Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The meeting began at 7 pm with all the elected officials present. After the flag salute, the agenda was approved after business item 3 was removed (proposed weight restriction on the new Baltimore Street). The minutes from the last meeting were approved 4-0-1 with Albertson abstaining.
Police: Chief Kunkel outlined his various recent meetings and training. He noted the crew from Remman Hall will be out again this Saturday to paint curbs. Officer Nicholas caught two suspects in Ruston that had been hitting car washes along the I-5 corridor. The coroners report was finally done for the death in the condos on Pearl. The death has been determined to be from natural causes.
Council Member Stebner wanted to know how much portable scales would be for enforcement of commercial traffic codes. Kunkel said they were expensive and extensive training would be required to enforce these codes. Stebner said he heard gunshots again last weekend and called 911 this time.
Fire: 8 calls came in during August, 2 fire related (that turned out not to be fires) and 6 medical aid. Chief Torbet attended a summit on the H1N1 flu virus. The biggest challenge is getting people to believe this is a serious threat. The experts are estimating 30 to 50% of the population will contract this flu, which is a combination of 4 different types of flu. The best way to fight this is to wash hands often and stay home when sick.
JJ McCamment gave an update on the Point Ruston project. They have spent $1 million on design and preparation for the LID improvements. The cost for the LID has risen from $11 million to $14 million, mostly on water and power improvements. They hope to get the sewer line installed this fall, but will probably have to wait until spring.
Two lenders have offered them terms, so financing is starting to flow again – good news for the project. Their suggestion for weight restrictions on the new Baltimore Street was only to limit truck traffic through the residential neighborhood, not as a cost savings despite Stebner’s concerns.
Point Ruston will be hosting two groups in October. The Cascade Land Conservatory will be volunteering at the ferry/sales center and they will host a group from the national Brownfield conference at the model home on Stack Hill.
Don and Beth Torbet reported hearing gunshots last weekend as well and estimated about 20 shots. Don wondered if there was a way for the town to put information on their web site to answer questions when these situations arise so folks are not left wondering or afraid. Kunkel said there was no problem in Ruston that night.
1. Discussion of increase of engineering costs for Mo Fesharaki: Mo estimates the additional time to redesign the 12 poles on Pearl Street to include flags (but not flower baskets) will be $450. The poles will also cost more money. Council Member Hunt handed out an example of a potential flag.
2. Ordinance 1295 – Adopting Building Permit, Plan Review and Building Department Services Fee Scheduled (Second Reading): Stebner was concerned that Ruston was going to charge $90 to inspect sprinkler systems when Tacoma was already doing the same inspection. The line item for this charge was removed until it could be researched further and the ordinance passed 5-0.
3. Removed from the agenda.
4. Resolution 455 – USDA: Several corrections were made to the ordinance. Hunt outlined the meeting she, Stebner, the mayor and the town attorney had attended with USDA. USDA presented a 9-page letter of requirements for accepting the loan, which generated many questions. She was satisfied that this was a good move for the town. She suggested the town hire someone to track the paperwork on the project. The mayor did not think it was a necessary expense since it was a single project with a single contractor. Albertson wanted to be sure the contract made it very hard for any change orders. The town attorney said any change orders would still be paid from the loan. The agreement requires that the town continue to put $26,000 per year into the sewer reserves. The resolution passed 5-0.
5. Proclamation –October Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Passed 5-0.
Claims and Payroll
Passed 3-1-1 with Stebner voting no and Albertson abstaining.
Mayor Hopkins is excited about the new accounting software. It will allow the utility bills to be paid on-line. Residents will be able to get their bill and town newsletter electronically and view their bills for the last 24 months. There is a onetime licensing fee of $2,000 and then $55 per month (plus an 18 cent charge for each credit card transaction). He thanked Hunt for her work learning the new system. There will be training on Oct. 6th. The new system will give the clerk more flexibility to create more detailed reports.
