Is Ruston dragging its feet on contamination?

Point Ruston is already shaping up to be an attractive, high-profile development along the Tacoma-Ruston waterfront, with a popular pedestrian walkway and residences that command spectacular views of Commencement Bay, Vashon Island and the mountains.

When completed, plans call for more than 3,000 residents, a nine-screen multiplex, a hotel, restaurants, grocery, stores and offices.

With the tax revenue the $1 billion mixed-use development promises to bring in to the cities coffers, one might think that Tacoma and Ruston would be making every effort to see that it’s done right, and as swiftly as possible.

One would be half right.

According to Point Ruston LLC developer Mike Cohen, Tacoma has been accommodating. The City of Ruston, on the other hand, has delayed the project by failing to resolve a dispute over cleaning up the site. In addition, he alleges that the city is continuing to contaminate the former Asarco smelter site by failing to enforce its own environmental safeguards.

Ruston has been so recalcitrant, Cohen says, that he’s had to move the planned multiplex from the Ruston side of the project to the Tacoma side to ensure that it gets finished by May 1, the theater operator’s deadline. He says he has tried to get Ruston to agree to a dispute resolution process, but officials have not been responsive.

City officials also did not respond to inquiries from The News Tribune’s John Gillie, whose report on Cohen’s difficulties appeared Saturday. The developer has filed a $150 million claim against the city; if it fails to respond or denies the claim, he said he is prepared to sue.

It would be unfortunate if the two parties were unable to resolve their problems out of court. Given Point Ruston’s prominence and visibility in the small city, having them at loggerheads is not in the community’s best interest.

And if Cohen’s allegations about Ruston continuing to contaminate a former Superfund site are true, environmental agencies should be looking into it. Millions of dollars have been spent on cleanup; it would be a shame if more had to be spent due to any negligence on Ruston’s part.