Richland urban growth proposal in works

Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 7, 2013 

A proposal to expand Richland's urban growth area by more than 800 acres is working its way through city government and soon could be headed to Benton County officials.

The Richland Planning Commission recently recommended that the city council authorize filing an application with the county for the urban growth expansion. The council is expected to consider the matter at a meeting in the next month or so.

The 811 acres are north of the city, part of a larger swath of 1,341 acres of surplus Hanford land near city limits that the Tri-City Development Council, or TRIDEC, has requested for economic development. The city, county and Port of Benton joined in the organization's request.

An energy technology park is envisioned.

"It would be a nice tax base, create needed jobs and help get us a little bit less dependent on the work out at Hanford," said Marianne Boring, chairwoman of the planning commission. Development of the land would be an asset for the entire Tri-City community, Boring said.

Carl Adrian, TRIDEC president, said his organization and area cities have been working on economic diversification, and the "more diverse we can be, the less subject we are going to be to federal budget cuts and that kind of thing."

The end of stimulus funding and the impacts of sequestration meant the loss of about 2,100 jobs in the community, according to a document prepared by Richland city staff.

"These impacts were largely offset by the general rebounding of the national economy and the diversity within the Tri-Cities economy. (But) Hanford employment will continue a long and steady decline as Hanford clean-up continues, and for the community to offset these impacts it will need to recruit new employers," the document said.

The rest of the 1,341 acres already are designated as urban growth area.

The urban growth expansion would allow the city to extend utilities to the 811 acres -- something Adrian described as critical because it's unlikely a major company would locate a facility there without public services. The expansion also will allow for development of a so-called mega-site, which the city described as a contiguous tract of land more than 500 acres used for a single industrial client.

Such sites with accessible utility infrastructure are rare and having one would be a powerful recruiting tool, officials and city information said.

A report to the planning commission notes that there's only one mega-site in the state, and it's not in Benton or Franklin counties.

If the urban growth area ultimately is expanded, the 811 acres eventually could be annexed into Richland.

TRIDEC also asked for another 300 acres of Hanford land near the same area for a clean energy park with Energy Northwest.

Adrian said the Department of Energy is evaluating more than 4,000 acres and it hasn't yet been determined what exact land could potentially be transferred.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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