The town needs to think about garbage collection with the new larger buildings opening soon like The Commencement. The current containers and how they are collected may not serve the town’s needs for much longer.
Curb painting will start at 10 am Saturday on N. 49th – anyone and everyone welcome. The community center has a fully functioning kitchen now; thanks in part to Kevin Moser’s help hanging cabinets and other help. The mayor is still hoping to start holding meetings in the new space by Nov. 1st. The council can then look at a system to rent the space out for events.
He noted the change in dynamics around town now that the new high school is open at Point Defiance. Not to judge all teenagers, but maybe a neighborhood watch might be in order. He thanked the council members for their personal time given to projects like the sewer upgrade. The USDA will present a ceremonial large check to the town at a special meeting soon, probably attended by someone from Norm Dicks office.
Stebner wanted to confirm the town would not allow any blogging on the town web site. The mayor said he wanted to add some human interest stories to the town web site to make it more interesting. Stebner said he is not in favor of any tax increases, even though the council is considering a variety of potential increases.
Huson, Hedrick, Alberston and Hunt had no further comment.
The meeting adjourned about 8 pm.
Monday, September 21, 2009
The meeting starts at 7 pm tonight at Town Hall (5117 N. Winnifred). Stop by!
Friday, September 18, 2009
- Today's paper introduces us to the new science high school at our door step (across from the go-cart operation). The first sentence in the article even calls the area "Ruston's Point Defiance Park"...
- Federal Way will be voting on changing it's form of government ~ in this case from a council manger to a strong mayor. Brings back memories.... (read more here)
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I recently got to meet one of the owners of our newest business in Ruston, Joseph Atkinson. He's already signed up as the secretary for the business district, and friends who have had their hair cut at the salon all have great things to say. Stop in to say hello! Here are their answers to the same series of questions I'm asking all the local businesses. ~ Karen1. When did you get started? What is your background prior to this business? My wife Soda and I opened up Urban Oasis in July and have been in business for over two months. My wife has been in the beauty business for three years and takes pride in making people look and feel good. Me, I’m a WA state licensed bail agent, and a senior at UW Tacoma. We are both very hard working people.
2. Describe what your business is/does. As a full service salon our services include haircuts, styling, perms, pedicures and manicures, waxing, facials, nail art design, hair coloring, highlights, and all other salon services.
3. What motivated you to open a business? It has always been our dream to open a business; now was simply the right time and right location. We noticed our building for lease when walking with our one year old son and knew right away that this was a one-time opportunity to be in a great area near to home. We love the freedom associated with running our own business.
4. Why did you locate here? We located here in Ruston primarily because of the close proximity to our home which is about a five-minute walk from our salon. Aside from that we like this area because of the people. It is safe, and there is a strong community feel.
5. How would you describe your success? What are your primary markets? Being open for two months we have been doing better than expected. We attribute our success to the great area we are in, and the outstanding residents. Our primary markets include the town of Ruston and North Tacoma. We aim to serve the residential area near our salon.
6. Any plans to expand or are you satisfied with your current operation? Currently we are satisfied, but if our business does well we may consider opening a second location in Pt. Ruston when the development is completed.
7. What has the business district done for your business and for the local businesses as a whole? What do you see as the primary goals for the district over the next year? Though I am not familiar with many of the past activities of the business district, I can appreciate all the work the district has done to create a favorable and safe location for running a business. In my view the district should work on making the area look better by adding planters, setting up crosswalks, hanging flags, and creating a safe environment for citizens to walk and hang out. This would help unify and identify the area to people passing by as the Ruston Business District. The district should also advocate unification through increased commercial zoning.
8. Anything else you think folks would like to know? We are just happy to be in this great area, and we hope people will come and try us out. My wife is talented, a great listener, and is always adamant about taking the time to do things right by the customer’s standards.
