Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Many Wins in SMP Update

 Last night the Tacoma City Council passed the Shoreline Master Program Update. The Council heard testimony from 20 persons representing Chamber leadership, businesses, labor groups and environmental groups.  Another 13 persons spoke against the Chamber’s positions.

Throughout the process leading up to the passing of SMP, the Chamber collaborated with businesses impacted by the plan, realizing the huge asset waterfront access means to industrial companies in the region.  Businesses benefited from Chamber-supported successful changes to the Draft Shoreline Master Program Update. These changes worked to ameliorate the adverse impacts that were in recommendations made by the Tacoma Planning Commission.

The Chamber worked as advocates for your businesses by calling for changes to the Draft SMP.  We’re much better off now than we might have been. We gained the following “wins” with adoption of the final plan.

The Council finally adopted action to implement Council Resolution 36702 of 2005, where they agreed to a "barrier" composed of building codes along E. D Street to serve as a deterrent to conflict between industrial development to the east and expected residential development west along the Foss shoreline.

Likewise, the Council adopted an extension of the S-10 industrial zone the full length of the E. Foss Peninsula from the tip at NuStar Terminal to the Murray Morgan Bridge, finalizing action expected from a Tacoma Comprehensive Plan Amendment in 2005.

Although the Council passed an amendment they called a compromise regarding Sperry Ocean Terminals, it appeared not to be a compromise but a spot zoning of the business’s property. 

The action to classify as "Prohibited" lay-berthing (at Sperry Ocean) in a made-up transition zone, strikes at the very essence of the business, lay-berthing of MARAD ships.  In addition to Tuesday's testimony, and many hours work over years, the Council action is possibly a "taking" of private property, jeopardizes Sperry's lease renewal with the state Dept. of Natural Resources and subjects the firm to higher operating and financing costs.

Prime (Sperry) amendment sponsors Councilmembers David Boe and Jake Fey said the recent negotiations with Sperry to develop an operational and mitigation plan could still be continued.  But, they did not say what more they expected of the business than what was already offered.

In earlier advocacy action regarding SMP, the Chamber was successful in getting the Tacoma Planning Commission:

1) to comply with Washington state constitutional and case law in limiting public access to nexus and proportionality tests,
2) to place the burden of proof on the City for claims of public access requirements
3) to continue to allow log storage in Commencement Bay
4) to include all the NuStar Terminal in the S-10 industrial zone
5) to allow existing businesses in the Foss Waterway to expand beyond their 1996 property lines

Much of the successes of the Chamber’s efforts are credited to the advocacy, attendance, testimony and letters of its members and community partners in labor and environmental groups.  Thanks to all for your commitment. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Endangered Species Endangers Floodplains

Last month, the Chamber cooperated with the Propeller Club Port of Tacoma Chapter in a program about the National Marine Fisheries Services Biological Opinion of the EPA’s Endangered Species Act for floodplains as designated by FEMA mapping.

There is another upcoming presentation for November 30th between 8:30-10:00am at Renton City Hall regarding the flood issues that H. Ray Liaw presented and responded to questions last month.  This will be a slightly longer presentation and will focus on the litigation that is upcoming regarding the floodplain issues.

Where:   Renton City Hall (1055 S. Grady Way, Renton) 7th floor conference room
When:    November 30th (Wednesday) 8:30 to 10:00 AM

Click this link REGISTER to automatically open a reply email to the support staff managing the registration list.   

Please forward this message to associates and colleagues who fit the above description

There are pending changes that will drastically impact your ability and cost to:
1.      Rebuild or alter your property after a flood
2.      Develop or redevelop your property in the flood plain regardless of whether it ever floods
3.      Finance your property if it is located in a floodplain or
4.      Obtain flood insurance.

Your support is needed to help collectively represent the interests of real estate owners and managers – the window of opportunity to avoid new regulations is closing quickly, please read the information below and attached.

Where:   Renton City Hall (1055 S. Grady Way, Renton) 7th floor conference room
When:    November 30th (Wednesday) 8:30 to 10:00 AM

FEMA continues its efforts to redraw the floodplain maps for the Puget Sound region, including King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.  The latest round of preliminary floodplain maps for the Kent Valley show hundreds of acres of land previously considered safe from flooding now within the floodplain.  Similar changes are pending in Pierce County, where huge areas around the Puyallup River are proposed for remapping into the floodplain.  If you own or manage real estate near any river in the Puget Sound region, you may soon be mapped within FEMA’s designated flood zone.  Properties within the floodplain are subject to one, and often several, additional layers of development regulations and permitting requirements – which are at real and significant risk of becoming impossibly restrictive if we don’t take action.

