Benton County residents resist annexation into Kennewick

Kristi Pihl, Herald staff writerApril 13, 2014 

— The proposed annexation of 21 acres west of Gum Street and south of 15th Avenue would bring Kennewick city limits to the doorsteps of Benton County residents who don’t want the city any closer than it already is.

Neighbors are up in arms, rallying to explain to the Kennewick City Council — which will consider the annexation Tuesday — why bringing the acreage into the city is bad news.

Most of the acreage is a pasture that Karla and Paul Randleman once leased for the horses that board at their stables. But Shaw 304 LLC, the heirs of the former property owner, wants to sell 18.6 acres to Monogram Homes of Pasco, which plans to build 58 homes.

That’s something the Randlemans feel would threaten their business and Karla’s longtime dream — Riverwood Stables and Feed. They are uneasy with the idea of so many homes and families so close to their horses.

“Basically you bring the town in next to us and none of us want it,” Karla Randleman said.

Paul Randleman recently presented the city council with a petition signed by 473 neighbors and feed store customers who don’t want to see the property annexed.

Neighbor Kathy Grater went door-to-door in a 2-mile radius around the Gum Street property this summer collecting signatures for the petition.

Most often, Grater heard some reiteration of her own feelings, she said — “I do not want to live in the city.”

Proposal ‘overdeveloped’

Neighbors say the subdivision is too dense to fit in with neighboring properties, which have a more rural feel, with small farms and plenty of critters.

The Randlemans have horses and a small pack of goats that act as lawnmowers on the farm.

A large portion of their five acres is dedicated to horses, with an arena where kids and adults take dressage lessons just 10 feet away from the property where the subdivision is proposed.

They stable 10 to 18 horses depending on the season and the need. Permanent residents include Karla’s beloved Sprint, a retired Arab who now acts as a babysitter for younger horses. Several employees help the Randlemans keep up with the stable and animal care.

Next to their home, the 14-year-old feed store does brisk business, offering supplies for horses and hogs to chickens and dogs.

Rose Rosane, who lives next door, raises chickens and turkeys for eggs. She and her husband bought their property in 1995 because of the rural feel of the area and the lack of back-to-back homes, she said.

Across the street, cattle graze in a pasture owned by Gene Kinsey. He rents out the pasture, along with eight homes across Gum Street from the 18.6 acres.

He and Lynn Doss, who has rented a home from Kinsey for about eight years, say they are concerned what the development may do to the safety of the neighborhood.

“The privacy will be gone, I feel,” Doss said.

The Randlemans wouldn’t mind if the developer planned small ranchettes on two-acre parcels, they said.

Grater could even live with 18 homes on one-acre lots, she said. But the proposal is just way too “overdeveloped” for neighbors to swallow.

Bringing city issues

The density has neighbors fretting over the problems those new residents could bring.

Grater can easily see possible harm to her horses or someone else, followed by lawsuits.

“Somebody is going to get hurt,” Grater said. “I do not want a bunch of kids climbing the fence to play with the horsies.”

Neighbors also are concerned about what quality of homes might be built there and the impact additional families and children will have on the local schools and traffic along Gum Street, which does not have sidewalks or shoulders.

The Randlemans say they’ve already experienced some “city” issues, with people firing arrows and fireworks into their pasture. Trash gets dumped over fences. There’s crime, and the Randlemans’ goats were attacked and badly injured by dogs that got onto their property.

Properties are fenced, with no trespassing signs posted. But neighbors say that hasn’t prevented people from strolling through.

“Ultimately it destroys this way of life that people want out here,” Karla Randleman said.

Hearing would be required

The property is in Kennewick’s urban growth boundary, said Greg McCormick, the city’s planning director.

The city had considered adding more neighboring properties into the annexation, but officials decided against it after hearing opposition from some of those property owners.

The proposed annexation would build a peninsula in the city boundaries, but it isn’t out of line compared to other annexations that have occurred, McCormick said.

The city has been receptive when approached by citizens in the urban growth area who want to come into the city, said Evelyn Lusignan, the city’s customer service manager.

The city has tried to avoid annexations of only a few parcels because it takes just as much staff time as a larger annexation. Lusignan said. And the area does need to be adjacent to the current city limits, so the city can avoid creating islands.

“It doesn't matter if it is in the city or the county,” McCormick said. “They can still do the subdivision on this property.”

Since the property is in the urban growth area, lot size can go as low as 7,500 square feet as long as the property can hook up to city sewer and water, said Clark Posey, Benton County senior planner. Lots have to be larger if a septic system and wells are needed.

City water and sewer is available for the property. Connection and service fees are higher for county properties, with water rates 120 percent more and sewer rates 50 percent more, Lusignan said.

If annexed into the city, the development would go through a preliminary plat process, which involves a public hearing before the hearing examiner makes a decision, McCormick said.

The city may require the developer to do some frontage improvements, which would be typical, McCormick said. But officials can’t require the developer to build fences to block the development from neighboring properties.

‘Just pushing it through’

Neighbors of the Gum Street property say they have been left in the dark as the annexation proceeds.

“We feel like they are just pushing it through regardless,” Rosane said.

While the annexation went to the Benton County Boundary Review Board, it never went to a hearing before the board. The city continued with the annexation process after no agencies filed a request for a review.

State law does allow a petition to be filed by neighboring property owners if they can get signatures from 5 percent of the registered voters who live within a quarter-mile of the property under consideration and feel they would be affected if the property is annexed.

The Randlemans say they were never notified that the annexation had been submitted, and they found out about it from city officials after the appeal period expired.

And the Randlemans and other neighbors say they have not received notices from the city about the 6:30 p.m. Tuesday public hearing at Kennewick City Hall. There is a sign posted on the property along Gum Street, and at least one local resident did get a mailer and shared it with others.

The city mailed out 114 letters about the Tuesday public hearing to properties within 300 feet of the annexation and others who asked to be notified, Lusignan said. Only seven of the letters were returned as undeliverable.

When it comes down to it, Grater also is concerned that if the annexation goes through on Tuesday, her property may be next. She started building her home in 1990 on her two acres out of recycled barn wood from old livery stables.

She has a septic system and a well that works just fine for her, and she doesn’t want to pay the cost of hooking up to the city’s system if annexed.

Grater knows her property is in the urban growth area, which means the city likely will annex it eventually. But she says progress can wait another 20 years or so.

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