Benton County commissioners don't finalize plan to add land to urban growth area

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 28, 2014 

A request by the city of Kennewick to add 1,263 acres to its urban growth area for industrial development wasn't finalized Tuesday after all.

Benton County commissioners, who gave their OK to the expansion at a meeting earlier this month, were set to consider written findings and conclusions finalizing their decision.

But instead, the three-member county board continued the public hearing on the matter to Feb. 25, to accommodate a request made by the city. Kennewick officials are gathering more information for the state Department of Commerce, which had raised concerns about the urban growth proposal, and want to add it to the record.

The information includes a letter from a developer showing interest from businesses in the land and also a more detailed regional analysis of land available for industrial development, said Evelyn Lusignan, the city's spokeswoman.

The city is taking the step "so the Department of Commerce feels confident this (expansion) is the right thing," Lusignan told the Herald.

The 1,263 acres are south of Interstate 82 and west of Highway 395. The land has been designated for agriculture uses but isn't actively being farmed. The majority property owner has said it's no longer profitable as farmland.

City officials and other expansion supporters have said it's ideal for industrial uses and its development would bring jobs and an economic boost for the region.

The proposal has opponents, too, including the statewide land-use advocacy group Futurewise, which has argued Kennewick already has enough land for future growth and the expansion would mean the unnecessary loss of valuable farmland.

Also Tuesday, commissioners approved a lease agreement with the Benton Franklin Fair Association for part of the county-owned fairgrounds, including the Sundowns building, race track and horse barns. The pact means groups will be able to work with the fair association to stage events there such as horse racing.

The lease starts Feb. 1 and lasts through December, except for two short periods in the summer during previously-scheduled events. The fair association won't have a rental payment under the lease but will cover utilities.

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

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