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Neighbors petition Fife Council against warehouse plans

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A group of Fife residents don’t want a massive industrial facility as a neighbor because they fear the added sights, sounds and ground-rumbling vibrations from passing trucks would make their otherwise quiet streets unbearable.

Prologis, a developer and property manager of industrial sites around the world, wants to build a 1.7 million square foot commercial complex on 78.5 acres of land on the southern edge of Tacoma’s tideflats, at the city line between Tacoma and Fife. The land slated to be the home of warehouses and light industrial operations sits within Tacoma and is owned by the Port of Tacoma. The residents live right across 12th Street, in Fife.

“The most that we could do is to not give them a driveway,” Fife Public Works Director Russ Blount said, noting that the actual site is fully in Tacoma’s city limits, so Fife can only determine traffic mitigation efforts.

No permits have been submitted, and the development has to still undergo a series of environmental and traffic reviews that are expected in the coming months. The idea of building a commercial facility on the site, however, has been pondered for years. News that the port has reached a leasing deal with Prologis got residents worried about what is to come so they opted to take action sooner rather than later by voicing their concerns before permits have been filed.

A group of 50 residents who live around the site fear the planned widening of 12th Street, which is part of the traffic mitigation plan for the development, would mean more traffic, more noise and more diesel smoke flowing through their windows from trucks. They want a dedicated roadway to the complex off nearby 54th Street and a raised berm with street trees to block sounds and lights from the facility from bleeding into their neighborhood.

The Port of Tacoma is the lead agency on the project’s environmental review, with constant discussions with planning official from the cities of Tacoma and Fife regarding permits and mitigation efforts. The project will also have to pass a series of regional environmental reviews.

The working plans for the site has the San Francisco-based firm building up to 1.7 million square feet of yet-to-be determined warehouse, commercial and light industrial operations across four buildings at 5200 12th St. E. One proposed building would span 1.1 million square feet, another would total 227,000 square feet, another would have 185,000 square feet and the last building will cover 201,000 square feet. No tenants have been determined but Prologis typically leases space to manufacturers and distributors. It manages 15 million square feet of commercial spaces in Puget Sound, for example, including about 2 million square feet in Fife.

The proposed development calls for the widening of 12th Street East from two lanes to three lanes, sidewalks on the residential side, undergrounding of power lines and landscaping along 12th. A draft site plan shows the main access point to the four-building complex will be at nearby 8th Street to limit truck traffic on 12th Street.

The fact that such a large facility is being proposed on formerly vacant land that is so close to an established residential area is not lost on planners.

“In my mind, that calls for a bigger mitigation effort,” Tacoma Planner Ian Munce said, noting that the effort now is to develop design standards and traffic mitigation plans that both the developers and residents can accept. “Part of it is finding that sweet spot.”

Requiring too few mitigations would affect quality of life and safety of the neighbors, while too many restrictions could cause the land to go undeveloped. Both routes could tie up the issue with legal challenges for years.

“I have to be able to stand up and say we got the best deal we could get,” Munce said. “I am not there yet.”