Monday, August 31, 2009

Shoreline Permit Appealed Again

The appeal on the shoreline permit for the Silver Cloud Hotel was finalized recently (available on Ruston Reports). The final decision by the state Shoreline Hearings Board, after listened to all the arguments in the appeal, ruled that Ruston's shoreline permit is consistent with shoreline regulations and the development should be allowed to proceed.

There was a 30-day window for this decision to be appealed again to superior court. That window was set to expire last Friday, but an appeal was filed late last week. I'm trying to get a copy of the appeal and more details.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ruston Potluck A Huge Success

I don't know what was more enjoyable at the town potluck this afternoon ~ the squeals of joy from the kids, the feeling of being HOME that comes from being surrounded by neighbors that truly enjoy each other's company, the fabulous spread we put on for each other or the fact that the bathrooms were open, freshly painted and working.

There had to over a hundred folks who came down to Rust Park to enjoy great food, even greater company, games and kites for the kids, practice on a real fire hose and much more. I was having such a great time I didn't take many pictures, but there will be more memories shared on Ruston Families soon.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Point Ruston Update

Loren Cohen of Point Ruston brought me up to speed on their projects this week. Here’s what he had to say:

The team is waiting on the permits to install the utilities for the Point Ruston project. They are about 90% done with the design and hope to have permits issued from Tacoma very soon. He said he is pleased with where the project is right now.

The soil being placed at the bottom of 51st Street is in preparation for the new roundabout that will connect 51st to Ruston Way. The area is being “pre-loaded” in preparation for the new road once the permits are issued. Doing the work now also gives them time to monitor the soil and see if there is any unexpected settling and that compaction works as planned. The area is being brought up to final grade now. Even though sewer and other utilities will be placed in this area soon, trenching will be needed regardless. Loren said there was no reason to delay this work while waiting for the permits.

If the final engineering approvals come through in the next month as hoped, there is a chance work could begin on the new Ruston Way (and tunnel closure) this fall. With the fill being placed on the Ruston side already, work could begin sooner on this end. But it’s more likely the tunnel closure will happen next spring.

Work on the Copperline building is on hold, waiting for the needed infrastructure improvement to catch up with the building. It’s better to wait right now with only concrete exposed rather than have a framed building sitting out in the weather.

The permits for Building 7 will be submitted to Tacoma soon. This building will house apartments and there are good financing packages available for that type of development right now. Loren offered assurances that both projects (Stack Hill and Point Ruston) are solvent and moving ahead.

I’ll have more on the Shoreline permits and Silver Cloud Hotel in a few days…

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Knox Box

As mentioned at the last council meeting, Ruston Fire Department has implemented a new system for building access in case of an emergency. Here is my understanding of how the system works. Chief Torbet will correct me soon if I'm wrong - and hopefully answer any questions folks may have:
  • The system is for businesses right now, as part of the on-going effort to inspect our businesses to ensure they are safe and prepared. Homeowners can participate if they desire.
  • The first step is for the property owner to purchase a Knox Box. Don's Market spent about $180 for theirs - you can stop by and take a look. Once mounted near the front door, the box contains up to 3 keys that will open various doors. The box is only accessed in case of an emergency and any use is tracked.
  • Rustson's fire department has its own unique key - different from Tacoma's or other local departments (many of whom already use this system). The master key and code have to be used before the box can be opened.
  • Building owners have to get a signature from the fire chief before any purchase can be made. That way any Knox Box in Ruston is coordinated and tracked by the department.

Chief Torbet provided some information from the company. Stop by the market and ask questions or post them here. This gives our department one more tool to help if ever needed.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Council Meeting: August 17, 2009

Study Session (6 pm): Street Lighting
I didn't arrive until about 6:30 pm. Council Member Hunt was discussing utility taxes. She pointed out that money raised from taxes can go into the general fund. (My understanding is that public utilities are not allowed to "profit" from the rates they charge, but they can charge more than the actual cost in order to build reserves for capital improvements for that utility. Any funds gathered through rate payments have to be used for the utility, but it appears those payments can be taxed.)

Mayor Hopkins noted that he is trading phone calls with Galya Gjertsen, AWC Insurance Services Director. She has offered to review the town budget for free. She may be hired for more work after this initial review. Hunt wanted to get the utility taxes in place in the next couple of months. Hopkins noted it would be better to start some of them now rather than during winter, such as on natural gas.

Council Member Stebner asked the town electrician what shape the power poles were in. Fesharaki noted the system had been rebuilt in 1995 with many new poles installed at that time. Poles have a 30 to 40 year life, so Stebner felt better about using some of the electric reserve fund on street lights since the overall system was "solid".

JJ McCamment and the town engineer outlined a grant for $135,000 they are applying for on behalf of the town, due by September 8th. Point Ruston will prepare the grant at no charge. If awarded, it would pay for new curb and gutter on Baltimore from Commercial to 49th; and a traffic calming circle at 49th and Baltimore. They did not think it was likely that Ruston would be competitive, but since there is no cost to the town to try the council gave their approval.

