No consensus reached on Benton County urban growth planning

Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldNovember 12, 2013 

The Benton County Planning Commission on Tuesday night couldn't reach a consensus on a request from Kennewick officials to include more than 1,200 acres in the city's the urban growth boundary for industrial development.

So the request will be forwarded to Benton County commissioners without a recommendation.

"This was a hard decision to come to," said Martin Sheeran, chairman of the planning commission, after the meeting at the county planning annex in Prosser.

He and his planning commission colleagues deliberated for about an hour. The group doesn't have a final say on the expansion request -- whether to grant it is up to Benton County commissioners.

But the planning commission could make a recommendation. Sheeran and commissioners Darwin Crosby and James Willard wanted to recommend approval, while Commissioners Rick Giberson and Lloyd Coughlin wanted to recommend denial.

Four or more had to agree for a recommendation to be reached. That's because the planning commission has seven positions total -- two currently are vacant -- making four the majority.

County commissioners could take up the urban growth expansion request in December or January. They'll hold a public hearing as part of the decision process.

The 1,263 acres are south of Interstate 82 and west of Highway 395. The land currently is zoned for agriculture but isn't actively being farmed. John Christensen, the majority property owner, told the planning commission during a public hearing last month that it's no longer profitable as farmland.

Supporters of the request say industrial development in the proposed expansion area would bring jobs and help diversify the economy.

Kennewick Mayor Steve Young in an October letter to the planning commission said the city is "ready, willing and most importantly financially able to extend water and sewer into the proposed (urban growth area) once approved." He also said the state has committed $1.5 million to infrastructure work in the area.

City officials have described the proposed expansion area as ideal for industrial development because it's flat and near major transportation routes.

But opponents have argued the city doesn't need the land for future growth and the expansion would mean an unnecessary loss of valuable farmland. County planning staff recommended denial to the planning commission.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529;; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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