Benton County commissioners approve Red Mountain development plan

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldMarch 26, 2013 

Benton County commissioners Tuesday gave their blessing to a plan that will guide future development on Red Mountain.

The plan covers 5,400 acres, including the entire Red Mountain American Viticultural Area, or AVA. It establishes a vision, guiding principles, recommendations and strategies "to achieve the desired goals" in the area, according to information from county staff.

Several people spoke during a public hearing, urging commissioners to sign off.

As development interest in the prime grape-growing region mounted, it became clear a plan was needed to ensure "all of it makes sense," grower Jim Holmes told commissioners. "We need this."

Ed Shaw, president of the Red Mountain AVA Alliance, added that "we're very, very happy about this day, that we've come (to this point). There's a lot of heavy lifting to go, with the implementing ordinances. But this is a very, very professional and comprehensive document that I don't think is going to be put on a shelf and forgotten."

The commissioners' vote was unanimous; the master site plan will become part of the county's comprehensive plan.

The Red Mountain planning process dates to 2005; it was commissioned by the county, a group of vineyard and winery owners, local agencies and other stakeholders.

The plan talks about the kind of development that should happen in the area, envisioning -- for example -- a visitor-oriented wine village. The master site plan and supporting documents are on the planning department's page of the county website, www.co.benton.wa.us.

Also Tuesday:

w Commissioners directed staff to start the process of bringing a new restroom to the county fairgrounds. It's to go near the grange building, replacing the existing main restroom -- which has antiquated plumbing, among other issues -- in the same area.

The existing restroom has capacity for 22 people, and the new one would double that.

The price tag is estimated at $750,000, with the money coming from funds that must be spent on capital projects.

It likely wouldn't be in place until next year.

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