Our Voice: Pasco's growth requires well-thought planning

May 27, 2014 

Pasco is growing.

Some of the last farmland inside the city limits is expected to be developed in the next few years, which means a lot more activity on that land than four cuttings of hay per year.

The 300 acres of state-owned acreage near Interstate 182 and Road 68 is to be auctioned off next year. In preparation for that, Pasco has changed the zoning.

Much of the land remains zoned for the type of single-family home development prevalent on the other side of Insterstate 182, but the 26 acres set aside for apartments will be moved next to the freeway.

The change was made to create a buffer between new homes and the freeway traffic. It also moves a future extension of Chapel Hill Boulevard. Seven acres near Valley View Place will be set aside for office space. City officials felt that use would be less invasive to area homeowners than retail stores.

The 47 acres dedicated to retail space will be between Roads 63 and 76, north of the to-be-extended Chapel Hill Boulevard. And the Pasco School District, which continues to be in need of additional schools, has the option to buy 25 acres for an elementary school, which it would like to put near Road 84 and Chapel Hill.

The Department of Natural Resources, which owns the property, has approved the changes to the zoning. After much discussion at a recent meeting, Pasco's planning commission will take a final vote on the rezoning.

Two dissenting commissioners want to see more land for commercial use, but the commission chairman reminded them that an analysis of the area showed that 47 acres was all that could likely be supported there.

Once the planning commission votes June 19, its recommendation will be sent to the city council.

While the public auction of the land won't happen for a year, and construction will take another year or two, Pasco officials need to give the development a long, careful look. We've seen what too much, too fast when development gets you as far as a traffic mess is concerned along Road 68.

The land at issue is surrounded by established homes, and roads in the area are busier than they used to be in an area that once was considered rural. Many homes are on lots of an acre or more.

A handful of residents in the unincorporated "doughnut hole" south of the property have raised concerns about the redevelopment. Roger Lenk, a vocal opponent, takes it to the extreme, saying the development "includes high-density, slum-style housing, low-brow apartments (with their requisite crime influx) and commercial box stores."

While we in no way agree with Lenk's view, the land is in a prime location and development brings many concerns that need to be given consideration in the zoning process. Without proper planning, more people and more homes will congest already strained roads and schools.

It sounds like the planning commission has taken a hard look at the configuration of the property and the potential uses. The outcome of the vote next month will be the culmination of that effort. Then it's up to the city council do what's best for the residents of Pasco and show that it has taken the proper look at redevelopment.

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