Regular Meeting (7 pm)
The meeting on time with Council Member Albertson absent. The agenda was amended to add discussion for street lighting. The minutes were approved with minor corrections with a vote of 4-0.

Staff Reports
Fire: There were 9 calls in July, with no fire related calls on July 4th. The NoxBox material for the department had arrived. Chief Torbet had installed one at his business for about $180. (More details will be posted on this system later in the week.) The department is ready to implement the system now.

Police: Chief Kunkel said the department had been busy last month. He reminded residents to call 911 to report possible crimes in progress rather than leave a message at the police office. We can call dispatch for non-emergency situations at (253) 798-4721 or for problems with animals call (253) 627-7387. The used police car sold for $700 at auction. The CTED grant came in at just under $10,000. Stebner had heard gunshots just after 3 am a couple of times coming from Tacoma. Others in the audience had heard the same thing. Kunkel was not aware of any calls, but encouraged everyone to call 911 if it happens again.

Public Comment
Jim Wingard gave an update on the casino trial and wanted to know who made the decision for Ruston to refuse to arbitrate.
Sherri Forch thanked everyone for their concerns for the seniors during the heat wave - all made it through fine. She and neighbors will be holding a group yard sale on the last weekend in August in the median on Winnifred at 53rd Street. She invited everyone to join in.
Beth Torbet reminded everyone of the town potluck the same weekend. She confirmed the new street lights will be the same design as are being installed on Stack Hill.
Lyle Hardin thanked Hunt for making arrangements for him to attend the AWC budget conference the previous week. He had heard that Tacoma will provide LED street lights for free if we used that design for our new lights.

The meeting was recessed for executive session for 30 minutes to discuss potential litigation. Things got underway again at 7:58 pm.

Resolution 453: Amending Employee Policy to change the hours of the standard work week: Council Member Hedrick thought this would be helpful for the mayor to be able to manage employee hours. Hunt thought customer service was important and the town should ensure town hall was open regular hours. The resolution passed 4-0.

Street Lighting: Hedrick made a motion authorizing the mayor to go out to bid on the 4 sections of street lighting upgrades discussed at the study session. (I'll get a map of these sections posted when I get a copy). The motion passed 4-0.

Claims and Payroll
Passed 3-1 with Stebner voting no.

Mayor's Time
Hopkins reported that work is progressing on moving the kitchen in the new community center. The bathrooms at the park should be repaired in time for the town potluck. He thanked those officials that attended the AWC budget conference. He noted the town planner is taking a bigger role in building permits and it is going well.

Council Time
Stebner was concerned about the assumption that Ruston had about 600 sewer hook ups. The census bureau lists only 350 households. Since the cost for the sewer upgrades are estimated to be about $40 per hook up, if the assumption of 600 is too high the cost per hook up could be much higher. The mayor will research the issue further.
Huson had substituted for the mayor at the last staff meeting and felt things were going well. He noted the liaison meetings with Point Ruston had not been held for several months, but he understood the work on the tunnel would probably not happen until spring (rather than this summer as planned). He also wanted to know when the next curb painting party would be held. The mayor did not have a date yet.
Hedrick noted that the NoxBox system for the fire engine and aid car would cost $1,373.91 that had not been budgeted for. He hoped the council would approve the expenditure since they approved the purchase. MRSC had confirmed that the fire department is authorized to perform fire inspections for local businesses. He reminded everyone about the town potluck his wife is organizing on August 30th from 4 to 7 pm.
Hunt again stressed the need to get utility taxes in place to generate more revenue for the town.

The meeting adjourned about 8:25 pm.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Goldfish Gallop 2 Canceled

The re-run of the Goldfish Gallop, slated for 7 pm tonight, has been canceled. No reason is given on the Metro Parks web page (available here).... but if you were planning on a nice 5-K run in the park tonight, you'll have to run alone.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Casino Trial Postponed

It has been confirmed that the trial between Point Defiance Casino and the Town of Ruston has been delayed for several more months. The proceedings had been scheduled to start a week ago Thursday, but were called off at the last minute. The entire proceeding has been delayed now until a new court date can be assigned.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Budget Cuts And/Or Tax Increases

I recently sent an email to Mayor Hopkins expressing my concerns about the proposal to raise utility taxes without making any budget cuts. Ruston has drawn on reserve funds to balance the budget this year.

Turns out the town has addressed both sides of this coin. His answer is informative and encouraging. He agreed I could share it with you'all. Contact information for all our elected officials is listed on the sidebar to the left. Be sure and keep the conversation going. It's important that our leaders don't make these important decisions in a vacuum. ~ Karen

This remains a balancing act and one that we haven’t been very good at in the past. We have made cuts and will continue to make them where needed. Some of the things council and I have done in the way of cost cutting – we eliminated the office assistant position, we eliminated the weekend emphasis patrol’s and have one officer on duty, we employed (prior to my time) a new town attorney whom is on retainer (huge savings) and replaced the town planning service with a more affordable service – much better quality/ service I might add. We are doing everything in our power to avoid litigation by being professional and diligent in our dealings with everyone. The litigation costs have been excessive and unacceptable – however this does not mean we are rolling over if we are confronted – it means we are handling our affairs properly and professionally.

