Thursday, February 26, 2009

Where's the Next Frederickson?

The Pierce County Economic Development Division (EDD) has initiated a proposal to restrict the allowed uses of select industrial lands. These restrictions apply specifically to the Port of Tacoma’s Frederickson industrial park and around Thun Field.

Industrial lands accommodate a wide variety of uses: i.e., manufacturing, transportation facilities, warehousing, etc.

According to several recent studies, the supply of industrial lands continues to diminish (reasonably) as development occurs. The last definitive regional study of industrial lands was done in 1990 by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), using a 1988 database. More recent, proprietary studies have been referred to as citing an increasingly finite horizon for the absorption of industrial lands, perhaps as little as five years at rates consumed until just recently. This break could give us the breathing room to determine what our economic development should be.

The Chamber has long asked “Where is the next Frederickson?” To answer that question, the Chamber championed an industrial lands survey by the PSRC as part of their Vision 2040 update, recently concluded. The regional industrial lands survey is programmed as a short-term project.

The Pierce County EDD has proposed land use development regulation changes...

  • separate transportation and logistics uses including cross-dock facilities from warehousing and distribution,
  • limit warehousing as a primary use for lots not exceeding 5A., and
  • specify that moving & storage is a commercial use and not warehousing,

...that would concern the Port of Tacoma.

The Port of Tacoma originally purchased the land for the Frederickson industrial park as a manufacturing development site, so that the waterfront areas would be reserved for the even more specialized water-dependent uses. Over the several decades of operation, the Port has located several manufacturers there, some of which have expanded beyond original footprints.

The recent location of the IKEA distribution center at Frederickson, and perhaps with the example of Thurston County’s restriction of distribution centers, has occasioned the Pierce County EDD to initiate this proposal. Their concern is that large distribution centers consume an increasingly scarce resource - large parcels of industrial lands - while creating low numbers of jobs compared with other industrial uses. Their objective is to maximize within Pierce County the employment opportunities and tax base from basic industry, making us less of a bedroom community.

The Port sees this land use restriction as a limitation of economic development options, passing up on opportunities that become available today in hopes of something that may or may not become available in the future. The Port also believes that in looking at job creation, one should look at more than just the footprint of a building, but also other jobs created in the County by the facility. For example, distribution centers owned and operated by beneficial cargo owners not only attracts cargo to the port, but also generates additional jobs directly related to handling that cargo.

It is being considered that the Chamber advance its argument that competing for a limited resource is not productive in the long-term economic development of the community. The Chamber should call upon Pierce County and the Port for a cooperative effort to redesignate land for industrial development. This might be done outside the Growth Management Area for the metro, an approach that has already proven difficult to secure approval by the Growth Management Board. Or, the County and Port could redesignate land within the GMA. This approach will surely cause its own controversies, but will be an action within our own authorities.

The Pierce County Planning Commission has approved the recommendation of the Pierce County EDD (6-1, "for"). The Pierce County Council must approve. Currently the issue is part of a larger body of changes. Readers are referred to pages 47, Exhibit B, Frederickson table, ppg. 125-127 for explanations and page 139, Exhibit B to Title 18A Zoning.

The issue has been assigned to the Pierce County Council’s Community Development Committee. That Committee will hear the issue March 2, 1:30 p.m. at their 10th floor hearing room, County-City Building. Because of expressed interest, this issue is likely – but not certainly – to be continued until a next meeting March 16. It will not subsequently be assigned for other committee consideration or action. The final action before the entire Pierce County Council has not yet been scheduled.

What's your perspective and recommendations to the Chamber as we advocate for the best economic future of our community?

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