Wednesday, May 8, 2013

No New Business Allowed In Ruston: Opinion

The Ruston council decided last night that the moratorium on any new business will stay in effect. Staff outlined the emergency exists because there are inconsistencies between zoning code changes that are not yet reflected in the comprehensive plan (which can only be updated once a year). After overwhelming testimony from business owners outlining the very real harm they are experiencing from this moratorium, elected officials directed staff to hurry the process as much as possible rather than lift the moratorium. Officials are concerned the floodgates will open and undesirable business will try to locate in Ruston before the codes can be clarified. One council member said she wants to protect the investments of those who testified tonight by not allowing a bad business to open next to them and decrease the value of their property.

In short, Ruston leaders have determined the small risk of having a unpopular (but legal) business try to fill one of our many vacant retail spaces over the next six to eight weeks outweighs the real harm to current landlords trying to not only improve their property but enhance the quality of life in Ruston. The town attorney confirmed the council can declare an emergency at any time for any reason to impose moratoriums and such legislative action is pretty much bulletproof. Despite the pleas from everyone who testified tonight, the council would not consider releasing the hold on development while they update their codes and plan.

This emergency was declared at the March 19th regular meeting. There was nothing announced to indicate the issue was under consideration. Minutes from that meeting are not yet available. The town has sent out two newsletters since this major action was taken, yet the only indication was Ordinance 1400 filed with the other ordinances on the town web site. The issue came to light this weekend when a potential tenant for the corner building on Pearl contacted the president of the business district to confirm what he had been told by the Ruston planner - no new business is allowed in Ruston for the next six months.

I do not agree that the risk of having a "bad" business open in Ruston while the process of updating our books comes anywhere close to justifying the harm their moratorium creates on our businesses. The business district has been working very hard to recruit and promote this area to potential businesses. All those efforts, not to mention those of the property owners, has been flushed. Even under the expedited process discussed tonight, we lose the best marketing time of the year to recruit new life into our all-to-empty spaces. And such drastic action for what is a normal updating procedure sends the wrong message to potential developers - that we don't care about businesses; that we want to pick and choose what types of business we like and exclude those we deem not up to standard.

There is a balance in life that even applies to legislative action. The risk should outweigh the harm. All voices are important and should be sought out, listened to and considered. That is not what happened with this issue and I am disappointed in our leadership. That's my opinion - what's yours?



Anonymous said...

The council is doing the right thing.

Anonymous said...

What do you mean by "bad" businesses? I wouldn't want an adult bookstore in Ruston. If that is allowed now then I am in support of the council.

Ruston Home said...

Adult book stores and adult entertainment are already regulated and limited as much as legally allowed. There are numerous safeguards and definitions of what businesses allowed or banned already in place. All applications are denied right now, even "good" ones. It's difficult if not impossible to market vacant space when the new tenant has to wait months to even apply for permits.

Anonymous said...

Ruston will benefit form this action in the long run. We need to make the right moves now so Ruston will be a vibrant and encouargeing place to do business. Property owners need to understand this.

What say you.

Anonymous said...

The council is doing the right thing. and...Let's have 'one' fun summer without all the dirt dust, noisy trucks, tractors, street sweepers, bulldozers, road graders (that start at 8:00am till Late evening) ...

Beth Torbet said...

As a Ruston resident and a commercial property owner/operator in Ruston for the past thirty years, I feel very qualified to respond to this topic.

I and my fellow commercial property owners were totally blindsided by the action of the City Council of Ruston. As the Ruston-Point Defiance Business District President, as soon as this was brought to my attention I was/am obligated to inform all of the commercial property owners of this "emergancy" action imposed upon all of us.

The RPDBD has been actively seeking new businesses to come to Ruston and create a balance to compliment Point Ruston.

This 6 month moritorium on all of Ruston property owners was done without reaching out to us, to engage us in the conversation or with any regard to an established group of business owners. This action not only is a punitive action to the very property owners that support this City with their B & O and property taxes - it also denys the citizens of Ruston needed revenue. All of us should be concerned & step up to solve this "emergancy"(?) as to not cause more financial harm to all of us.

May 21st is the next regular Council meeting and I urge you to attend. I will be testifying to terminate this moritorium the night of the 21st.

Our business district has gone through a major transition because of the economy and long established business owners retireing. We are not alone.

In times like this we would hope for clear communication and support of our community leaders, not a blindsided lock down moritorium.

I encourage the community to enlist and become part of the solution. Engage with a local business owner or property owner with positive ideas.

Ruston will not be the vibrant and encouraging place to do business that the community talks of for many years with actions such as this moratorium. The investors are paying attention.

Anonymous said...

For the past six years the single aim of the newbies has been to turn Ruston into a "bedroom community". Many lawsuits have come about because of this all at Town expense, of course.
We need to sweep out the one and domes and get some community leaders to step up and sign up.

Anonymous said...

The total area of Ruston is .034 square miles, with a population of 749 people, 194 families (2010 Census). This is a bedroom community...?!?

Ruston Home said...

This brings us back to an old debate: do we have the tax base to survive without any businesses? If so, then buy them out, board them up and move on. If not, then let's find a balanced approach that allows property owners (even commercial) to make the best use of their property. There was a strong push-back from citizens to the idea of annexing to Tacoma a few years ago, so I think there is a desire to find a sustainable tax base.