Friday, September 11, 2009
The action puts the development plans on hold once again. The Town of Ruston, along with Point Ruston and others, is named in this, so legal fees (not reimbursable by the developer) will continue to be incurred.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The meeting began at 7:03 after waiting a few minutes for council members Stebner and Albertson to arrive. Stebner came in just as the meeting started, but Albertson never arrived. After the agenda approval and flag salute, the minutes from the previous meeting were approved 4-0.
General Public Comment
Jim Wingard was concerned about the amount of money the town is spending defending itself on the casino lawsuit. He asked for the exact dollar amount, but received no response. He said he would stop by town hall this week and hoped it would be released.
Nancy Sharkey was opposed to the potential rezone on Pearl Street. She has three young children and is concerned about their safety since commercial development would mean more traffic. Having businesses in this area would not add much money to the town, but would mean big changes to her neighborhood and reduce the value of her investment.
Ginger Kryger wanted assurances that if the Comprehensive Plan change recommended by the planning commission is delayed until 2011, no one will try to push for the zoning change. The mayor said he did not think anyone on the council (or himself) had any plans to force commercial zoning.
I asked the council to not give up the potential commercial designation since it would be very time consuming and costly to ever try to get it back. I also asked that we use this momentum to start some broad-based planning meetings – get everyone to the table as we move to update the Comprehensive Plan.
Don Torbet felt the town needed revenue and should keep the potential commercial designation. There is adequate traffic on Pearl to support business. He wanted to know why Ms. Kryger’s question was answered but not Mr. Wingard’s.
Beth Torbet noted the business district is working on improvements to the streetscape. She also hoped the council would not give up the potential for commercial development along all of Pearl.
1. Commercial District Street Lighting: Stebner wanted to ensure the new streetlights could be used to hang flower baskets or flags. The town electrician said the new lights were not built to handle the weight of flower pots and did not include any attachments for flags. The cost for a larger pole and arm on the big light standards (12 planned for Pearl) would be about $500 each, and about $150 each for the smaller poles on the other streets (pictures here). After a lengthy discussion, the council decided they would pay for the additional engineering to include arms for flags only for just the 12 poles on Pearl Street. There will be a formal resolution authorizing the additional expense at the next meeting. The bid will include two options, with or without arms for flags.
2. Resolution 454 - Agreement for Building Department Services: The old company will be terminated on Wednesday. Hunt was in favor, noting extensive research her previous task force had done on the issue. Hedrick thought it was important to upgrade given the amount of development on the horizon. Stebner still thought the work should have gone out to bid, but was pleased with SafeBuilt. The mayor said the new company brings automation and tracking ability that is very much needed. He said he had researched the market before recommending this company. Hunt said she called a reference who gave a solid recommendation. The resolution was approved 4-0.
3. Ordinance 1295 - Adopting Building Permit, Plan Review and Building Department Service Fee Schedules (First Reading): Hunt and Huson were very pleased with the format. No action was taken on first reading.
4. Ordinance 1296 - Maximum Load Limits on Baltimore between Ruston Way and N. Commercial (First Reading): Stebner wanted a guarantee this was not just a cost-cutting measure for the developer. He wondered why the train tunnel could not be re-engineered to handle truck traffic. The town planner noted this was a way to keep heavy truck traffic on 51st Street rather than cutting through the residential neighborhood and that working with the railroad on a big project like this is difficult. He will have Point Ruston and one of their engineers at the next meeting to go over details. The fire chief said he was ok with the weight restrictions, but wanted to be sure that not only Ruston’s equipment could use the road, but larger equipment if needed.
5. Salary Provisions for Collective Bargaining Agreement: The town attorney stated that most everything had been agreed to except for this issue (which should not be discussed in executive session). The council had previously rejected the union request for a 2.5% annual pay increase for the 3 years of the contract. Hunt wanted any increase tied to the consumer price index. Hedrick wanted to know if the town could selectively give pay increases to certain people but was told no. Hunt wanted to know how Ruston’s pay compared to other small towns, but that has not been researched yet. She noted we are running at a deficit and did not want to bankrupt the town. Hedrick noted that state and other municipalities have a hiring freeze or are looking at pay cuts. He proposed freezing the current wages for the three years of the contract. The rest of the council agreed.
