Permits filed for buildings at contentious Tacoma warehouse site. How big will they be?

TACOMA, Wash. — What’s become a controversial warehouse proposal in South Tacoma is slowly making its way through the city’s permit process as pushback continues from residents.

Bridge Industrial on June 13 filed construction permits for Buildings A (517,042 square feet), B (957,726 square feet), C (661,523 square feet) and D (332,295 square feet) in its Bridge Point Tacoma 2MM.

It listed an anticipated start date for each building as April 2023, but those dates are subject to the permitting process.

The company purchased nearly 20 vacant parcels in the South Burlington Way area in September last year from BNSF Railway for $158.3 million. Its plans call for a roughly 2.5 million-square-foot, state-of-the-art industrial site, consisting of four buildings along with 20 acres of trailer storage space.

Shirley Schultz is the principal planner with the city’s Land Use and Zoning, whose office has been the main intake for comments and offering project oversight. Schultz offered an emailed update to The News Tribune recently in response to questions, though it was pretty much word-for-word what the city posted on a site online about the project’s progress.

She noted that “no administrative decisions on the SEPA or other permits are expected within the next month.”

Schultz noted the SEPA and Critical Areas Preservation Ordinance decision could be appealed to the city’s hearing examiner, and those permits must be completed before any development permits can be issued.

The permits will be reviewed based upon the code and policy in place at the time of the completed application — summer of 2021, Schultz wrote. That means any action on the South Tacoma Groundwater Protection District as part of the 2022 Comprehensive Plan Annual Amendment will not affect the project.

Those involved in the city code amendment update also are seeking a land-use designation change to Economic Green Zone, the first of its kind in the city, to strengthen aquifer protections. A call for a moratorium on any new permitting within the district and aquifer recharge areas “until the code has been appropriately updated” has been part of an online petition drive.

Since the city’s public notice in February of the project and public comment period, objections to the project have grown, with many City Council public comment or community forum discussions segueing into vocal warehouse opposition, notably during the final consideration of the city manager’s raise in May.

“I object to the high marks for racial equality when current code allows for environmentally racist projects like Bridge Industrial,” said Heidi Stephens at the May 24 council session. Stephens serves on the South Tacoma Neighborhood Council and has been an open critic of the warehouse proposal.

Project opponents have focused on the estimated truck traffic, potential problems with impervious surfacing as it relates to a city aquifer, and environmental concerns of development happening on a Superfund site, among other issues.

An FAQ about the project that Schultz sent adds, “The applicant is required to submit additional studies: air quality analysis, noise study, photometric study (light pollution), hydrogeologic assessment (aquifer impacts) and design clarifications regarding electric vehicles and solar readiness.

“These studies are key to responding to many of the questions received during the public comment period,” it noted.

A Bridge representative met with residents in an April meeting organized by the city.

Matt Gladney, senior vice president of development for Bridge Industrial, told the audience the developer “will be pursuing the LEED certification” for the speculative development. He noted plans to add a wetland and create “23,000 square feet of stream buffer to protect the buffer and remove the invasive vegetation,” among other improvements.

Acknowledging the South Tacoma Groundwater Protection District, he said: “That’s something we highlight and we look at right away because part of our design needs to address the existing conditions in place and the impervious surfaces that we’re going to create. We are not blind to it and we don’t want to ignore it. We actually want to try and make this site better for the community.

“We believe strongly in our product we build and in the Tacoma area as a home for a top-tier tenant.”

This story was originally published by The News Tribune.