We are not taking the increased taxation approach lightly. Council’s approach to this issue is that we cannot fundamentally run our town differently than other municipalities do. Meaning – we are in the condition we are in because we did not keep pace with the overall needs of the town. When this was a mill town we had subsidies and those offset our costs (need for taxes). Our tax position is quite a bit less than our neighbors in Tacoma and yet they have economies of scale working for them. For us to believe we can offer services for less than Tacoma is up for debate.

The other side of the coin is we have some residents that want the services, don’t want cuts, and are willing to pay more. They are probably a very small minority because I think everyone’s position is we don’t want services reduced and we don’t want increased taxes – that is the dilemma. Our projected expenses based on our 6 month review is approximately $900,000 (not including litigation payments) and our projected revenue based on our six month review is $790,000.

I am focused on encouraging growth, helping The Commencement come on line, promoting our town to anyone that will listen, helping Pt. Ruston become a reality, and the revenue will follow. Strong revenue growth will alleviate the need for increased taxation in the short term but at some point we have to adjust our tax base – but whether now is the right time or not is what council is currently dealing with.

Well – not sure if I have answered or properly addressed your issues but we have communicated. I know you are aware that I do not set policy so your council members will need to hear from you as well.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fire Investigation Complete

The lot that once held the Bergman family home now sits empty after a fire gutted it in early June. The incident report on the fire is now complete. The cause is undetermined, but it is possible an ember from a campfire in the neighborhood earlier in the day landed on a love seat below the back deck. You can read the full report here...

Joanne was in the process of moving out and had stored material under the deck. The fire likely started in the love seat. Joanne and her son had seen embers earlier that windy evening on the upper deck. Three neighbors reported smelling smoke.

The home has been demolished now and Joanne has moved out of town. The fund raising effort is complete. Another chapter in our little town comes to a close; giving cause for gratitude for a job well done by our fire department, best wishes for the Bergman family and the joy of being part of a close-knit community that cares.

Ruston Families Connect

There's a new blog in town. This time there are no politics involved, just families connecting to families. It grew out a comment made at Night Out a couple of weeks ago; that there are no kids in Ruston to play with. Not only do we have a Potluck At The Park coming up to correct that assumption, we have a new on-line place to connect.

If you want to announce a play date, find a local babysitter, see recommendations for fun places to take the kids, write a review on someplace you visited or check out what others are saying then visit Ruston Families ( The site is being run (for now) by Kathryn Hedrick, but she is inviting other authors to join the effort. You can email Kathryn at Join in the conversation!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Silver Cloud Shoreline Permit Can Proceed

UPDATE: 9:30 pm: I thought it might be helpful to reprint some of the documents for those who don't want to wade through all of them. These are the sections that I think summarize the finding fairly well, but please review all the documents for yourself with the links below. ~ Karen

Ruston appeal under Item 3, last paragraph... In addition to evaluating the impacts on view from private residences, the Board also considered the project's impacts on the general public's enjoyment of the shoreline from public areas. As with the residential views, Petitioner failed to demonstrate that the proposed hotel would obstruct views of the shoreline from the sidewalks and other public areas upland of the site. Importantly, the public will have substantial new access to the shoreline opened up to it, and the unobstructed views of the water that access will provide. In this case, the public's use of the shoreline will be vastly improved. The Board concludes that the opportunity created by the hotel and water walkway for substantial numbers of people to enjoy the shoreline is in the public interest and consistent with the Shoreline Management Act's goals and preferences identified in RCW 90.58.020.

This case presents unique facts because it arises in connection with a 'superfund' cleanup of a severely contaminated site. It is not, and has not been for over a hundred years, a natural shoreline. The proposed use is a reasonable one. The re-development of the site clearly provides considerable public benefits that are in the public interest, including vastly improved public access to a shoreline that has been closed and contaminated for a century...

Tacoma appeal, paragraph 9 under Conclusions of Law: Appellant contends that marine and other scenic views, from approximately 10 homes on Bennett Street to the west and above Point Ruston, would be obstructed by the construction of proposed Buildings 2B and 4A above a height of 35 feet. However, the evidence does not support such contention. The principle evidence relied upon by appellant to support its contention was the testimony of Bill Walker concerning view obstruction that he speculated would occur as the result of Buildings 2B and 4A exceeding height of 35 feet. Walker's testimony was unsupported by any view analysis, credible photographic evidence, or any evidence that would demonstrate the comparative views from his home if Buildings 2B and 4A were constructed at a height of 35-feet as opposed to the proposed respective heights 50 feet and 80 feet. Moreover, Walker's testimony was based, in part, on an erroneous assumption that the height of the construction crane jib located n the vicinity of Building 2A was at a height of 50 feet when, in fact, the jib is at a height of at least 112 feet and possibly as height as 176 feet. Appellant has failed to carry its burden to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the construction of proposed Building 2B and 4A above a height of 35 fee would obstruct views on or in areas adjoining the project area...