6. Pearl Street Zoning Map Amendments: The mayor summarized the issue and the current recommendation by both the planning commission and town staff. Hedrick had surveyed the area and found 9 homes, 2 multi-family buildings and one vacant lot. The planner said the original proposal came from discussion with the mayor looking for economic development opportunities for the town. The council accepted the staff recommendations to not initiate a plan amendment for this one issue.
Claims and Payroll
Hunt wanted to be sure the Mr. Wingard’s question would be answered this week. Huson gave him the total spent during August from the claims he had just approved ($4,140.00). Claims and payroll was approved 3-1 with Stebner voting no.
The loan paperwork for the sewer replacement has been submitted. The project should be underway in the next 30 to 45 days.
The transfer to the new budget software/accounting system is underway and the budget should be more understandable now. Hopkins noted the clerk has done nothing wrong, she has been formatting things as instructed in the past.
He forewarned the council that he wants to upgrade the town web site soon. One of the volunteer firefighters who works for a computer company is lending his expertise. Hopkins wants to make the site more interactive with the ability to check account balances and pay bills on-line, apply and track permits, have citizens contribute.
The community center is a labor of love. The volunteer fire fighters spent a day helping pull out the old kitchen (including the large granite counter) and got it moved to the new area. He is still getting volunteers to get the cabinets and final pieces in place. He is hoping to start holding meetings in the new space by the first of November.
He was hoping for curb painting on 49th this weekend. One of the neighbors pressure washed the curbs and he wants to get it done while they are clean. Chief Kunkel has been trying to schedule the crew from Reman Hall.
Stebner was concerned that the various committees are not being given proper marching orders. If there is nothing for the committee to do, he wants the council to ensure they are not required to meet. For instance, he did not think the tree committee had reason to be meeting right now. Ms. Kryger was the past chair of this committee and let the council know that the committee finished up a few things at the last meeting just before she left the committee. There are only two members of the committee now, so they cannot function. Hopkins is working the council liaison Huson on the issue.
Huson offered his thanks for the fire department’s quick, strong response to a 3 am fire alarm at his house recently. It turned out it was a false alarm, but he was impressed. He promised to be better dressed if there is ever another alarm.
Hedrick did not have anything.
Hunt said the council would begin setting the 2010 budget soon. She wanted to get the new ordinances codified. The town planner let her know that he and the clerk are planning on doing that quarterly. Hunt noted that the council rules require that council members should call in to be excused when they are absent from a meeting. Any absence should be noted in the minutes for both excused or unexcused. Since Albertson had missed the last two meetings with no notice, that correction should be made to the minutes. She also related a comment from a vendor who serviced the copier at their home. The vendor had been questioned twice by police and local security while parked in town and he thought we had a very secure community.
The meeting adjourned about 8:20 pm.
Monday, September 7, 2009
I confirmed with the town planner that public comment is allowed on this issue. So if you have something to say, come by the council meeting tonight at 7 pm and let your elected leaders know what you think about this issue or anything else on your mind. 7 pm at Town Hall ~ 5117 N. Winnifred. See you there!
There are usually at least two sides to any issue. That is certainly true for the debate over how to handle the zoning on the last two blocks of Pearl Street. To summarize, there is a conflict between Ruston's comprehensive plan (our long-range plan) and the current zoning map that controls the actual zoning. The comprehensive plan denotes these two blocks as part of the COM-P zone (Pearl Street commercial), but the zoning map shows them as residential.
