Zoning adjustment made near Pasco's Road 68

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldMay 16, 2014 

PASCO -- The city of Pasco has changed the planned zoning for 300 acres of state land near the Interstate 182 interchange with Road 68.

About 196 of those acres will remain zoned for single-family homes, but 26 acres set aside for apartments will be moved to alongside the freeway.

The purpose of the change is to create a 300-foot buffer between a possible new subdivision and traffic, according to city planning staff.

The acreage is owned by the state Department of Natural Resources, which is required to auction it off by next year.

The change would move a planned extension of Chapel Hill Boulevard, which was to run parallel with I-182, south.

The city also wants to set aside seven acres north of Valley View Place in the southeastern part of the property for office space, which officials feel will be less invasive on owners of existing homes than planned retail space.

The commercial part of the site would be around 47 acres, with most of it north of the extension of Chapel Hill Boulevard between Roads 68 and 76.

The Pasco School District has the option to buy 25 acres in the area for a future elementary school, but would like to move it from the center of the property, where it had been slotted, to the intersection of Road 84 and an expanded Chapel Hill Boulevard, said Rick White, Pasco's community and economic development director.

Natural Resources has approved Pasco's changes to the zoning.

After discussing the property for almost two hours Thursday, the city's planning commission voted 3-2 to bring the rezoning to a final vote at its June 19 meeting.

Commissioners Alecia Greenaway and Loren Polk voted against the measure, saying they would like to see more space designated for commercial than the 47 acres now set aside.

But commission Chairman Joe Cruz said an analysis determined that was all the commercial acreage that could likely be supported in the area.

The city council will have the final say on the recommendation.

Five area residents spoke about the proposed zoning at the meeting.

More schools should be built before the city starts talking about adding hundreds of new homes, said Doug Redfield, who lives on Valley View Place.

"I've watched, in my 48 years in Pasco, all these developments that are going to be made," Redfield said. "We have studied them, we have the perfect scenario, it is done. And then I've seen for 48 years we're trying to redo what we thought was perfect. What I see here is you're doing nothing different than what you've done for 48 years."

Developing the site could be a long process, White said. The auction of residential areas of the property isn't likely for another year, and construction could take two more years.

"Much of this section won't develop right away, and, in fact, may take a decade or more to develop," White said.

The city also received 12 written complaints, with 10 of them coming from residents of the unincorporated "doughnut hole" that sits south of the Natural Resources property, city planner Dave McDonald said.

Annexation opponent Roger Lenk and several of his supporters were among those submitting complaints. Lenk said the redevelopment would bring a "Road 68 style mess" to Argent Road south of the area, which is comprised of lots of an acre or more.

"The proposed city of Pasco development plan includes high density slum style housing, low brow apartments (with their requisite crime influx) and commercial box stores," he wrote.

Most of the property Natural Resources is auctioning off is located north of the Franklin County Irrigation District Canal, an area with a much more urban density than that to the south, City Manager Gary Crutchfield said.

"It's simply extending the same character and density that goes east and west of the site," Crutchfield said. "It's adjacent to a major high school that has 2,000 students every day. The development is going to create less traffic than that ... Anything the city prepares, he's going to object to."

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