Bill Walker et al and Nora Leider et al filed appeals to the Shoreline Permits that were issued for the Silver Cloud Hotel project. Both appeals have now been denied. You can read the decision on the Ruston appeal here... and for the Tacoma appeal here...

I am trying to get a copy of the original appeals, but the issues seem to range from fears of toxic exposure, worker's health, view loss, traffic congestion to name a few. The only two issues that could be considered with an appeal of the shoreline permit were views and traffic. In both cases, the hearings examiners found that the project and SEIS review met the requirement for approval of this project. As noted in the findings on the Ruston appeal, "In this case, the public's use of the shoreline will be vastly improved."

The group could appeal the decisions further in Superior Court.

Monday, August 17, 2009

On The Agenda

The fun begins at 6 pm tonight with another study session to discuss street lighting in town. There is only one item on the agenda for the regular meeting that begins at 7 pm: Changing the standard work week for town employees. The handouts are available on Ruston Reports (click here).

Company Town In Transistion

The smelter in East Helena blew down their two stacks on Friday. The town is now looking for a new identity without its iconic smoke stacks to mark the city. It reminds me of Ruston's struggle a decade ago; back when we were embracing our blue collar roots while rejecting the white collar culture of the big city next door to wondering if there would ever be closure to the Superfund designation so the community could move on.

There are not too many left in Ruston that were here when our stack was imploded, much less who worked at the smelter that was once our life-blood. But our history is intertwined with this same transition from blue to white collar, from a company town with fierce loyalties to a more diverse workforce, from working poor to higher income with higher expectations... It's been an interesting ride and I wish all the best to our counterparts in East Helena.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Planning Commission Meeting: August 12, 2009

The staff report is available on Ruston Reports (click here). The staff analysis, findings and conclusions reads:

"When considering change to the official zoing map, (Exhibit B), the Planning Commission must first begin by looking to the Town's Comprehensive Plan, the document which represent the Town's official vision for with it is to become. The Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA) requires that change to the zoning code and zoning map are to be consistent with the goals and policies of the Comprehensive Plan. It is the Planning Commission's responsibility to determine if the proposed changes to the zoning code or zoning map are indeed consistent prior to forwarding an ordinance on to the Town Council with a recommendation for approval.

As shown on the attached Comprehensive Plan Land Use Designation Map, (Exhibit C), it can be seen that the subject properties have a designation of "PCOM" and are not included within the areas of the town designated as RES (Single Family Residential).

Staff finds that the proposal to update the Town's official zoning map by rezoning the properties located on the east side of Pearl Street between 52nd and 54th Street from RES to COM-P is consistent with the goals and policies of the Comprehensive Plan and the official Comprehensive Plan Land Use Designation map."


The hearing began at 7 pm. Commissioner Byran Ficiala was absent. After the formalities and agenda review for the public hearing, public testimony began.

Jennifer Martin from Highland Ave. expressed concern about the proposal. She had heard the height limits would be changed to allow 45 feet tall buildings (proposal allows 35 feet).

Jennifer Jensen from Highland Ave. urged a no vote on this proposal. In the 3 and half years she has lived here the area has gotten nosier. This proposal would only increase that noise. She was also concerned about privacy and wanted to be sure the proposal fits with what is planned for the Tacoma side of Pearl. She urged the commission to respect the residential nature of the current neighborhood.

Christine Fletcher from 52nd Street was worried that commercial development would increase traffic and parking in the neighborhood. She was concerned for the safety of the children.

Ginger Kryger of Highland Ave. reminded the commissioners that this proposal was made three years ago and neighbors rejected it. She reviewed the petition she and friends had collected. Since there is a discrepancy between the zoning code and the comprehensive plan, the comprehensive plan should be changed to residential rather than making the zoning code commercial.

I spoke in favor of the proposal noting the need to increase our tax base. This is a natural area to expand retail shops all the way down to the park, but nothing was likely to happen for some time. I mentioned the large-scale development across the street from my house on Shirley that I had supported. Even though there was a personal cost, it was needed for the overall good of the town.

Beth Torbet of Winnifred spoke in favor of the proposal. It makes sense to bring commercial all the way down Pearl Street. Retail at the entrance of the park will encourage people to get out of their cars and walk – something needed to support the businesses further up the street. She encouraged broader planning and brainstorming to outline what types of businesses we want and where. Once those goals are outlined, we can set codes and incentives to encourage those goals.

Mike Mussig who owns property in this area of Pearl wants the area zoned commercial. Most of the area is commercial anyway, even this two block area has an apartment complex and large condo building in it. He thinks it would be fair to him as a property owner to give him the same ability to develop his property like these existing multi-family/commercial developments on Pearl.

The town planner then gave some comments. He noted that an environmental review would be required for any individual development proposal that would address parking, traffic or other concerns. Impacts could be mitigated as part of the development, such as traffic revisions to slow traffic. Even if commercial zoning were approved, there would be another chance to address specific concerns each time a property is developed. There are already parking requirements for the commercial zone.

