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TACOMA, WA-Would-be developers of the 650,000-sf Tacoma Promenade shopping center have cried foul again.

In a petition filed this week, they claim the Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals ignored their rights to complete the $8.3 million land buy back in the early 1990s and also deprived them of their day in court.

In its original lawsuit, Tacoma Promenade asserts that the City of Tacoma and Promenade entered into a contract for Promenade to purchase an 80-acre site known as Wapato Hills and develop a shopping center. Shortly before the transaction was to close, according to the lawsuit, the City advised Promenade there were wetlands on the site and prohibited Promenade from building on the wetlands without required permits. However, the suit claims, the City refused to give Promenade time to obtain the permits. The lawsuit filed by Promenade was dismissed without a trial. Promenade then asked the Court of Appeals to reverse the trial court, but was denied.

Promenade claims in its petition to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that this decision was based on an incomplete review of, and little knowledge about, the facts. The developer also claims the city’s counsel had a conflict of interest, thereby constituting ethical violations.

Bought by the city’s Water Division of Tacoma Public Utilities in 1910, the land in question has had a long and storied history. First earmarked as a potential reservoir site and then tagged as surplus for sale, the debate over development has been ongoing.

In 1993, city officials gave developers Schurgin Development Co. (aka Promenade) 60 days to complete and submit a wetlands report, apply for a wetlands development permit if needed, apply for a rezone from a multifamily to commercial classifications, if needed, apply for a variance to accommodate the revised site plan and submit a completed site plan. The developers did not meet the deadline, and the city found them to be in default of the purchase agreement.

Wapato Hills runs from South 56th to South 64th streets between businesses on Tacoma Mall Boulevard and homes west of there. South Tacoma residents urged the council to set the land aside as a park, rather than sell to the developers, and the zoning was changed from commercial to open space.

The community raised nearly $6 million and was able to begin creating a 4-acre playfield on the property. City officials have now agreed the site will remain mostly undeveloped.

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