The planning commission considered a proposal to bring the zoning code into alignment with the comprehensive plan under the assumption that was the intention when the plan was last updated. But the petition signers proposed a new idea - change the comprehensive plan to residential so this issue won't come up again. A public hearing was held on the initial proposal with testimony asking the planning commission to take a new direction. After closing public input, the commission voted to recommend changing the comprehensive plan. No hearing or formal input has been allowed on the new proposal.
When the commission began their deliberations, there were several misconceptions that I was concerned about. I wrote this letter to the town planner in hopes that the information could be shared with the commission before they made their decision. I share it with you now as just another piece that should be considered when making important policy decisions like this. The viewpoint of the petition signers was posted last month here....., now for some another viewpoint. I'm happy to post anyone's opinion, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello Rob and Planning Commissioners:
I wanted to get some additional information to you after some of the questions and comments that came up at your last meeting. I hope this email and attachments can be provided to the commission prior to their meeting on Wednesday.
The current debate is about not only the zoning along Pearl, but about how Ruston will deal with, encourage and build (or not) it's business core - and about our long-range planning as a community. Regardless of the decision on this proposal, I hope the planning commission will take the lead on bringing the community together for a comprehensive look at our future and what this evolving town wants.
This area is a logical place to plan for growth. Steps can be taken to mitigate potential impacts. This decision should not be based in emotions or fear. I hope you will consider what is what is best for the town as a whole, not unfounded rumors that were clearly answered at the last meeting.
If the decision is to change the Comprehensive Plan rather than the zoning code, please use this opportunity to focus on updating the Plan. There is a lot of momentum right now. We could hold a series of neighborhood meetings to get ideas flowing, gather the priorities from residents, even educate folks about what the town's priorities are. It might be nice for each commissioner to hold a meeting in each section of town - have one person invite their neighbors in for a "coffee hour" and brainstorm about what makes Ruston tick, what we need, where we want to be in 10 years. Then hold a town-wide meeting to present a summary of what discussed.
Just an idea, but the idea of some kind of community "vision" process or strategic planning has been talked about for years now - please use this opportunity to turn that talk into something useful (not only the plans, but the chance to come together and dream rather than disagree when specific proposals come up).
Tacoma has based its Neighborhood Districts and Business District programs on the Main Street development principles (available at http://www.preservationnation.org/main-street/about-main-street/the-approach/). I hope you will consider these principles in your decisions. This approach focuses on encouraging development in core areas (downtowns) that offer a mix of retail, housing and axillary support businesses. This approach offers important information on making your business area walkable and attractive - something that I hope you will consider for our current businesses.
I am very concerned about the discussion at the last meeting that seemed to indicate that the future Point Ruston retail area should be our focus, and alluded to there being no chance for commercial success anywhere else in town. I've attached an email from Metro Parks and the zoo - this major attraction brings at least a million visitors into Ruston each year. We are not a dead-end road with no development potential, we sit next door to a major destination. There is so much more we can and should be doing to harness some of that potential to help Ruston survive.
The question was raised about what commercial business had to offer over residential homes. There is a need to balance our neighborhood needs for quiet with the very real need to sustain the services to provide that quiet neighborhood. In Ruston, we pay a property tax rate of 9.7138 per thousand of assessed value for residential property. Commercial property is often assessed higher, but would pay at least the same amount of tax as a house.
One of the advantages of having even a small business is the additional tax it would generate. I've attached Ruston's B&O tax rate, that any business with quarterly gross receipts over $5,000 pays. For retail, a tax of .00153 is charged on all gross receipts, regardless of profit. In addition, out of the 9.3% sales tax, 2.8% comes back to Ruston's general fund.
Having a vibrant retail/commercial core adds to the quality of life for the neighborhood too. Being able to walk to shop, eat and find entertainment is good for a community. Having people get out of their cars on the way to the zoo or ferry to pay taxes here is a good thing.
I've also included a survey of the two blocks you are considering (both sides of the street). You'll note that none of the Tacoma side has any homes directly on Pearl, although some are close. Almost half of the Ruston side is already vacant or multi-family use, and I believe several of the houses in this area are rentals as was mentioned by one of the property owners at the last meeting.