He noted that the comprehensive plan is intended to be a 20-year look into the future, where the town is headed in the future. It serves as a planner’s bible. The current inconsistency is difficult to work with.

In his opinion, the commission has several options:

  • Approve the proposal to make the zoning code match the comprehensive plan (as commercial for this area)
  • Approve the proposal with modifications
  • Deny the change and let the inconsistency remain in place.
  • Move to change the comp plan to residential for this area.

The commission then allowed more questions from the public. Ginger had some questions about how easily the variance for Coles Tavern redevelopment was approved – it may be too easy for commercial development in this area to go to 45 feet. The planner noted some unique reasons why that variance made sense that would not apply to other lots.

Jon Anderson wanted to confirm the allowable heights under this proposal (35 feet) rather than the 25 feet currently allowed in a residential zone. The planner clarified that unlike other jurisdictions, Ruston code requires all mechanical appliances or other roof structures to fit into that 35 feet, so the usable space is less with 35 feet.

Jennifer clarified that the current commercial zoning on Pearl does not require off street parking for some development, but new residential development requires 2 off street parking spaces. The planner explained that a previous council had probably wanted to provide some incentive for new development and encourage residential on top of street level retail. He noted a recent comment by a council member that parking was not a problem right now, but if there ever was growth enough to create a problem the town could address it.

Beth asked again that folks find things they do want, find ways to make this area more productive for the town.

Tom Kryger of Highland Ave. said he was on the planning commission when the commercial designation was made in the comprehensive plan many years ago. He recalled there was no public input at the time, folks were more complacent. There was no specific development proposed for the Point Ruston area at that time. He would expect a different response if the same proposal were made today. He suggested changing the comprehensive plan to residential so the issue won’t keep coming up again and neighbors won’t have to stay awake at night worried about kids getting run over in the alley.

The record was then closed and the planning commission began their deliberations. Cherrie Anderson felt that Ruston has seen so many changes that we should preserve as much of our neighborhoods as we can. With Pearl being a dead end street, there would never be support for strong retail on that end of Pearl. No one is out walking that area now. She would hate to see our neighborhood disrupted by high rises. She did not feel this change was needed right now, especially with so many people speaking against it.

Collett Judd agreed with Cherrie. She did not see a need to make this change right now.

Dick Pederson guessed that one third of the town is already zoned commercial and he did not feel any more was needed. The residential zone is important to the neighborhood feel. He recommends changing the comprehensive plan to residential so the issue does not come up again.

Charles Ranes did not feel the issue was clear-cut. He has seen successful small-scale commercial development that seems to work well next to residential neighborhoods like 30th and Carr. He envies those that can walk to a nice restaurant or retail store.

Chair Kevin Moser also felt torn. He sees the relevance of increasing the tax base, especially with the current budget shortfall.

Collette wanted to know what the sales tax rate was and how much difference it would make compared to a residential home. Cherrie stated again now is not the time to make this change. Kevin understood the concern over loss of privacy. Dick felt that in comparison to other business clusters, the area on Pearl would never be able to compete since it is on a dead end area. The choice development will be at Point Ruston and that is at a standstill right now. He did not see any reason to push this change through right now.

The planner told the commission that he has a meeting with Tacoma next week to talk about their side of Pearl Street and asked if the commission was willing to wait until he had that meeting before making their decision. The commissioners agreed to address this issue again at their next meeting on August 26th. The meeting adjourned at about 8 pm.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

End of Summer Party At Rust Park

The informal talk at Night Out has developed into a full fledged plan. A family party has been booked for Rust Park on Commercial Street, slated for Sunday, August 30th from 4 to 7 pm. The tentative plan is to BBQ hotdogs and everyone bring a side dish to share ~ a real old-fashioned potluck! Put the date on your calendar and come make some new friends.

Kathryn Hedrick (yes, she's married to Council Member Jim Hedrick) is one of the folks leading the charge. She sent out the following list of ideas and areas you can help. If you can help please email Kathryn at

· Design flyer/invitation
· Make 425 copies of flyer – need to be delivered to town hall by August 18

Food & Drink (50 people or so???)
· Water
· Soda
· Juice
· Ice
· Coolers/containers for beverages
· Hot dogs
· Buns
· Condiments
· BBQ (we can drive it to the park)

· Plates
· Napkins
· Cutlery
· Tables
· Chairs
· Tablecloths

· Music?
· Games for kids to play?
· Arts & crafts?

Pearl Street Zoning

I'll get a full report out soon on the planning commission's public hearing last night regarding the zoning designation on Pearl Street from 52nd to the entrance of the park. But the following letter was presented to the town planner with 62 signatures representing almost 100% of the properties on Highland (the street directly east of Pearl):
Rob White, Town Planner
North Creek Consulting

Dear Mr. White,

This letter is regarding the upcoming public hearing of the rezone for the east side of Pearl Street between 52nd and 54th Streets from RES to COM-P.

