIS does not go far enough in calling for mitigations to aesthetics, land use, transportation, schools, storm water and critical areas, said Dave Radford, Save NE Tacoma spokesman. Several members of the group live in homes abutting or overlooking the golf course. The group continues to be outspoken on the building application, 1979 and 1981 environmental documents, and the 1981 PRD agreement. The group is confident a hearing examiner and city council will recognize the importance and legal obligation of keeping the golf course as open space, Radford said.
"We realize that we've got to make our case based on logic, not just emotion," Radford said. "The judge has said the 1981 (PRD) document is enforceable."
The public has until June 18 to comment on the DSEIS. If the document is appealed by the developer, it goes to a hearing examiner for a final ruling. An environmental impact study (EIS) follows. This will also have an open public comment period. A hearing examiner will then be asked to review the developer's application, using the DSEIS and EIS as supplemental documents, assuming they are not appealed or are upheld during an appeal process. The city is hopeful this hearing will take place in October, Ward said. The hearing examiner's recommendation will be passed on to the Tacoma City Council, which will determine if a rezone should occur and the developer's application should proceed.
Send public comments regarding The Point at Northshore to Jennifer Ward at:
Jennifer Ward, 747 Market Street, Room 345, Tacoma, WA 98402. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The comments are read and provided to the hearing examiner and later to city council. The deadline for submittal is 5 p.m. June 18.