Our Voice: Region's continued growth is good time to plan future

July 21, 2013 

It's no secret our region is growing.

That's a good thing. And a bad thing.

Benton and Franklin counties topped the state's growth chart. That's right, out of 39 counties our two ranked first and second.

With the construction of businesses and homes in ample evidence around us, that's not shocking news.

Franklin County added another 2,300 residents between April 2012 and April 2013. Benton County welcomed 3,400 residents in the same time frame. Franklin County's population came in at 84,800; Benton County at 183,000.

Those are some big numbers that bring big benefits and expensive consequences.

More people put a greater demand on services and create new needs.

The Pasco School District has three new elementary schools under construction at the expense of a $46.8 million bond. Franklin County has a $16 million jail expansion underway.

Along with great growth comes great responsibility.

We can all point to examples of corridors around the region where we think growth could have been managed more effectively.

The heavily-congested Road 68 is an obvious target. Thousands of houses and lots of retail outlets have exploded in an area that was nothing more than farm ground, a bar and the TRAC just 15 or so short years ago.

If you build it they will come -- home buyers and shoppers continue to flock to the area. City officials continue to work on solutions to make the flow better, and houses and stores keep popping up.

The city resorted to impact fees on new construction to help cope with the continued growth.

It's a good reminder that growth has to be managed and managed wisely as we continue to see an influx of new residents.

We don't need to become an endless blob of urban sprawl, chain stores and congested roadways.

Two other cities in our region also made the Top 25 for growth: Richland and West Richland. All have felt the pain and benefit associated with a growth spurt.

Growth does have its economic upside, and affords our community an opportunity to invest in infrastructure and development that benefits long-time residents and newcomers alike.

Since we're a community comprised of a sea of cities that seem to flow together these days with no clear boundaries (other than the obvious rivers), a broad view is a good tack to take.

We're seeing evidence of that with the regional aquatics center on the ballot now. And we expect more comprehensive contemplation from our community leaders as we continue to grow.

It's not a trend we expect will end any time soon.

After all, we have a lot to be thankful for: a solid economy, a whole lot of sunshine, a decent cost of living, abundant outdoor activities and ample business opportunities, to name a few.

We just need to maintain the positive aspects of the region while others continue to move here to enjoy it along with us.

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