Port of Kennewick to form advisory board on Vista Field closure

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldMay 14, 2013 

Port of Kennewick commissioners plan to form an advisory committee to help implement the decision commissioners made last month to close Vista Field Airport.

Commissioners said Tuesday that having public input in what will be a long process to close and redevelop the airport into a town center is a necessity.

No date has yet been set on when Vista Field will cease being an airport. The port has applied for a comprehensive plan amendment with the city of Kennewick for the 90-acre property to have a commercial designation.

Larry Peterson, the port's director of planning and development, said even if the Kennewick City Council approves the comprehensive plan amendment in the fall, the airport could continue to operate.

The port still will need to rezone the property after the proposed comprehensive plan change, Peterson said. Once the zoning is changed that would affect getting building permits for aviation uses for the airport. However, the airport could continue as a nonconforming use.

Officials have said that it could take 20 years for the airport property to be completely redeveloped. The vision for the airport includes more than 1 million square feet of retail, commercial, office and industrial buildings on about 75 acres of the property, according to a consultant's report.

There also could be 1,400 condos or apartments on the top stories of mixed-use buildings, according to the report.

The future of the small general aviation airport near the Three Rivers Convention Center has been much debated. Airport proponents argued the facility is a transportation asset while others questioned the value of a little used airport in the middle of Kennewick.

The port has been struggling to find a way to revitalize the 90-acre airfield after deciding more than three years ago to keep it open in hopes of recruiting more businesses. A consulting firm was hired to do a $225,000 independent review after efforts to find an airport operator and private investors fell through.

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