Richland subdivision heads to city council with mixed planning commission recommendation

Tri-City HeraldApril 23, 2014 

A proposed subdivision near the Amon Creek Natural Preserve in south Richland heads to the city council with mixed guidance from the city’s planning commission.

The commission voted 4-2 during a meeting Wednesday night to recommend the preliminary plat and some zoning changes for the site, following about four hours of public testimony, discussion and deliberation.

The zoning changes required five “yes” votes — a majority of the total membership of the nine-person planning commission — even though two members were absent and a third recused herself.

So that piece of the proposal will head to the city council without a recommendation from the commission.

But the preliminary plat will move on with the commission’s recommendation because in that case the four “yes” votes were enough. The preliminary plat only required a majority of the commissioners who voted.

The final decision on the subdivision project rests with the city council, which should take up the matter soon.

The subdivision, called Clearwater Creek, is to have 320 residential lots, about 14 acres for a school and 32 acres of open space. It’s proposed for land west of Steptoe Street and east of the Amon preserve, with Claybell Community Park to the north.

Leslie Road is west of the Amon preserve.

Commission Chairman James Utz and Commissioner James Wise voted against recommending the project.

Utz said he was concerned about the subdivision’s density and Wise said he wanted more focused examination of health, safety and welfare issues raised as a result of the environmental review process.

Commissioners Marianne Boring, Stanley Jones, Amanda Wallner and Kent Madsen voted to recommend the project to the city council.

Madsen told the Herald after the meeting that a city goal is to have lower-cost housing options available. “It seems to always be a subject of discussion when we’re talking about planning and land use. To me, this was a project that fit perfectly with that conversation,” he said.

Carol Moser, commission vice chairwoman, recused herself from the matter, and Commissioners Clifford Clark and Debbie Berkowitz were absent.

The planning commission meeting drew at least 70 people to city hall, with extensive public testimony.

The subdivision, a proposal of Hayden Homes, has stirred concern among residents over potential harm to the adjacent 80-plus acre Amon preserve.

The developer and Tapteal Greenway, a nonprofit that worked to create the preserve, reached an agreement that’s eased some of the concern by establishing a buffer between the subdivision and the natural area.

Some speakers still registered objections.

But the dominant theme of the comments centered on the city’s plan to at some point extend a road across the preserve to the subdivision as part of a larger east-west route between Leslie Road and Steptoe Street.

The road through the preserve wasn’t part of the what the planning commission was considering Wednesday, although the city is requiring right of way in the subdivision for the east-west connection as a condition of the project.

Many speakers said a road through the preserve is a bad idea and should be dropped.

City officials have said an east-west connection between Leslie and Steptoe has been identified for years as an eventual need, and a condition of creating the preserve was the that city could build a road across it.

Hayden Homes officials said the company has worked to incorporate public feedback into its Clearwater Creek plan, and it envisions the subdivision as being similar to Hansen Park in Kennewick, offering a breadth of homes that people from teachers and firefighters to physicians and engineers can afford.

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