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Tacoma to pay $2.8 million to local developer for delaying Wal-Mart project

The city of Tacoma will pay $2.8 million in a settlement with a local developer after the city fought against the construction of the Wal-Mart on Union Avenue. (KOMO News){ }

TACOMA, Wash. -- The city of Tacoma will pay $2.8 million in a settlement with a local developer after the city fought against the construction of the Wal-Mart on Union Avenue.

The 150,000 square-foot Wal-Mart on Union Avenue in Tacoma was originally supposed to be built in 2011, but the city slapped a moratorium on big box stores backed by citizen concerns.

"I just really don't like their business practices in general and what they end up doing to the community," said Tyler York, who opposed the Wal-Mart.

Despite the moratorium, the store and surrounding Allenmore Marketplace were eventually allowed to be built opening in 2013 with a federal judge siding with the developer that the moratorium was not legally applied.

Now after a long court battle, the city is paying for delaying the project. The City Council approved the settlement Tuesday night.

"Our company does not celebrate the settlement with the city of Tacoma," developer Jeff Oliphant said. He said the moratorium caused the original owners of the property, the Elks, to boost their price and caused Wal-Mart to reduce its payout.

In addition, he said there was $1 million in attorney fees.

The $2.8 million figure is down from the $3.1 million he requested.

"By agreeing to settle after being fully vindicated in the trial we nonetheless wanted to put the appeal process behind us," Oliphant said. "The settlement allows our small company to devote its full efforts working with forward-thinking South Sound cities including Tacoma to create new projects that the community needs."

"It's not free money. It's taxpayer's money," said Tacoma deputy mayor Robert Thoms.

Thoms noted that he wasn't on the council at the time the moratorium was put in place, but voted 'for' the settlement.

"So anytime you can settle without spending more of the taxpayers dollars for what happened prior to me coming on the council, I think you try to make sure you do the best you can in the case of saving taxpayers' dollars," Thoms said.

The city issued a statement saying the money is coming from a special account set aside for claims. The statement said, "This settlement payment will not impact the City's ability to provide essential services to Tacoma residents."

York was asked if he blamed the city council. "I don't," York said. "I feel that was in the public's best interest. It's unfortunate the law found some kind of a loophole."

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