Business Groups Fight Tacoma Water Vote

TACOMA, Wash. (CN) — The Port of Tacoma and business groups sued the city and a political action committee that’s pushing citizens’ initiatives that would require a public vote for development that requires large amounts of water.
     The water-conservation ballot measures are aimed, among other things, at stopping the largest methanol plant in the world from coming Tacoma. Supporters are collecting signatures to place both measures on the ballot.
     Initiative 6 would amend the Tacoma Municipal Code to require any land use proposal that requires 1 million gallons of water or more a day to be put to a public vote before Tacoma can provide it with water.
     If enough signatures are gathered, Initiative 6 will be on the November ballot.
     The virtually identical Amendment 5 would change Tacoma’s City Charter to include the public vote on water, and would appear on the city ballot in 2017
     Joining the Port of Tacoma as plaintiffs are the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber.
     They sued the political action committee Save Tacoma Water and its treasurer Donna Walters, the city, and Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson in Pierce County Court.
     They claim both measures are unconstitutional and exceed the scope of initiative powers.
     The Port says it has standing to sue Tacoma for the city’s acts “within and outside of Tacoma city limits. A critical segment of the Port’s state-mandated mission, use of tax dollars and business is to lease lands to tenants, which tenants can and do include industrial entities that may and do use over one million gallons of water a day.”
     The Port says its economic activities contribute to 29,000 jobs and pay $195 million a year in state and local taxes.
     “All plaintiffs will be injured by the initiatives’ requirement for a public vote on the designated water service users and the initiatives’ grant of ‘enforcement powers’ to ‘the people’ without any further clarifying definition or defined process,” the complaint states.
     The plaintiffs say the proposals will:
     “Inject uncertainty into already complicated and costly zoning requirements,
     “Prevent plaintiffs from completing real estate and construction projects already underway, or from entering into and attracting new real estate and construction projects,
     “Surrender important community developments to the subjective and unpredictable will of unidentified ‘majorities,’ and
     “Expose the Port or its tenants to litigation over legitimate water uses.”
     Economic Development Board CEO Bruce Kendall said in a news conference: “If this passes or comes close to passing, what’s next? What else are we going to have public votes on?”
     The business groups want the court to prevent validation of petition signatures and stop the measures from being placed on the ballot.
     The Port of Tacoma is represented by Carolyn Lake with Goodstein law Group.
     The Economic Development Board is represented by Jason Whalen with Ledger Square.
     The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber is represented by Shelly Andrew with Gordon Thomas.

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