This issue came up once before about 2 ½ years ago. The Council rejected this part of the rezone with good reason. At that time, the residents of this area made it quite clear that they were not in favor of this change for the following reasons:

  1. Increased alley traffic and noise. The proposed area is not isolated in any way—it shares an alley with mostly older single-family homes. Since the proposed change protects the view of the front side (Pearl Street) of the buildings, parking, garbage, deliveries, noisy heating and cooling units--to name a few, would all be open to the alley and therefore the residents’ homes.
  2. Decreased privacy. The intended change appears to be focused on a mixed commercial/residential use for this area. If there are residential units above the commercial units, the view would be directly down or into the backyards and windows of the existing residential units on Highland Street . Design considerations for any new building areas appear to concentrate on the Pearl Street frontage. Can the privacy of the established residences be protected?
  3. Increased traffic on Highland Street . Not only would there be more general traffic on this street, but most assuredly there would be a dramatic increase in parking on Highland Street . Though there would be on-site parking for customers and perhaps most residents of any proposed complex, workers would park on Highland Street—the easiest access.
  4. There has already been a recent change to zoning on Pearl Street from N. 51st to N. 52nd. At the present time, there appears to be sufficient COM-P properties available in Ruston as well as the west side of Pearl Street in Tacoma . Many of those properties are unused, underused or underdeveloped. There seems to be little need to extend the COM-P zone all the way to Pt. Defiance Park . Rather than enhance the entry into the park, this change would make a family trip to the zoo or Owen Beach on a sunny summer day even more cumbersome. Once a zone has been changed, it is difficult to change it back.
Although the need for increased residential density (mixed with commercial) in our small town is debatable considering the 17.5 acres of mixed use property in the MPD, the proposed rezone on Pearl Street does not address that supposed need in a sensitive manner consistent with section 3.4 of the Comprehensive Plan (“Protect and enhance the character and vitality of established residential neighborhoods.”). Many concerns are not addressed in the COM-P zoning in the current Comprehensive Plan. It was surprising that a rezone notice was not sent to all residents of Ruston , but merely the ones within a certain area. Is that normal? Since a rezone of this type reflects a major aspect of tiny Ruston , the whole town needs to be given a chance to speak on this.

We, as a neighborhood, were quite surprised with the arrival of the public hearing notice. We felt that we had spoken loudly enough previously and that our public officials had listened. We feel it is time to change the Comprehensive Plan--not the zoning--to better reflect the realities of development of this small part of Ruston .

Thank you for taking the time to hear and assess our concerns.

Respectfully submitted,

Name Address Comments

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Public Hearing Tonight

Just a reminder that the planning commission is holding a public hearing tonight to receive comment about a proposal to change the zoning classification along the east side of Pearl Street. The area from N. 52nd to the entrance of Point Defiance Park is currently zoned as residential. This proposal would make this two block area a commercial zone.

The last time this was proposed, it drew sharp criticism from neighbors. I understand several adjacent property owners are concerned about the proposal this time. Everyone is encouraged to come to Town Hall at 7 pm and hear the details of the proposal. Then let the commission know your views. See you there!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Goldfish Gallop 2

The first Goldfish Gallop must have been so much fun that a second run has been added for Saturday, August 22nd at 7 pm. After a 5-K romp/run/walk through Point Defiance Park, folks can gather for refreshments across the street from the Fish. Proceeds benefit Metro Parks Foundation. You can sign up for the event by clicking here....

Night Out Party

The only party in town last week for Night Out Against Crime was in front of the mayor's home on N. 49th. The usual party at 53rd and Winnifred was suspended this year due to lack of interest, among other reasons. So the whole town trekked over to the south side of town to enjoy live music, good food and great conversation. Mayor Hopkins reports over 70 people stopped by over the course of the evening.

One of the wonderful by-products of neighbors gathering is the resulting brainstorming and energy. The mayor says many folks want to expand into more local events. One idea that might be gaining support is a concert in Rust Park with a community BBQ. The restrooms are getting repaired at the park, so the space will be more usable. If you are interested in helping, contact your elected officials at the emails listed on the right.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Community Center Progress

It may not look like much right now, but things are underway to remake the former sales center for The Commencement at the Ruston School building into a community space. The former bedroom has been removed and the kitchen will be moved into that space. Planning commission chair Kevin Moser is donating his time and routing the power so the appliances will be usable. The Commencement is donating all the new appliances. The plumber is due in this week so the sink, etc will be usable.

We'll have a beautiful functioning kitchen by the time its all done. A few walls in the front come out, along with the wall in front of the stage and the round-room and model. This will open up the main area for meetings and stage productions. Soon, soon, soon - this beautiful space will be open for us all to use and enjoy.

On a side note, The Commencement hopes to have their first resident moved in before Labor Day. The model condo is up and running and the lobby should be completed soon. There are a few more hurdles, but the first few sales should close in August. It's a big milestone for the project. Welcome to the first of our new neighbors!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Council Meeting Notes: August 3, 2009

A study session was held at 6 pm to interview the company the town is considering hiring for building permit services. I arrived at the tail end of the meeting. Lyle Hardin was asking how development projects currently underway would be handled in a transfer of services. The SAFEbuiltinc team said there is a 30 to 60 day window to transfer all projects. Albertson joked that hopefully it would take long enough that Hardin would be sitting in his seat when such a change takes place so Hardin could take all the blame.