If you cannot see your way to supporting this proposal at this time, I hope you will use the interest it has generated not only as a catalyst for a long overdue community-wide planning effort, but to enhance our current businesses who give so much to help Ruston survive. We need a balance - we cannot have just a quiet neighborhood without an economic engine to support it.
Thanks for listening. Please contact me with any questions at (253) 228-8529.
This issue has generated quite a bit of interest, so if you have something to say come to the meeting at 7 pm. You'll get two minutes during public comments to give the council your input. The full packet of information for Tuesday's meeting (including the staff report) is available on Ruston Reports here and the notes from the planning commission meetings on the zoning issue are available here... and here...
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Here are a few more details about the new street lighting project. I believe the USDA loan was going to cover at least some of this project, but I am waiting for confirmation from the mayor. The first picture below is of the new lights that will be installed along Pearl Street. The second is the light for Highland, Winnifred and Shirley. The locations for these new lights are on the maps(click on it to enlarge). The lights along Winnifred will move to the sidewalks rather than in the median.
I recall asking one of my professors who had some expertize in urban architecture several years ago what he would suggest Ruston do to improve. His immediate response was to put in new, pedestrian friendly street lights. Its nice to see that finally happening.....
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Thankfully we've never come close to that around here, even a couple of years ago when things were so heated. It's a good reminder that things can always be worse. Read the full story here...
Friday, September 4, 2009
Well...it is finally the end of summer! I love this time of year...when all the leaves change, and the air gets crisp! As I get my little shop ready for all of our darling Halloween and Autumn stuff, we have to make some room. So, we are having a HUGE end of summer sale!
90% SIDEWALK SALE
10/$1.00 printed papers
4/$1.00 stickers, rub-ons, chipboard, & embellishments
25% off spring/summer children's clothes
30% off all scrapbooking items
30% off decorative albums
15% off braceletes & hair accessories
25% off stationary and cards
COME ON IN!!!
5609 North 51st Street
Ruston , WA 98407
So come on over for these great deals!
check us out at www.cleverfromheidigrace.com or look us up on face book by seraching heidi grace for store updates and news!!!
The town planner began by reporting that Tacoma's planning commission had decided not pursue zoning for a mixed use center on their side of Pearl. Cherrie Anderson made a motion to recommend to the council that they change the comprehensive plan for this area to residential because so many of the residents wanted it that way. The motion was seconded by Richard Pederson.
Kevin Moser agreed that he did not want to change the zoning to commercial, but he did not see the need to change the comprehensive plan. If conditions changed in the future making commercial development favorable, the zoning could be changed at that time. Pederson did not want folks in the area to worry about this coming up again. If things changed, they could just change the comprehensive plan back to commercial.
Moser asked the planner what would be involved if the town wanted to change the comprehensive plan back to commercial in the future. The planner explained that the zoning is residential, but the comprehensive plan shows the area as commercial. The proposal was to change the zoning map, but the commission is now wanting to change the land use designation - which is a much more involved process that would take at least 4 months. The state is requiring that Ruston update its plan by 2011 anyway and the town council may want to look at this change as part of that overall detailed review of the whole plan.
The planner pointed out it would be much more difficult to change from residential to commercial if the town wanted change this back in the future. As it stands now, no one can do commercial development in this area without requesting a variance. If the zoning map were changed in the future, the burden for the extensive environmental review would fall on the developer for each individual proposal. They would have to show any impact on sewers, roads, police, etc. If the town follows this recommendation by the planning commission and then wants to change it back in the future, the burden for the environmental review would fall on the town. The town would have to pay for the study of impacts on sewers, etc.
The motion to change the comprehensive plan to residential for this area passed 3-2 with Moser and Ficiala voting no. Their recommendation will be forwarded to the town council for consideration.