In February 2011, we held a previous meeting about these issues.  During that meeting, we explained that we were concerned that FEMA and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) were moving to require municipalities throughout the Puget Sound region (Auburn, Kent, Renton and Tukwila in the Kent Valley) to adopt significant changes to their land use rules governing development and redevelopment of floodplain properties.  Following that meeting – with the funds raised from that meeting – we have been able to stave off the most restrictive changes

But now the environmental groups who pushed FEMA and NMFS to require limitations on the use of properties in the floodplain – both current and potential future floodplain areas – are upset and will be filing a lawsuit this month to try to force FEMA, NMFS, and local governments to implement much more restrictive regulations in the Puget Sound floodplain areas.

This message is to alert you to an important meeting.  This meeting will cover:
1.      The scope of the problem and how it affects your property
2.      The pending lawsuit by environmental groups to force more restrictions on property in the floodplain
3.      The financial support needed toward a legal defense fund to help protect and preserve property rights and development options and to help shape fair regulatory changes (This is the key element of the meeting.  A plan of action will be outlined.)

Where:   Renton City Hall (1055 S. Grady Way, Renton) 7th floor conference room
When:    November 30th (Wednesday) 8:30 to 10:00 AM

Please read the linked “Three Flood Zone ImpactScenarios” to learn how FEMA’s and NMFS’s proposed land use standards will impact you.  Remember, even if your property never floods, these proposed development standards may govern your property’s future use.  How might new land development standards affect your ability to insure and refinance your property? How will that affect your equity? If what you read concerns you—forward this email to other floodplain property owners and managers and attend the meeting.  We hope to see you at the meeting.

This message is being sent by Property Owners for Sensible Floodplain Regulations (POSFR), a coalition of property owners, industry groups such as (BOMA, Washington REALTORS, AWB, MBA, RHA) and real estate representatives from firms like CBRE, Kidder Matthews, etc. who are concerned about the potential over-regulation of floodplain areas in the Puget Sound region.

To register – please copy this contact info list

Mailing Address:

Then click this link REGISTER to automatically open a reply email to the support staff managing the registration list.  Just paste the contact info list into that email – fill in your data (you can anything already in your email signature).

Question can be directed to any of the following:

Rod Kauffman
BOMA Seattle
Mark Jackson
BOMA member
Lezlie Plastino
Kidder Mathews

Todd Woosley
Hal Woosley Prop. Inc.
Jeanette McKague
Washington Realtors

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Korea Passes KORUS

This morning, the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) was been ratified in the Korean National Assembly.  Passage of the agreement in today's extempore session clears the way for a new level of cooperation and prosperity between our two nations.  The agreement passed by a vote of 151-7, with all 14 KORUS implementation bills approved as well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tacoma Budget Woes

The City of Tacoma is looking at its mid-biennium budget and noticing a hole.  While the size of the hole depends on who you ask, the City Council has agreed to use conservative revenue projections indicating they will be $31M short by the end of 2012.  On behalf of its members, the Chamber has been tracking the progress of these discussions and the potential cuts and taxes proposed to fill the hole.

To fill the gap, the City is looking mostly towards cutting expenses as well as some potential tax increases.  These cuts are expected to result in the release of 126 existing staff and the elimination of 68 additional positions currently vacant.  The potential tax increases total $3.8M including an array of tools including a car tab tax and increases in B&O taxes on non-profits.

Rather than trying to take on the full $31M now, the Council has decided to focus on making up 75% of this now, or $23M, and looking at the remainder in early 2012 based on updated revenue and expense projections.  This approach recognizes the size of the gap the City is facing.  $31M is equal to the size of the entire 2012 general budget for public works; community & economic development; legal; city manager; city council; and human resources departments - combined.

At today's Council Study Session, the City was discussing making $11.7M worth of these cuts to non-public safety departments with the remaining $11.3M coming from Police & Fire.  If the City does move to a full $31M reduction plan, the remaining $8M may come from Police & Fire.  This really means that everything is on the block during this budget review process.

To minimize the cutting of positions, the City has approached the unions about cuts to their salaries in addition to the 4-10% cuts non-unionized employees are taking.  As Councilmember Fey said, "This is an opportunity for our labor partners to step up and help us." 

As an alternative, the City has also put a series of tax ideas forward.  Those brought forward to date include:
  • Car Tab Fee
  • Eliminate Non-Profit Healthcare B&O Deductions
  • 0.1% Sales Tax for Human Services
  • Increase Speed Camera & Red Light Camera Fines
  • Eliminate Admissions B&O Tax Deductions for Non-Profits
  • Postpone 2012 Retirement Fund Contribution Increase
  • Increase Annual Business License Fee
  • Eliminate B&O Job Creation Tax Credit
As we continue to monitor the conversations around the budget, we look forward to hearing your thoughts on how the City can best make corrections while retaining essential public services.