The study session adjourned about 6:50 pm and the regular meeting began at 7 pm. The clerk called the meeting to order and asked for a motion to appoint a mayor pro-tem since Hopkins was absent (Huson was also absent). Hunt made a motion to appoint Hedrick as mayor pro-tem. After a long pause, Hedrick seconded the motion. Hedrick deferred to Stebner as the senior council member (in case Stebner wanted to run the meeting). When Stebner said he was not interested, the vote to appoint Hedrick was approved 4-0.

Hedrick called the meeting to order and the agenda was approved. Stebner asked if the town attorney was coming. After a phone call, it was confirmed he was on his way. Hedrick asked for a motion to approve the minutes, but Hunt wanted to go back to the agenda and add a discussion on the building services. Stebner asked if the town should go out to bid. The town attorney had just arrived and advised it was not required but was a good idea. Hunt moved to add the issue to the agenda, which was approved 4-0.

Hedrick again asked for a motion to approve the minutes, but the town attorney then asked to have the agenda amended to add an executive session just before the resolution changing employee work hours. The amended agenda was approved 4-0.

The minutes of both the study session and regular meeting of July 20, 2009 were approved with some minor changes with a vote of 4-0.

Public Comment
Jim Wingard: With the budget review on the agenda tonight, he pointed out that it would have been nice to have the tax income that the council lost when they imposed the tax increase on the casino gambling operation last year.

1. SAFEbuiltinc Discussion: Hunt outlined the results of the study session and moved to have the mayor work with SAFEbuiltinc on a contract (which comes back to the council for approval). Albertson seconded the motion. Stebner wanted to know what the big rush was. There had been no discussion of this change at previous council meetings and he was not kept in the loop on any reasons this change was needed. Hunt pointed out the problems identified by the building permit task force (they both had been committee members), such as only having inspections 2 times a week. This proposal should save the town and clients money and time. Albertson liked several things about the proposal, although he hoped that someone would call the references. The motion was approved 4-0.

2. Resolution 450: Agreement with Town Planner: Hunt moved for approval and Stebner seconded the motion. The town attorney explained that the language the council had wanted changed at the last meeting had not been made. The way the council wanted the contract worded could be construed as the planner being a town employee rather than an independent contractor. After more discussion, the agreement was approved 4-0.

3. Resolution 452: Amending Council Rules: The motion to require fiscal notes was made by Albertson and seconded by Stebner. The proposal was changed to have this requirement apply to all proposed ordinances and approved 4-0.

The council recessed into executive session for 20 minutes to discuss potential litigation. At 8 pm they reconvened the meeting.

4. Resolution 453: Changing the Standard Work Week for Employees: The issue was moved to the next meeting on August 17th.

Claims and Payroll
Hunt moved for approval. After a long pause with no second from Albertson or Stebner, Hedrick confirmed with the town attorney he had the authority to second motions as mayor pro-tem. The attorney told him he did not give up any of his rights as a council member as mayor pro-tem. Hedrick then seconded the motion. Hunt and Hedrick voted yes, Stebner voted no and Albertson abstained. Council rules state that unless there is a conflict of interest, an abstention is counted with the majority vote. The town attorney confirmed that approval had been granted to pay the bills and employees for this pay period.

Council Time:
Stebner wanted to have a study session with the town electrician to discuss the street lighting project.
Albertson agreed that the street lighting project was important. Some of the lights have been tagged as unsafe. He also passed out a budget from LaConner and pointed out many things he liked about how they formatted and presented the information. He felt that the council should look at the pay rate of the town maintenance men given the amount of work they do compared to other employees.
Hunt still wants to look at a green design for the street lights even though the town electrical engineer had some concerns.
Hedrick had talked to the fire chief about installing NoxBoxes on new development and encouraging local businesses to also get one. The box has a key for the building and is accessible by emergency personnel. It will cost about $1500 to equip the fire engine for this service. There is some debate about the fire department's authority to conduct inspections of local businesses. Inspections are suspended until the issue can be resolved.

The meeting adjourned about 8:2o pm.

Proposal To Add Commercial Zoning

The Ruston planning commission will hold a hearing next Wednesday August 12th to consider changing the zoning classification along the east side of Pearl Street from N. 52nd to 54th. Currently the area is zoned residential. The east side of Pearl from the town boundary at N. 49th to 52nd is zoned commercial, listed as COM-P in the zoning code map. This proposal would extend the commercial zone all the way down Pearl Street to the entrance of Point Defiance Park.

I've already heard from some neighbors in the area who are opposed to the change. Please be sure to attend the hearing and let your views be known, both pro and con. ~ Karen

Ruston 21

I've been following the progress of the community planning effort in Ruston, Louisiana that they call Ruston 21. It focuses on building a community vision for the future that will guide the zoning codes and planning department. The first effort is on their downtown core. There is an update on their progress here....

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Update on Civil Service Commissioner Walker

I was called as a witness today in the defamation lawsuit filed by Ruston Civil Service Commissioner Bill Walker against former Ruston resident Shirley Jones (link to this case by clicking here).

