Hearing set for grape-growing region at Red Mountain

March 13, 2013 

A public hearing about a plan to guide future development in one of the region's top grape-growing areas is expected later this month.

Benton County commissioners plan the hearing about the Red Mountain AVA Master Site Plan on March 26. They heard a 30-minute presentation from county staff on the issue Tuesday.

"It's amazing actually watching this thing develop to the point that it is now," said Commissioner Shon Small, board chairman.

"I think it's just a perfect depiction of how the county government can actually work with the different people here in Benton County to try to accommodate their dreams and be able to capitalize on possible economic development," he said during the meeting.

The master site plan covers 5,400 acres, including the entire Red Mountain American Viticultural Area, or AVA. It casts a vision for the area, establishes guiding principles and lays out recommendations and strategies.

It's been in the works since 2005, commissioned by the county and a group of vineyard and winery operators, agencies and others with an interest in Red Mountain.

The plan notes Red Mountain's beauty and reputation for quality wines, saying those factors have "generated the desire to develop additional wineries and vineyards" in the area.

"But if development pressures are not managed well, the qualities of Red Mountain that draw people to the place could be lost," the plan says.

The county planning commission last month gave its blessing to the master site plan, which if approved would become part of the county's comprehensive plan.

Red Mountain plan documents are on the planning department's page of the county website, www.co.benton.wa.us.

Also Tuesday:

w Commissioners received recommendations from the county Affordable Housing Steering Committee about how to spend county Affordable Housing Fund dollars this year.

The money comes from surcharges on some document filings. The committee received eight requests totaling $601,566.

It recommends granting: $108,524 to Domestic Violence Services for emergency shelter operations, shelter vouchers and some shelter facility work; $7,646 to Elijah Family Homes for roof repairs for two units; $41,058 to Therapeutic Innovations and Recovery for day shelter operations and furnishings for the transitional housing program; $11,272 to Habitat for Humanity to help low-income seniors and disabled individuals maintain their homes; and $3,500 to Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition to improve access to the master bathroom in the Wagenaar-Pfister House.

Grant agreements with the different groups will come back to commissioners at future meetings for approval.

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