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Lingering Concerns about Point Ruston

Mike Cohen will have done the region a great service if he transforms
the polluted old Asarco smelter site “which his real estate partnership has
purchased” into an attractive development compatible with its neighborhood and
broadly accessible to the public.

There’s little question about the attractive part. Cohen clearly
intends to create a showcase of upscale homes and commercial properties ” Point
Ruston” that will make good use of the site’s panoramic views and Commencement
Bay location.

He’s also shown substantial commitment to both public access and
compatibility.

But there are still concerns. They were in evidence Monday when
the Ruston Town Council refused, 3-2, to let Cohen proceed toward home
construction on Stack Hill, a key part of Point Ruston.

There are no good guys or bad guys in this dispute” just different
ideas on what the development should look like. At least two of those who voted
no say they they fully expect to approve the project in the end; they just want
Cohen to alter his plans to address more of their misgivings.

The council has been advised by its attorney not to publicly
discuss one big disagreement; presumably it has something to do with the way
Point Ruston will fit into the larger Ruston community. That would be a
legitimate question, given the tiny town’s vulnerability to getting overwhelmed
by incompatible developments.

Then there’s the access issue. Cohen has pledged to leave much of
the property’s 67 acres open to the public. But the people at Metro Parks
Tacoma -the chief advocate of access – say the details are still vague.

Many of the park district’s concerns revolve around the
bike-and-pedestrian promenade that would wrap around the waterfront. Park
officials want to clarify just how much of the promenade would be public; they
say a strip at least 30 feet wide is necessary to accommodate both slow walkers
and fast bicyclists and skaters.

They also want Cohen to guarantee a corridor linking Ruston Way to
Point Defiance Park, a longtime desire of just about everyone who enjoys Ruston
Way’s long, glorious promenade.

Cohen is a responsible developer, and he’s hardly ignoring public
concerns about Point Ruston. But in some areas, he’s falling short of the
promises of the master development plan Asarco negotiated with surrounding
communities in the 1990s.

Cohen did not inherit those promises as a legal obligation.
But given the site’s long history of polluting the area, he did inherit
Asarco’s moral obligation to accommodate the public as much as possible while
developing this spectacular site.

This article originally appeared in The News Tribune

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