You will recall that Ms. Jones obtained a temporary protection order against Mr. Walker while her allegations of a sexual assault were investigated (link to that case by clicking here). The permanent protection order was denied (below) and to my knowledge no charges have been filed against Mr. Walker. Mr. Walker is now suing Ms. Jones and Ruston residents "John Doe" 1 through 3.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Night Out In Ruston

The National Night Out Against Crime has become an annual tradition ~ a chance to potluck with neighbors and build those important community connections. As a side benefit, knowing our neighborhood helps reduce crime. From the organization's web page:

NATIONAL NIGHT OUT is designed to:

  • Heighten crime and drug prevention awareness;
  • Generate support for, and participation in, local anticrime programs;
  • Strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and
  • Send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
There are two block parties planned for tonight in Ruston:
  • Winnifred from North 53rd to 54th
  • N. 49th from Baltimore to Bennett

These streets will be blocked off and neighbors mingling. Stop over and say hello. It's a great way to get to know your neighbors, have some good food and enjoy a summer evening! More details are available on the town web page here....

Ruston Likely to Hike Sewer, Water Rates

Ruston Likely to Hike Sewer, Water Rates; so reads the headlines on a local blog in Ruston, Louisiana. The council in Ruston, Washington is discussing the same issue (on sewers) this last month. We aren't looking at a 50% increase like our sister city down south, but up to $37 per month per hook up is predicted at this point.

I can't say that helps to know we are not alone with this struggle, but the parallels are interesting....

Monday, August 3, 2009

Council Meeting: August 3, 2009

The council meetings begin tonight at 6 pm, starting with a study session to discuss potential changes in the building permit process. There will be a presentation by SAFEbulintinc.

At 7 pm the regular meeting begins. On the agenda are two items that were discussed at the last meeting (town planner contract and changing council rules to require a fiscal impact statement on any proposed ordinance) and one new issue (changing the hours of the standard work week for town employees). The full packet of background information for the meeting is available on Ruston Reports.

Hope to see you all there!

Council Meeting and Study Session: July 20, 2009

I only have time for the Readers Digest version of the notes this time. We have another meeting tonight. I hope everyone can attend themselves and hear the full version of what happens in person! ~ Karen

The meetings began at 6 pm with an hour long study session to discuss the failing sewer system and the funding options. It was decided to pursue $5 million in a low interest, long-term loan from USDA. There will be a monthly cost of about $37 per hookup even after using most of the sewer reserve fund. There will also be a cost for those with older sewers to connect into the new system, but it will be required by the state eventually to reduce leakage.

The regular meeting began at 7 pm with all the elected officials present. The first order of business was a motion authorizing the mayor to pursue the loan for $5 million. Then the police, fire and planning department gave their monthly reports.

Public Comment
Terry Knapp asked for clarification on the sewer project. Edie Tallman thanked the police and fire department for their help patrolling on the 4th of July - she thought the day went well.

Ordinance 1290: Repeal Library Card Reimbursement: Passed after some discussion 3-2 (Stebner, Albertson voting no). Refunds from town hall for the cost of a library card in Tacoma or Pierce County are no longer available.

Ordinance 1291: Administration of Development Regulations Passed 5-0 with no discussion.

Ordinance 1292: Height Increase on part of Pearl Street Commercial Zone: Passed 3-2 (Stebner, Alberston voting no).

Ordinance 1293: Public Records Policy: Amended and passed 5-0.

Ordinance 1294: Indemnification of Town Officials: Albertson was concerned that there was not enough definition about when officials would receive legal representation. No changes were made, and the measure passed 3-0 with 2 abstaining. Hedrick noted that the council rules require that a reason be given when abstaining or the abstentions are counted with the winning votes. Stebner changed his vote to no.

Resolution 449: Communications Maintenance Agreement: Passed 5-0

Resolution 450: Contract for Town Planner: Moved to the next meeting.

Resolution 451: Collective Barging Agreement for Town Employees: After a lengthy discussion led by Albertson, several problems were identified and the agreement was voted down by the council 0-5.

Budget Discussion: Albertson wants an estimate included with any proposal that outlines the impact on the budget. The rest of the council agreed and they will change the council rules to ratify the change.

I did not note what happened with claims and payroll.

Mayor's Time
The budget is looking better than expected at the 6 month mark. More curbs will be painted over the weekend. He is still getting bids for moving the kitchen in the Commencement sales center before the town moves to that space.

Council Time
Stebner is glad to see the street light replacement project moving forward.
Hedrick noted the passing of Mr. Bundrock, one of Ruston's longest standing residents.
Huson had nothing.
Albertson is still concerned about the town budget. He wants to see the building permits on a monthly basis as required by council rules.
Hunt is still researching potential tax increases to help the town balance the budget. She wants a study session soon to discuss the issue in detail.
Stebner wanted to know if the town was still going to bring someone in to audit the town books. The mayor is contact with someone who might volunteer to do that work.

The meeting adjourned about 8:45 pm.